Raymond Kolbe, as he was first known, was born in Poland on January 7th, 1894. His parents, known as Jules and Maria Kolbe, were very good Catholics. They were weavers who worked very hard and got paid very little. Mr. Kolbe was a tall, blond, very gentle mannered person. Mrs. Kolbe was a good businesswoman. She was pious, full of energy, a hard worker, and very quick at getting out of a bad situation.
Raymond loved nature and entertained himself by planting little trees. He was a lively fellow, very independent, and stubborn. He had a very impulsive nature, and often tried the patience of his mother. One day she was fed up with Raymond and his misbehaviour. She joined her hands, and sadly looked up to Heaven saying, “My poor child, what will become of you?”
These words struck Raymond in a very odd way. After hearing his mother’s words, he felt very sad and went to Our Lady and asked her, “What will become of me, Mother Mary?” After that, in church he asked her again. Then the Blessed Virgin appeared to him holding two crowns; one white and the other red.
Raymond went home a changed boy, and he spent much of his time praying before the altar of Our Lady of Czestochowa at home. His mother noticed that he was spending more of his time praying at the altar of Our Lady. She wondered about the change in her boy and one day she called to him, “Raymond my son, come here. I want to speak to you.” As her son came towards her she continued, “What is the matter with you? Why are you always crying? Are you sick?”
Raymond remained silent. She tried to get at least a little information from him, but still he would not answer! Finally she exclaimed, “Come now Raymond, don’t make me take back what I said about your being obedient …… tell me everything!”
The boy began to cry. “Well, remember Mama how one day you asked me what would become of me because I am so stubborn? Well, that question really made me think about the way I had been acting. I felt very sad and went to pray more to Our Lady. When I asked Our Lady in church, what would become of me, she appeared to me.”
“Did Our Lady say anything to you?” his mother asked.
“Yes,” She said, ‘Here are two crowns my son. I would like you to choose one of them for yourself. Pick either the red one or the white one. Do not be afraid. The white crown means that you will always be pure and the red crown means that you will die a martyr.’”
“Which crown did you choose my son?”
“I said to Our Lady, ‘My Mother, My Holy Mother, I choose both crowns.’”
Mama Kolbe did not doubt her son, because she knew it was not like him to make up such stories. But more than that, the change in his life proved that he was telling the truth.
From that time on, Raymond was never the same. He would often go to tell his mother about his desire to be a martyr. He always tried to become more devoted to Mary and to let her look after his life completely.
Our Lady was watching over Raymond’s future. One day Mrs. Kolbe sent Raymond for some medicine. When the boy arrived at the pharmacy, he rattled off the Latin name for the medicine. The pharmacist, Mr. Kotowski, was amazed at Raymond’s memory, and asked if he went to school.
The boy replied, “My older brother goes to school because he wants to become a priest. But my parents do not make enough money to send me to school as well.”
Mr. Kotowski thought for a moment. Then he said, “My boy, it is a shame to leave you this way. Come to my house, I will teach you.”
Raymond raced home to tell his parents the good news. They were very pleased with Mr. Kotowski’s generous offer and soon they sent Raymond off to begin his studies. He made a great effort in his schoolwork and soon caught up with his brother Francis. He passed his year-end examinations with flying colours.
Seeing that Raymond was making such good progress, Mr. and Mrs. Kolbe decided to make the sacrifice of having their son enrolled in school for the next semester. The boy was so happy. Our Lady was watching over her child and guiding him.
Raymond’s classmates noticed that there was something special about him. He was intelligent, cheerful, and eager to help others. However, there was something more than this. But what was it that made their classmate so special? Though they may not have realized it, Raymond was growing more and more in the love of Jesus and Mary. Slowly but surely he was becoming a saint.
In 1907, when Raymond was thirteen years old, he went with his brother Francis to a mission that was being preached by the Franciscans. After the mission, they both decided to join the Franciscan Order. They went to ask the mission priests if they could go to the Minor Seminary in Lwow. Permission was granted and soon they were on their way to the Seminary. Mr. Kolbe took them to Krakow, and from there the boys went to Lwow by train. Before long they happily arrived at the Franciscan Monastery.
