On the 77th anniversary of the death of St. Maximilian Kolbe, we bring you this reflection of Benedict XVI on the saint of modern times, from the Zenit archives:
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 18, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says the saints’ examples show how prayer sustains hope, even in humanly desperate situations.
The Pope spoke of the saints’ hope at the general audience last Wednesday, shortly after his return from vacation in northern Italy. The Holy Father particularly called to mind two saints of modern times: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and Maximilian Kolbe.
He began his address at papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, thanking all those who had made his vacation possible, and assuring those who write him that he grants their request to remember them in prayer.
“[Those who write me] expressed their joys to me but also their worries, their life plans, but also their family and work problems, their heartfelt expectations and hopes as well as the anxieties connected with the uncertainty that humanity is experiencing at this time,” he said. “I can assure each and all of you of my remembrance, especially in the daily celebration of holy Mass and in the recitation of the holy rosary.
“I know well that the first service I can render the Church and humanity is, in fact, prayer, because by praying I confidently place in the Lord’s hands the ministry that he himself has entrusted to me, together with the destiny of the whole ecclesial and civil community.”
The Pontiff affirmed that “those who pray never lose hope, even when they find themselves in difficult and even humanly desperate situations.”
“How many examples, in fact, we can recall of situations in which it was precisely prayer that sustained the journey of saints of the Christian people,” he continued. “Among the testimonies of our age I would like to mention that of two saints whose memory we recall these days: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, whose feast we celebrated on Aug. 9, and Maximilian Mary Kolbe, whom we remember tomorrow, Aug. 14, vigil of the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“Both ended their earthly life with martyrdom in the Auschwitz concentration camp. It would seem that their existence could be regarded as a defeat, but it is precisely in their martyrdom that the brilliance of love shines which conquers the darkness of egoism and hatred.”
Benedict XVI recalled a phrase attributed to St. Maximilian: “Hatred is not a creative force: love alone is.”
“Heroic proof of love was his generous offer of himself instead of a prison companion, an offer that culminated in death in a starvation bunker on Aug. 14, 1941,” he added.
The testimony given by St. Teresa Benedicta was similar, the Pope explained.
“Witnesses who succeeded in fleeing from the terrible massacre recounted that Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, while dressed in the Carmelite habit, and moving consciously toward death, was outstanding for her peaceful conduct and her serene attitude, and her calm behavior and attention to the needs of all,” he said. He added that “prayer was the secret of this saint, co-patroness of Europe.”
“It is moving to see how humble and trusting recourse to Our Lady is always the source of courage and serenity,” Benedict XVI concluded. “[L]et us renew our trust in her who from heaven watches over us with maternal love at every moment. We say this, in fact, in the familiar prayer of the Hail Mary, asking her to pray for us ‘now and at the hour of our death.'”