Peace and all good in 2021!
Since I last wrote you to commemorate the founding of the Militia of the Immaculate (October 16, 1917), the world has experienced a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, on the occasion of the anniversary of St. Maximilian’s birth, I wanted to write again to encourage you and to strengthen the bond that unites us through St. Maximilian and his devotion to the Immaculate Mother of God.
On January 8, 1919, Father Maximilian celebrated his twenty-fifth birthday, having been ordained a Franciscan priest on the previous May 28, 1918. How timely the parallel is for us that, in those days as well, the second and worst wave of their own pandemic (1918 Spanish flu) was coming to an end. Perhaps, Father Maximilian and the other friars in Rome, where he was studying for his doctoral exam in theology, were feeling some sense of relief. Still, the Spanish flu had claimed the most victims in the age group from 20 to 29 and Father Maximilian had already lost two young friends, close confrères with whom he had founded the Militia of the Immaculate: Friar Antoni Głowinski, from Romania, died October 18, 1918 and Friar Antonio Mansi, from Naples, died October 31, 1918. Following the funeral service for Friar Antonio on November 2nd (All Souls’ Day), Father Maximilian, together with other friars, accompanied the body to the cemetery. Typically, All Souls’ Day in Europe sees cemeteries filled with visitors but, in 1918, the cemetery itself became another victim of the Spanish flu, as Father Maximilian simply writes in his notes, “An automobile with several coffins. The cemetery closed.” Then, Father Maximilian’s own “City of the Immaculate” in Poland was ravaged by the pandemic; of the 70 friars affected, several died.
However, in St. Maximilian’s written notes following spiritual meditation at the time, there is no entry on the significance to be attributed to the pandemic or the anxiety it was inevitably causing. No, his notes are filled with expressions of complete entrustment and utter confidence that all things can be done through the Immaculate. The following meditation notes appear in and around St. Maximilian’s birthday: “Jesus is our love. Mary our hope – you can do all things through her.” (January 4); “Entrust all things to the Immaculata.” (January 18); “Trust her in all things.” (January 21); “Trust in the Immaculata without limits.” (January 26).
St. Maximilian’s filial devotion to the Immaculate Mother of God is unique. Behind every expression of faith in our loving God and Savior, who cares for all in every circumstance of life, there is also implied the conviction that the Immaculate will intercede and insist on our behalf (Ad Iesum per Mariam). Even at Auschwitz, this can undoubtedly be read into St. Maximilian’s letter to his mother on June 15, 1941. In this, the last extant letter written by him, St. Maximilian writes, “All is well with me. Beloved Mama, do not worry for me and for my health, because the good God is in every place and, with great love, He thinks about everyone and everything.”
Let us pray to our loving God, through the Immaculate, for an end to the Covid-19 pandemic and for the consolation of all who have been devastated by it. Let us pray especially that we, as M.I. members, will continue to consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate for the common good, for the betterment of our world and for the conversion and salvation of souls. May the prayers of St. Maximilian accompany and strengthen us in this holy resolve.
Very Reverend Fr. Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv.
Provincial Delegate –
Our Lady of the Angels Province Delegation of St. Francis of Assisi (Canada)
Province Delegate –
Militia of the Immaculate (M.I.)