Raymond continued to do well in his studies. He was especially good at Mathematics and the Sciences. During walks he enjoyed making clever calculations. He invented a new military game that was a little like chess, but much more difficult. He planned flights to different planets, and told his classmates how he would one day build a machine that could go to the moon.
When Raymond was sixteen years old it was time to decide whether he would enter the novitiate. But the boy hesitated, and believed that he could become a soldier and still be a “knight” of Our Lady. He decided to go to Father Provincial and tell him that he would not stay because he did not feel called to the religious life.
Our Lady was again watching over her “little knight” and decided to pull a few strings. At the very moment when Raymond decided to see Father Provincial, he was called to the parlour. A real surprise awaited him as he entered the parlour. There sat his dear mother with a beautiful smile on her face. “Raymond my son, how have you been?” his mother questioned, getting up and to hug her son.
“I’m fine Mama. How are you and Papa doing?”
“We are both well my son, and I have some wonderful news for you. Your brother Joseph has decided to join you and Francis in the monastery. Papa and I have decided to give our lives to God too, now that you children have all grown up. Papa has already left for Krakow to join the Franciscans and I came here to Lwow to stay with the Benedictine Sisters. Just think Raymond, now our whole family is dedicated to God!”
Raymond was stunned. He could never tell his mother now that he was planning to leave the monastery. Suddenly the boy realized that it was not God’s will for him to leave. The Devil had played a trick on him, and he almost fell for it. Now it was clear. As soon as his mother left, he ran as fast as he could to Father Provincial and asked him to receive the religious habit of the Franciscans.
In 1911, he pronounced his temporary vows. He became Friar Maximilian. In 1912, because he was quite intelligent, the Superiors decided to send him to Rome to attend the Gregorian University. He arrived in Rome on October 30th, 1912.
The following year, Maximilian went to visit the Coliseum where so many people had been martyred. He also attended the Holy Week ceremonies at St. Peter’s Basilica. When the solemn benediction was given with Veronica’s Veil, a wonderful miracle happened. The Holy Face of Jesus appeared to Maximilian, miraculously printed on the Veil!
On April 6th, 1914, Friar Maximilian wrote to his mother describing how Our Lady had worked another miracle for him. He writes, “I almost lost my thumb which had become infected by an abscess. The thumb would not heal and the doctor said he would have to cut my thumb off. Father Rector had given me some blessed Lourdes water. I applied it to my thumb and the next day at the hospital, the surgeon said it was not absolutely necessary to cut off my thumb. Not long after, I was cured. Thanks be to God and Mary!”
In the year 1914, twenty-year-old Maximilian received many graces. On November 1st, All Saints Day, he took his solemn vows. He continued on the road to perfection and received many graces from Our Lord and Our Lady. But as he was receiving all these graces he suffered because many souls were suffering, and many souls were dying. World War I had started and this caused great suffering for good Pope Pius X and many people around the world.
Friar Maximilian prayed. He wanted to do something to help mankind, but what was he to do? Ideas flowed through his mind but he waited and prayed. He especially prayed to the Immaculata to help him. She would guide him; she would be his sure refuge.
He spent much time before the Blessed Sacrament praying to Our Lady. There he received great graces and understanding about the Blessed Virgin that one cannot obtain from books. Later on in life Friar Maximilian would tell other Franciscans, “We learn more about the Blessed Virgin by praying, than by reading.”
Maximilian learned very quickly, that to love is to suffer. No one can become a saint without suffering and following in the footsteps of Our Lord. As he was planning how to rescue the world, he became quite ill. He began spitting blood and haemorrhaging. What was to become of this holy monk? To be continued
Home | Contact
| Mass Centres | Schools
| Pilgrimages | Retreats
Precious Blood Residence