This week, the Church celebrates the feast of St Maximilian Kolbe and The Assumption of Our Blessed Lady into heaven. The life-long dedication of St Maximilian Kolbe to the Blessed Virgin Mary is well known. Some biographers view this devotion as the defining characteristic of his life and ministry.
In the writings of St Bonaventure we read how the whole of Heaven fell silent, awaiting Our Lady's response to the annunciation communicated by the Angel Gabriel. This was no momentary expression of assent. It was the articulation of her innermost character; an unshakeable conviction to say 'yes' to the promptings of God. One need only reflect upon the words of Simeon to appreciate that this was no invitation to euphoria. Yet, with every step of her life's journey, she demonstrated that same longing to align her own will to that of the Divine.
Her's was the acceptance of her personal call to be Theotokos. She chose to bear Christ to the World; a mission in which she remains active today. A mission of mediatrix which will demand her efforts until the end of time. Her 'fiat' was to be sure, her sole actuating motive. But her acceptance came at a cost. In order to serve Him she was required to participate in His rejection, His sorrow and His grief. At the foot of the cross, she bore witness to her continued submission to the will of God. At a time of unimaginable pain and loss, she accepted the position of Mother to us all; a role she has never relinquished. It is as Mother that she has repeatedly declared her love of the priesthood; referring to priests as her 'beloved sons'.
Perhaps she has done so in recognition of the fact that every priest, no matter what their age, intellectual ability, liturgical inclination or theological influence, must necessarily follow in her footsteps. Her 'fiat' becomes his 'adsum'. In his celebration of the Mass, the priest makes Christ incarnate in the here and now. Replicating her counsel at the wedding of Cana, through the sacrament of penance, the priest hears the petitions of the penitent and with absolution points to the person of Christ as the source of all their needs. In the Divine Office, the priest practices her patience and fidelity. In Benediction, the priest holds Christ to the world for recognition and adoration. But in his daily life, in a world increasingly hostile to the call of Christ, he must be able to embrace the poverty of abandonment, disinterest, rejection and loss. Like Our Blessed Mother, the priest must seek his consolation in the heart of the one whom he serves. How is this to be achieved? Is it quiet resignation, blind obedience or something else?
The term 'obedience' has in modern language lost much of its meanings; seemingly relegated to those situations in which the individual is required to make choices which are otherwise unattractive to them. Viewed in this way, obedience is only capable of conveying a negative meaning: the suppression of freedom. However, from the perspective of belief, obedience is not simply compliance. In the words of St Maximilian:
“In order that obedience be supernatural it must not proceed from reason, but from faith.”
In these two great feasts we are provided not merely with an affirmation of faith but also a celebration of the supremacy of Truth. As St Maximilian observed:
"No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?"
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the icon of this victory. Her assumption marks the migration of her mission and the recognition of perpetual obedience. It is a victory in which she wishes us all to participate. The life, service, and sacrifice of St Maximilian Kolbe, stands alongside Jean Vianney, Padre Pio and others, who have found in her guidance the perfect battle plan.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom - pray for us.