The martyr of Auschwitz, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, once said: “If we do not have Catholic media, our shrines will one day be empty.
In January 1922, the Polish priest decided to do something. That month, he published 5,000 copies of the first issue of the monthly magazine Knight of the Immaculate in the city of Krakow.
The cover indicated the magazine’s uncompromising mission: it showed Mary Immaculate framed by two great swords impaling serpents on books labeled “heresies” and “Freemasonry.”
On January 8, the saint’s 128th birthday, the Archbishop of Krakow Marek Jędraszewski celebrated a mass to mark the magazine’s centenary.
the broadcast live Mass was celebrated at the Basilica of the Immaculate Mother of Grace in Niepokalanów, in east-central Poland, where Saint Maximilian established a monastery.
In a letter read during Mass, Pope Francis thanked the journal for its mission and encouraged its editors to be genuine witnesses of the faith.
In his homily, Bishop Jędraszewski described the genesis of the magazine. He recalled that Father Kolbe founded the evangelization movement Militia of the Immaculate in 1917. Members pledged to total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary and bearing the Miraculous Medal.
The Archbishop said that the Conventual Franciscan had been put into action by two events: a demonstration of Freemasons in the streets of Rome in February of the same year and the 75th anniversary of the apparition of Mary to Alfonso Ratisbon, a French atheist who wore a Miraculous Medal at the time and later became a Catholic priest.
When people had to be turned away from a meeting of the Militia of the Immaculate in Krakow because it was too popular, Father Kolbe decided to connect supporters through a magazine.
The problem was, he didn’t have any money. Years later, he remembers going out into town with the intention of begging passers-by for a few pennies to create a first edition.
“It was raining and although I walked a few streets, I was ashamed to go anywhere and reach out for alms,” he said.
“The next day, however, I had a thought: ‘After all, it is not for you, but for the cause of Mary Immaculate in souls.’ I then dared and went to the priest I knew. He greeted me warmly, made a donation for a new magazine, took me to his vicar for the same purpose, and gave me several addresses.
Bishop Jędraszewski recalled that the first issue outlined the objectives of the publication: the formation of believers and the conversion of non-Catholics.
The magazine, entirely funded by donations, took off, reaching a peak circulation of 1 million copies in 1938.
The Archbishop noted that the magazine continues to have a large circulation, of around 45,000 copies. According to the will of the saint, it has no cover price and is made available to people who cannot afford to subscribe.
“It is very important to convert to the brilliant inspiration of Father Maximilian Maria Kolbe,” Archbishop Jędraszewski said.
Kolbe was born in Zduńska Wola, in central Poland, in 1894. As a child, he saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary holding two crowns. She offered him the crowns – one of which was white, symbolizing purity, and the other was red, indicating martyrdom – and he accepted them.
Kolbe joined the Franciscans conventuals in 1910, taking the name of Maximilian. Fascinated by the possibility of traveling in space, he designed a craft known as the “Etéréoplan” in 1918.
In the early 1930s, he founded monasteries in Japan and India. He was appointed keeper of Niepokalanów Monastery in 1936, founding the station Radio Niepokalanów two years later.
After the German occupation of Poland, Father Kolbe was sent to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. In a call on July 29, 1941, guards selected 10 men to starve as punishment after a prisoner escaped the camp.
When one of the elect, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out in despair for his wife and children, Father Kolbe offered to take his place.
The 10 men were held in a bunker where they were deprived of food and water. According to witnesses, Father Kolbe led the condemned to pray and sing hymns. After two weeks he was the only man still alive. Father Kolbe was killed by an injection of phenol on August 14, 1941.
He was beatified on October 17, 1971 and canonized on October 10, 1982, recognized as a “martyr of charity”. Gajowniczek attended both ceremonies.
Concluding his homily, Archbishop Jędraszewski noted that the Church celebrated the Solemnity of Epiphany on January 6.
“One must have open eyes and strength of soul to be able, like the Three Kings, to approach the Child Jesus, sent out of love by the Father, and to fall face to face before him, with the greater reverence and bow, ”he said.
“In this work of revelation of God to the world is also included the current activity related to the writing and publication of the monthly magazine. Knight of the Immaculate. ”
“He must also reveal Christ to the world through sound anthropology, or a man’s view, showing the whole truth about the Church and stressing that we are not alone in the midst of overwhelming evil.”
“May this mission of revealing the truth about God’s love to the world last as long and as effectively as possible.