This past week we did not get to experiencing all of the sensory-smart ways I had brainstormed for learning more about Saint Maximilian Kolbe. However, we did enjoy some reading, chats, and activities, which culminated* with Mass and veneration at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, where the Pilgrimage of the Relic of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe had stopped. (*I use the word "culminated" loosely as there will surely be more study and learning about Saint Maximilian Kolbe to come.)
What a beautiful church Our Lady of Perpetual of Help is. From the outside, it looks like a simple church.
Inside, though - wow! As soon as my children and I stepped inside we thought, in my son's words:
This is amazing! It was gorgeous. There were statues and paintings everywhere. The painting of Jesus resurrected and the people just looking up at him, staring in awe. It was so impressive. So pretty.
I did not take a ton of photos inside, because I did not think it would be appropriate to keep snapping photo after photo during veneration time, but I did take a few so that my children could better remember our experience, and so that we could continue chatting about the symbolism we had seen and the stories we had heard in the coming weeks, using the photos as a starting point.
My youngest was obviously exhausted when we were at Mass and fell asleep. He woke as veneration began and was bleary eyed when his siblings took him up to the reliquary to look for the first class relic beard hairs within it.
While there, we noticed some of the symbolism of the reliquary:
- a base shaped like Poland, where Saint. Maximilian Kolbe was from
- thorns to represent the atrocities committed during the occupation of the Third Reich
- the lily bursting forth fro the thorns represents purity
- the tulip represent matryrdom (and, together with the lily, represent love triumphing over hatred)
- a knotted cord represents the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience taken by all in the Franciscan order, including St. Maximilain Kolbe
We also noted the colors of the flowers by the altar - red and white - and talked about how these are the same colors as the crowns young Raymond Kolbe (which is what Saint Maximilian Kolbe was called as a boy) said he would accept from Our Lady. As the story goes, one night, Our Lady appeared to young Raymond in a dream. She was holding both a red crown and a white one and asked which he would accept. The white meant her would persevere in purity. The read meant he would become a martyr. Raymond said he would accept both, and, indeed, through his life and death, did just that.
Plus, we examined the painting that was near the relic and connected it to what we know about Saint Maximilian Kolbe. The children noted that:
- In the background there are smokestack sand fences, reminding us of the prison camp Saint Maximilian Kolbe was imprisoned in
- The prison uniform he holds has his prisoner number on it.
- His habit speaks of his calling as a Franciscan priest.
- He holds the crowns he accepted from Our Lady.
Nearby were images of the Divine Mercy and Saint Faustina, so we chatted about those, too, and prayed at the side altar where they were.
Before we left, a sweet Franciscan sister gifted each of us with a Miraculous Medal. The children took these up to the Saint Maximilian Kolbe relic, prayed, and touched them to the relic. Yep, at that point, as had happened during several points when I walked into the church, when I gazed at the artwork, when we celebrated Mass, when I looked down at the sweet face of my sleeping youngest,... tears brimmed in my eyes. So much to be grateful for. So many mysteries and graces. So many blessings.
Life gets busy - very busy - and there are choices to made each day to move towards God or away. I am grateful for the examples of saints who show us, time after time, how to move toward our Lord. I am equally thankful for those who currently accept calls as nuns and priests, praying for us and shepherding us. Likewise, I am thankful for ministries like Our Lady of the Angels that enrich us with experiences such as being able to experience the Pilgrimage of the Relic of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe.
Experience the Church and Pilgrimage Virtually
If you would like to take a virtual tour of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, please view images of beautiful artwork in a slide show on the Our Lady of Perpetual Help website.
If you would like to learn more about the Saint Maximilian Kolbe relic or find out if it will be visiting you soon, check out the 2016 Pilgrimage page.
You can also view a video talk that explains Saint Maximilian Kolbe's story:
May love continue to triumph over hatred and may all of us in our troubled century listen to the testimony of Saint Maximilian Kolbe that love without limits is possible.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.