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The Immaculate St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv. St. John Paul II

The Immaculate

In Mary, Francis saw the summit all that man can be. Discussing Mary’s relationship to God, Francis describes her as:

· His palace
· His tabernacle
· His house
· His garment
· His handmaid
· His Mother

Thus we aspire to be like Mary who stood at the foot of the cross in silence, offering up her life in union with her son for the salvation of the world. There was no anger, no resentment, no judgment, no demands, to questions, just a heart full of love for the Father.

She was the palace of the King who hung on the cross. Like the tabernacle, she provided a home for the eternal Son of God who became flesh and dwelt among us. Now she surrendered him, according to the will of the Father, as food for all men and women of every generation. Like a garment, she clothed him in her arms as he was taken down from the cross. As she held his lifeless body, she held our own humanity redeemed by him and clothed us in the garment her motherly embrace.

Mary was also the handmaid, the servant, the one whom God created to point men to Christ. At the wedding of Cana she would utter the only command attributed to her in Holy Scripture, “Do whatever he tells you,” (Jn 2; 3).

She was also the mother moved by compassion for those who were in need of her son. From a heart filled with pure love for all men, regardless of our sins and weaknesses, Mary intercedes for our salvation.

Under Mary‘s guidance and inspiration, the brothers strive daily to acquire in their heart the love, silence, courage, and purity in Mary’s Immaculate Heart in order to become like her, one with the Son of God. We pray that through the intercession of the Immaculate we will arrive at the perfection of charity and become living witnesses of Immaculate Love.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv.


St. Maximilian Kolbe is the patron saint of the Pro-Life Movement.

He was born Raymond Kolbe January 8, 1894 of an ethnic German father and a Polish mother. After the death of his father, Raymond asked the Blessed Mother what would become of him. She appeared to him and showed him two crowns, one red and one white. The red was for martyrdom and the white for purity. Raymond responded to the Blessed Mother that he would take both.

Later, hearing the call from Christ to become a Franciscan brother, he entered the Conventual branch of the Order of Friars Minor, made vows and took the name Maximilian Maria. Several years later he was given permission to be ordained a priest as well as a brother, better known in the Franciscan tradition as a friar priest or brother priest.

During the outbreak of World War II, Maximilian and his brothers risked their lives to protect more than 2,000 Jewish refugees by channeling them through their friary to freedom. But the Nazis caught up with them. The night that the friars were dispersed, Maximilian gave his brothers his blessing as they escaped for their safety, reminding them: “Forget not love,” as his parting words. Maximilian became prisoner 16770 at Auschwitz.

One day, a prisoner disappeared. The guards selected 10 men to sacrifice as an example and deterrent for future escapes. One young man wept bitterly for his wife and children whom he would not see again. Brother Maximilian stepped up to the commandant and volunteered to trade places with this unknown man. He was sentenced to death. But Maximilian did not die after days in the starvation bunker. Finally, on August 14, 1941 St. Maximilian was killed by a lethal injection. Eye-witnesses say that he voluntarily lifted his arm to be injected. His body was cremated on August 15.

Pope John Paul II canonized Maximilian as a martyr for our century and proclaimed him the patron saint of the Pro-Life Movement.

The Franciscans of Life look to Maximilian Kolbe as a model of heroism in the face of a culture of death. We pray that St. Maximilian and our common father, Francis of Assisi, will bless us with the courage to lay down our lives for the Gospel of Life.

St. John Paul II


St. John Paul II was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla the Polish town of Wadowice, the youngest of three. He lost his mother and his two siblings at an early age, and his father at age 20. An athletic young man, he enrolled at the Jagiellonian University studying topics as philology and languages, learning as many as 12 foreign languages. Obligated to participate in military training, he refused to bear arms.

When the Nazi forces occupied Poland in 1939 and closed the university, young Karol had to work in several positions including a restaurant, a limestone quarry, and a chemical factory.  A year after his father's death, Karol - now aged 22 - obtained the bishop's blessing to enter the clandestine seminary. The young seminarian is credited with saving the life of a Jewish refugee girl who on the night that the Nazi fled the city ran away from a labor camp and collapsed on a railway platform. He has also been credited with helping find sanctuary for a Jewish child in order to prevent his deportation.

