St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Eucharist

Cities of the Immaculate (Niepokalanóws) consecrated totally to the Immaculate and to her cause, above all honor the Eucharist, live by the Eucharist, find in the Eucharist the principal source for their apostolate, and hope to unite the whole world as one family about the standard of the Eucharist and Mary. This ideal is pursued by the entire Militia of the Immaculate (MI). Every knight knows that in this way he imitates his founder, Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, that great devotee of the Eucharist. In him—by reason of his total consecration to the Mother of Jesus—”the love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament touched his pious heart at its very roots.” (1)

The Eucharist—God with Us

Contemplating the mystery of the Eucharist, Father Kolbe was convinced—and this conviction inspired the MI—that the most Blessed Sacrament is the richest of divine treasures on earth, the source for the sanctification of souls and for the conversion of the world, and thus the most efficacious means for attaining the goals of the MI.

Saint Maximilian based his faith in the Eucharist on the Gospel and on the teaching of the Church. In an article entitled Corpus Domini (Body of the Lord) published in 1924 in Rycerz Niepokalanej and occasioned by a blasphemy perpetrated at Grodno by a group of drunken non-Catholics on the feast of Corpus Christi, he assembled the gospel proofs for the dogma of the Blessed Sacrament.

In the Gospel of St. John, an eyewitness, is found the promise made by Our Lord to the people at Capharnaum after the multiplication of the loaves to give us as food His own flesh and His own blood. “Amen, amen, I say to you: if you do not eat of the flesh of the Son of man and do not drink of His blood, you shall not have life in you.” Life here means life to the full, “life everlasting.” “For my flesh is food indeed and my blood drink indeed. Who eats of my flesh and drinks of my blood, remains in me and I in him”; so too he “shall live because of me” (Jn. 6:51-60).

A year later, at Jerusalem in the Upper Room, during the last supper with the Apostles, Jesus fulfilled this promise. “While they were at supper,” recounts St. Matthew who was present, “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to His disciples: ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ And taking a cup, he gave thanks and gave it to them, saying: ‘All of you drink of this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins'” (Mt. 26: 26-28). And He added, as St. Luke (22:19) and St. Paul (I Cor. 11: 24-25) attest: “Do this in memory of me.”

“And from that moment,” concludes Father Kolbe, recalling the bi-millenary practice of the Church, “the sacrifice of the Holy Mass made its appearance on the earth. Ever more often, ever more widespread. At first underground in the catacombs, later in an ever-growing number of churches.” Every “priest, a successor of the Apostles,” obedient to the command of the God-man, repeats at Mass “in His memory the moving scene of the last supper”: the bread becomes “the living Body of Christ” and the wine “His most precious Blood.” Christ remains really present under the consecrated species, also after the Mass. He dwells in tabernacles, and on the solemnity of Corpus Christi during the Eucharistic procession, “He, the Creator of heaven and of earth and the Redeemer of souls” goes out “upon the streets and roads of His children, carried in the hands of the priest.” (2)

Saint Maximilian desired to write a book on the teaching of the Church with a chapter entitled, “Dogma: the most Blessed Sacrament,” (3) perhaps eventually to be published as a booklet. He wished to write of the dogma “in a popular, lively style, illustrating the doctrine with miracles attested by competent witnesses (for example, bearing on the Eucharist).” (4) The constant demands of the apostolate did not permit him to write such a work. But in the material for a book on the Immaculate, we find the description of the apparition of our Lady to Alphonse Ratisbonne in the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, Rome, together with an account of a moral miracle bearing on the Eucharist.

In an instant, this unbelieving Jew, without hearing so much as a word from the all-holy Virgin, understood the entire Catholic Faith, including the truth about the Eucharist.

“The Catholic faith” recounts Mr. de Bussieres, a friend of Ratisbonne and witness of his conversion, “welled up from his heart, as a rare perfume from its container, unable to be kept sealed within. He spoke of the Real Presence (of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament), as a man who believes in it with all the strength of his soul, nay rather as a man who has experienced it.” Shortly thereafter, between the Basilicas of St. Mary Major and St. Peter, he was filled by an indescribable, ecstatic rapture.

“Oh” he said to me, grasping my hands, “now I understand the love of Catholics for their churches and the devotion which impels them to decorate and embellish them!… This is no longer earth, but almost paradise.” Before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament the Real Presence of the divinity overwhelmed him to such a point that he visited less often, and would often leave at once, so awesome it seemed to him to remain in the presence of the living God with the stain of original sin! (He was not yet baptized.) And he would flee to a chapel of the all-holy Virgin. (5)

Saint Maximilian was deeply touched by the Real Presence of Jesus, the God-man, under the Eucharistic species. Before the Blessed Sacrament altar he acted as though he saw the Savior. “God dwells in our midst,” he exclaimed, “in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar.” (6) “He remains among us until the end of the world. He dwells on so many al