Letter of St. Maximilian Kolbe to Fr. Cornelius Czupryk, July 1, 1932

Ave Maria!

After the outing with the Archbishop I returned for supper to the residence of the Syrian rite Archbishop (they were all native Indians there, including the Archbishop). During supper the one who was the journalist and publisher, a gray-headed priest [1], asked me: “How is it going with the periodical (i.e. with the Knight)?” I answered that if someone were to take it upon himself until our arrival – because one day we will arrive some place in India – then I could send the money (within certain limits) as well as the publishing material. The Archbishop right away answered that this could be arranged and that the said journalist priest could do this, and the priest himself asked right away for more information and promised to come the next day for further details. I was amazed at this. So then the Knight can already start being published?!

It seemed to me, however, that this was not the end of the matter yet. In the morning one of the priests came, the one who administers the printing house and who had previously tried to convince me [to settle in India], and he said that the Archbishop had declared himself ready to give us the land in use for building a friary-City of the Immaculate and that I should choose one of two available places.

Until noon I was getting acquainted with the prices with the priest who was supposed to begin the Knight, and we calculated that for 10 American Dollars per month 3,000 copies of a small Knight could start coming out. Whatever [money] would come in as a donation would go towards making it bigger.

The priest took this opportunity to say that he was considering entering the Order, but that at the moment it was not allowed, because he had to pay off a debt, since he had vouched for his brother, and things had not gone well for him. He owed it to St. Therese of the Child Jesus, however, that he had won the necessary amount playing the lottery, but it would not be paid out for another 2 years, while the creditors are already demanding [their money]. How will this end? … Perhaps the Immaculate will lead him to us? … He is around 49 years old, but a journalist in the native language and a humble soul.

Since he wanted nothing in return for his work on the Knight, I promised to send him some Mass intentions […] and I promised also to leave him a
statue of the Immaculate, which I had brought with me with the intention of leaving it, so that She might take charge of the new post.

After lunch I asked the Archbishop about the matter of the land. He answered that he will indeed grant us [land] for our use and that he has 2 places, one closer and the other further from the city. I asked him about the conditions, about the payment: “It’s a donation,” he responded. Whereas before he had considered a friary as unsuitable. What a change! I therefore expressed my wish of seeing these places. With one of the priests I went there with the Archbishop’s car and I really did like the place, far from all the tumult, but the means of communication are a bit flagging, and as I found out later on, the more beautiful of the two places, which was the one I had chosen, still has the legal issue of a former public road [which once passed through it] which needs to be settled. What’s worst, however, is that we’re of the Latin rite, hence [the question arises] under whose jurisdiction? The case is not clear, but the Congregation [2] could easily settle it. The permission of the Latin Archbishop however is also indispensable.

So I went the next day to the Latin Archbishop. On the way, I met his Procurator and he asked me where I had been the day before, because they did not see me – perhaps they had already figured out what was in the works, because it seemed I had run into one of the Latin priests along the way. When I had told him about everything, he seemed very troubled that the “Syrians” were taking this matter upon themselves and he encouraged me to tell the [Latin] Archbishop about my goal. I went therefore, the whole time entrusting [the matter] to the Immaculate by means of the Most Holy Name of Mary; I prayed the Rosary, too, far more [than usual] during these days. I must confess that I left the house to see the Archbishop without any hope, I could not even pray any more… I was striving for conformation with the Will of the Immaculate, but everything felt [lifeless] like a hunk of wood.

So I asked the Archbishop: “Your Excellency has told me so many beautiful things about this place. If we were to come now, like those first three Carmelites, would we have to flee like them?” He either did not understand or had to gather his thoughts – it was enough that I repeated the question: “Come, come,” he answered. And he recounted how the Salesians were supposed to come to a certain locality, but did not come. I told him later on that we would prefer not to have land in property, but only in use, in order to be able to build and work for the Immaculate, and [I asked] if he could indicate where such conditions could best be found. Right away he indicated the property about which those two priests had been telling me before (maybe they had been talking about it with the Archbishop, like the Syrian priests did with theirs, during my lunch with the Latin Archbishop).

He then invited me again to go with him to see this property, from which we could make a City of the Immaculate. It is a huge sort of garden (about 200 iugera – perhaps [these units are the equivalent of our Polish] morga? [3]). He indicated a spacious little chapel and a house that would be completely sufficient for a start and he said that this could be taken by us until we could build something big. I said right away that we do not build any huge buildings. After our return he gave me his blessing, so that Our Lord and the Immaculate might give me theirs. In this way St. Therese, the Patroness of the Missions, showed that she “remembers” about our mission too.