Ordained on All Saints' Day at age 26, Fr. Wojtila was sent to the Angelicum where he studied under Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange and obtained a Doctorate in Philosophy defending the thesis "The Doctrine of Faith in St. John of the Cross". Receiving his first pastoral assignment to the Polish village of Niegowic, he knelt and kissed the ground upon arrival - a gesture that he would repeat frequently through his papacy. After several assignments and teaching at several universities, he earned at 34 a Doctorate in Sacred Theology.

Appointed bishop in 1958 by Pope Pius XII, in 1962 he takes part in the Second Vatican Council, where he is credited with significant contributions to Dignitatis Humanae (on Religious Freedom) and Gaudium et Spes (on the Church in the Modern World). In 1967 Blessed Paul VI named him Cardinal. He was instrumental in the formulation of the encyclical Humanae Vitae condemning abortion and birth control.

After the death of John Paul I, he participated and was elected in the second conclave of 1978. He chose the name John Paul II in honor of his immediate predecessor. He made the first of many historical speeches at the balcony, reminding the crowd that the cardinals called for a new bishop of Rome "da una terra lontana"...a faraway land...and adding that he accepted "in a spirit of obedience to the Lord and total faithfulness to Mary, our most Holy Mother" (for whom he had a special devotion). Then he added the famous remark: "Non so se posso spiegarmi bene nella vostra... nella nostra lingua italiana...se mi sbaglio, voi mi corrigierete!" ("I don't know if I can explain myself well in your...in our Italian language...if I make a mistake, though, you will correct me!"). At age 58, he was the youngest pope since Pius IX in 1846.

During his pontificate, St. John Paul II visited 129 countries. In some occasions, he attracted some of the largest crowds ever assembled in human history.  As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonized 483 saints, more than his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. He dedicated the first major teaching of his pontificate to the Theology of the Body, in a series of 129 lectures given during his Wednesday audiences in St. Peter's Square and Paul VI Audience Hall. The complete addresses were later compiled and expanded, and would have a major impact in the world.

In 1995, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, he issued his historical encyclical Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life"), expressing the position of the Church regarding the value and inviolability of human life. Written after years of consultations with the world's bishops, the encyclical presents an overview of threats to human life both past and present, addressing actions including murder, abortion, euthanasia, and death penalty. The encyclical also addresses social and ecological factors, stressing the importance of a society which is built around the family rather than a wish to improve efficiency, and emphasizing the duty to care for the poor and the sick.

On 3 May 1981, an attempt was made on his life in Saint Peter's Square. Saved by the maternal hand of the Immaculate, following a lengthy stay in the hospital, he visited and forgave the attempted assassin and, aware of having received a great gift, intensified his pastoral commitments with heroic generosity.

Pope John Paul II also demonstrated his pastoral concern by erecting numerous dioceses and ecclesiastical circumscriptions, and by promulgating Codes of Canon Law for the Latin and the Oriental Churches, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He proclaimed the Year of Redemption, the Marian Year and the Year of the Eucharist as well as the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, in order to provide the People of God with particularly intense spiritual experiences. He also attracted young people by beginning the celebration of World Youth Day.

Pope John Paul II died in the Apostolic Palace on Saturday, 2 April 2005, the vigil of  Divine Mercy Sunday, which he had instituted. On 8 April, his solemn funeral was celebrated in Saint Peter's Square and he was buried in the crypt of Saint Peter's Basilica. He was beatified in Saint Peter's Square on 1 May 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI and canonized on 27 April 2014 (Divine Mercy Sunday) by Pope Francis. His memorial was established on October 22, anniversary of his papal inauguration, the day in which he spoke words that would remain unforgettable: "Non abbiate paura! Aprite, anzi, spalancate le porte a Cristo! Cristo sa 'cosa è dentro l’uomo'. Solo lui lo sa!" (Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors for Christ! Christ knows 'what is in man'. He alone knows it!)

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