On 29 July 1941 ten prisoners from an block at Auschwitz were chosen to be starved to death because a prisoner from that same block had escaped. Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan who founded the Militia Immaculatae, offered his life, to take the place of a man who was a husband and father.
Two weeks later, Kolbe was still alive, so he was given a lethal injection. It was 14 August, Vigil of the Assumption.
I remind the readership that there was to be Pontifical Mass in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on 14 August 2021, rescheduled from last year. However, Card. Gregory gave that now-imprisoned Mass, intended for the spiritually starving, a lethal injection.
Kolbe, promoter of devotion to Mary Immaculate – for whom the Shrine in Washington is named – and a ham radio operator (SP3RN), was beatified by Paul VI in 1971 as a confessor. He was canonized in 1982 by John Paul II as a martyr. The fact of the two different categories raises a question.
Which was it? Life of heroic virtue or martyrdom (in which moment the martyr exemplifies all the virtues).
A new path for causes has been opened, wisely I think, called “oblatio vitae…offering of life”.
The idea is this. Some people who live holy lives, though not necessarily a life of heroic virtue, nevertheless make decisions which lead to their great harm and death for the sake of the Faith or some virtue integral to the Faith. Take the case of St. Maximillian. He was beatified as having lived a life of heroic virtue but canonized as a martyr. In fact, he probably wasn’t killed by the Nazis because of the Faith, or his priesthood: he offered to take the place of another prisoner. His choice led to his death. He offered his life, though it may not have been martyrdom. That’s oblatio vitae.
Fr. Vincent Capodanno, the heroic Navy Chaplain was killed in Vietnam while trying to give last rites to a wounded Marine. Yut! He wasn’t killed for hatred of the Faith, so he wasn’t a martyr. It would not be necessary to demonstrate that “chaps” lives all the virtues in a heroic way. NB: “heroic” here has nothing to do with his heroism in the fire fight during which he was killed. For the sake of another, he made a choice to put himself in the line of fire and he was killed because of his choice. That was heroic in earthly sense, but he did it for a spiritual motive, love of neighbor, concern for a soul. That’s oblatio vitae.
The case of St. Gianna Beretta Molla is similar. She lived a virtuous life and her cause was argued that she lived a life of heroic virtue. However, had they not made that case, she made a choice that led to her death for the sake of her unborn child, an oblatio vitae. She was aware that her choice would lead to her death and she chose it anyway for the sake of her child’s life. Had she good a good and holy life, perhaps not of heroic, exemplary virtues, her path could have gone foward via the oblatio vitae path.
Here is a prayer composed by St. Maximilian. We had a Novena to St. Ann, and you can and should say that prayer for the softening of the hearts of those who now implement Traditionis custodes. Perhaps you can use this prayer as well from now until the Feast of the Assumption, the day that St. Maximilian was cremated at Auschwitz. Let us ask for graces through the intercession of St. Maximilian, not to become bitter toward those who would snuff us out of the Church or force us into an artificial unity created in their own likeness.
- O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you. I, (name), a repentant sinner, cast myself at your feet, humbly imploring you to take me with all that I am and have, wholly to yourself as your possession and property. Please make of me, of all my powers of soul and body, of my whole life, death and eternity, whatever most pleases you.
- If it pleases you, use all that I am and have without reserve, wholly to accomplish what was said of you: “She will crush your head,” and “You alone have destroyed all heresies in the whole world.” Let me be a fit instrument in your immaculate and merciful hands for introducing and increasing your glory to the maximum in all the many strayed and indifferent souls, and thus help extend as far as possible the blessed kingdom of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
- V. Allow me to praise you, O Sacred Virgin
- R. Give me strength against your enemies