Conference 195 by St. Maximilian Kolbe given to the solemnly professed friars. Niepokalanów, Thursday, November 24, 1938. Notes taken by br. Caesarius Koperski

Introduction

Ave Maria!

“The Spirit breathes when He wills,” St. Maximilian reminds us in the following spiritual conference given to the solemnly professed friars in Niepokalanów. Our duty is to be always ready for His Divine inspirations.

That is why St. Maximilian so emphasized the observance of silence and recollection in the Cities of the Immaculate, both in Poland and in Japan. “The ideal of perfection in Niepokalanów is consecration to Her always, day and night” – and never would the Saint allow his spiritual sons to give in to dissipation, that is to be occupied with anything else but the will of the Immaculate, because graces of inestimable worth could come at any time, and it is only to those who are faithful in little things that great ones are entrusted (cf. Mt 25:23). Hence not even during recreation or at rest were the friars’ minds and hearts to stray from a close union with the Immaculate, Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

How this was lived out in practice is given us to know by one observer of the life and work of St. Maximilian, who stated that the Saint “made silence a characteristic of the City of the Immaculate, where one could truly say silence was the rule, speaking the exception, even though there was feverish work everywhere.” [1]

Saint Maximilian did not neglect to point out that we can break silence, become dissipated and lose recollection in more ways than just by speaking unnecessarily. As one spiritual writer notes: “The moment we allow anything outside, any external interest or object, to absorb our attention and distract that attention from that to which God desires us to attend, then we infringe silence.” [2] We break silence and lose recollection, therefore, whenever we become occupied with things that are not part of our duties at any given moment or if we apply ourselves to what is our duty but with excessive concern or attention. Our daily activities are means, not ends – we must apply ourselves to them in the way and in the measure that God wills.

Since we must belong to Her “day and night”, our intellects and our wills must be given to Her day and night – we cannot allow anything to enter from outside so as to absorb our attention and distract it from this union. We must dwell in Our Lady’s soul: think Her thoughts, desire what She desires, carry out the tasks that She wants us to carry out – or, put briefly, apply our intellects and wills only to those things to which She wants us to apply them. In acting in this way, we are always united to Her – externally there is the (sometimes chaotic and unpredictable) work and activities of every day – interiorly there is profound silence and peace.

This is what St. Maximilian calls consecration in practice – not thinking, not saying, not doing anything else but that which the Immaculate Herself wants us to think, say or do. This is what it also means to teach others what consecration to the Immaculate means – irradiating the Immaculate by our words and actions.

This can and must be true for all Christian souls – not only for religious living in the cloister. It is not the state of life we live in or the activities we have to carry out that are a condition for silence, recollection and union with Our Lady – it is rather whether such state of life and such activities as we engage in are in conformity with the will of the Immaculate or not. Our attention cannot always be given to Our Lady explicitly and directly – this is not possible even for the strictest contemplatives – life on earth with all its demands does not allow this. Our minds, our wills, our memories, our feelings – none of these can constantly be fixed on Our Lady, as much as we would like them to be. That is why the only practical way of achieving and maintaining union with Our Lady, and through Her with the Holy Spirit, is to give all our attention, our minds and wills, to those things which Our Lady wants us to be busy with at any given moment and to nothing else – then there is truly constant, uninterrupted union of our minds with Her mind, of our will with Hers.

In this way, no matter what our state of life, Our Lady can make us Saints. “Let us strive to be led by the inspirations of God, by the Immaculate, so that She might lead us, so that we might follow Her.” It is not in whether we achieve great things or not that makes us holy. “Sometimes God wishes us only to resolve to do something, but not that we carry it out: in some things hence we might not be successful, etc. The important thing is being ready for the Will of God.” What makes our works great is whether they agree with the will of God or not. What makes us powerful is whether God is working through us or not. Hence, “precisely the weaker one is, the better.” The weaker we are, the more Our Lady will have to work through us, and the more She works through us, the surer we can be of success.

Conference

Let us deepen our consecration to the Immaculate

 

It’s happened at times that some of the brothers have asked me to rise earlier because they cannot sleep all the way until [the scheduled] rising – for example on feasts or now when there is more sleep. [3] This happens only initially, because later on the body gets used to it. What are we to do then when we can’t sleep? We can easily turn this time into meditation; we can meditate on Our Lady, speak with Her, and then we can learn many things from Her. The first duty is sleep, but when you can’t sleep, you can take advantage of this. [4] You can present your interior matters to the Immaculate. An inspiration of measureless value can come [in such a time], influencing your whole life, because the Holy Spirit breathes when He wills [cf. J 3:8] – it could happen during recreation, etc. – hence our duty is to be ready for this Divine inspiration. The condition for it is recollection.

 

Let us then avoid dissipation during the day. Dissipation occurs when we engage in things that are not part of our duties; also, our actions can be disordered if we are too excessively preoccupied about a certain task, more than is the will of God. We have to put in as much effort as God wills. Here lies the limit. For duty is a means, and not an end. Fulfilling a duty cannot absorb us; we ought to apply ourselves to work, but without any disordered impetus. In calmness you will achieve more, because you will commit fewer mistakes.

 

Hence we are to avoid that which does not belong to our duties in a given moment. This gets in the way of work and of inspirations. We are to fulfill that which is the will of God. Then we will find time for ejaculatory prayers, which are so important in the spiritual life and for conversation with Our Lady. Slowly we will be able to get used to this. Then the soul will remain in interior peace. Externally there is work, constancy, lack of change – interiorly there is profound peace.

 

Let us strive to be led by the inspirations of God, by the Immaculate, so that She might lead us, so that we might follow Her. Sometimes God wishes us only to resolve to do something, but not that we carry it out: in some things hence we might not be successful, etc. The important thing is being ready for the Will of God.

 

The more perfectly that we allow ourselves to be led by Our Lady, the better we will be, the more similar to Her. The ideal of perfection in Niepokalanów is consecration to Her always, day and night, so that She might suffer and act through us. This is the summit of perfection towards which we strive, because Our Lady imitated Our Lord most. If we want to draw close to God, let us allow ourselves to be led by Her.

 

Here we belong to the M[ilitia] of the I[mmaculate]. We have to show this in practice by our own lives. If we ourselves are not instruments in Her hands, how can we teach this to others? We have to let ourselves be led by Her, so that others seeing us might be able to learn what it means in practice to be a knight of Hers. In order to arrive at this we have to dwell in Her soul, think Her thoughts, etc., so that there might be no difference between what She thinks about something and what we think about it, just as there are no differences between Her desires and the will of God. This is what it means to teach others in practice – this is our mission in Niepokalanów. We have to irradiate Her to such a degree that our presence might attract others. Our specific characteristic is to be Hers in a greater degree than others. [5] An inhabitant of Niepokalanów should be Hers to the highest degree. Each one of us has the opportunity to do this, he is taught to do this. There is work during the whole day, while the freer moments are supposed to serve as a means in order to learn to be Hers (especially) through heartfelt conversations with our dear Heavenly Mother. [6] We have to become similar to Her. Sometimes this consecration to Her will happen without any words at all – [giving ourselves] to Her, in a practical way, interiorly, as it has been emphasized in the act of consecration.

 

Sometimes one might ask himself: how do you have the courage to strive to become a saint, being weak as you are. Precisely the weaker one is, the better. The Immaculate is the embodiment of God’s mercy. If She has raised up wretches or souls for which there was no hope that anything would ever come of them to such a sanctity as they had not even dreamed of, if She has raised up the most prodigal and weakest ones – then let us too strive for sanctity. Let us tell Her: if I die and fall into hell, then others will follow there after me, but if you reach out to me with your hand – then I will be a great Saint and I will draw others to Heaven as well.

 


[1] Articoli per il processo apostolico, n. 149.

[2] Leen, Edward, Progress Through Mental Prayer, New York: Sheed & Ward, 1937, 275.

[3] At certain times of year, as well as on Sundays and liturgical feast days, the rising time of the friars was slightly later than other times.

[4] Elsewhere too St. Maximilian gives the same advice: “… at night, when [the soul] can’t find sleep or when it awakes, it rouses up ejaculatory
prayers… How much light will enter the soul in that moment! Let us not think that we will be the only ones to speak; She too will speak to us, because She is in our souls” (Conference 238, March 25, 1940, emphasis added).

[5] Why does Our Lady call some souls to a greater degree of union with Her than others? St. Maximilian repeatedly reminds us that this is a mystery of
Her merciful love (cf. Conference 119, Jan. 23, 1938; PK 431, etc.). It is useful to reflect, however, that the children who need
to be closest to their mother, who need to be carried in her arms, are not the strongest and most capable ones, but the weakest and most helpless,
the most vulnerable, the ones with special needs, etc. – all those who would not be able to live separated from their mother. If then Our Lady
calls someone to special union with Her, it is certainly not through any personal merit of that person, but trough Her merciful love.

[6] Here as in countless other places, St. Maximilian refers to Our Lady as Mamusia, which can be translated into English as Dear mother, or Mommy. In terms of affection and familiarity, the term Mamusia is one degree beyond Mama,
meaning Mom. As with the English usage of Mom and Mommy, when little kids turn to their mothers familiarly, they simply
use the term Mama; when they wish to express particular affection, they use the term Mamusia. Speaking in circumstances of great
familiarity with fellow brothers who share and understand his love for Our Lady, St. Maximilian does not hesitate to use this expression of maximum
childlike affection.

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