[…] Concerning the Knight, I myself told him that I’d like to have his advice, whether we should begin right away through that priest of the Syrian rite, or whether we should wait until we arrive ourselves. He advised that we wait, because he was afraid of subsequent difficulties on the part of the Syrians, when it will come to taking over the periodical. Hence I backed out of this matter, although I did leave that priest a statue of the Immaculate, which is supposed to keep watch over the post, and perhaps over his vocation as well…

[…] It seems to me that it would be good to strike the iron while it’s hot, because other Orders are circling around in the area and someone else could take the place and… who knows whether it will not become more difficult once India gets its new constitution, which is presently being worked on, and which will give them greater independence. Would it not be good if at least by the [feast of the] Immaculate Conception our friars be there already and publish the first issue of the Knight for January? […]

Also: we won’t need here many brothers from Poland like we do in Japan, but perhaps two specialists will be enough, so that together they could direct everything, since there are prospects of numerous local vocations here.

In time for the [Provincial] Chapter [4] we could even slowly prepare the Chinese City of the Immaculate […]

This way we would bring to a close the first part of the plan of conquering the world for the Immaculate, which was conceived two years ago, i.e. Japan, India, China. All together one half of the world’s population […]

I’ll end here, because I’ve already used up a lot of paper, and I ask for your Seraphic Blessing.

Br. Maximilian Ma. Kolbe

Commentary

By Fr. Matthias M. Sasko, F.I.

St. Maximilian did not have the consolation to see a City of the Immaculate open in India during his lifetime. What happened? Various difficulties and delays intervened.

The most painful difficulties were caused by opposition and misunderstandings from some confreres from St. Maximilian’s own native Province. Two years after the above letter, St. Maximilian wrote to his new Provincial Superior, Fr. Anselm Kubit: “I would like to share with you a piece of news which the General Secretary has sent to our Father Guardian [5] in a letter dated October 27 of the current year, concerning the Indian ‘Amalam. [6]

He [the Secretary] says in the letter: ‘I have spoken on the subject of India with the Most. Rev. Fr. General […] When the [Polish] Minister Provincial had written to him about the matter, he himself spoke with Fr. Haczela. [7] The latter was, however, completely contrary to this new foundation, because he said that we have so many non-formed [8] houses in Poland, and that we have new houses to be opened there still; Fr. Maximilian’s propaganda makes an impression only [he said], and in such a way he completely dissuaded the Father General […] I told him, however, that it is the Father Provincial with his definitorium [9] who is supposed to govern the Province, and not Fr. Haczela, and if the Minister Provincial deems this good, why do we want to contradict him, if it is neither against the Rule nor against [Canon] law? He then allowed me to write back [stating] that if the Minister Provincial had given his consent for opening a new house, Fr. Maximilian could begin working on the necessary preliminaries to that effect. Therefore it would be good to inquire about the opinion of the Minister Provincial on the matter and then to proceed with the blessing of the Lord’” (Pisma 575).

St. Maximilian’s Provincial Superior was in fact very supportive of the cause of Immaculate, and though the Saint frequently reminded him of the pressing matter of expanding apostolic activity into India, and though he earnestly prayed the Immaculate to be able to cover the globe with Her Cities, Our Lady was content with his good will, patience and obedience. An opening always seemed to get delayed because of one difficulty or another.

Just how close the project came to materializing appears in a letter dated November 22nd, 1938 in which St. Maximilian relates that the Provincial, Fr. Kubit, on his way to make the canonical visitation of the mission in Japan, “intends to research how the situation with Amalam (the City of the Immaculate) in India stands at the present moment.”

In fact, Fr. Kubit himself visited the Malabar Coast in the hopes of founding there a new mission of the Polish Franciscan Province. In his report sent to Niepokalanów from Ernakulaum, penned on December 15th, 1938, Fr. Kubit wrote: “The Archbishop [Antipetty [10]] is giving us only 6 morgi of land [11], on which we have to build the friary and this is supposed to be everything. Building costs here are in fact cheap […] We have to be ready for the fact that the printing press and all that goes with it will have to be purchased, the house or friary has to be built and the expenses of the publishing have to be laid out […] For now, if we were to accept [the offer], one or two priests and around two or three brothers would be necessary; one of the priests has to know English […] and the other Malayalam. Start looking for and preparing a candidate […] This place is perhaps the most suited for developing the work, because 2/3 of India’s Catholics can be found on the Malabar Coast, and up to 10 million people speak the Malayalam language […]” (Pisma 721).

Apostolic activity in Poland, in the meantime, was seeing record growth. December 8th of 1938 saw the opening of a radio station in
Niepokalanów, and at the close of that same year the MI counted 641,936 members inscribed at Niepokalanów alone; [12] the Knight reached a circulation of 1,000,000 copies [13], and all of the hundreds of friar members of Niepokalanów were constantly engaged in a feverish amount of work for the Immaculate, living, working, suffering, being consumed and longing to die for Her.

The 1939 Provincial Chapter instilled hope in St. Maximilian. On August 19th, 1939, two days before the opening of the Chapter, St. Maximilian wrote: “After tomorrow the Chapter is beginning: the division of the Province, elections, counsels, and perhaps even a consideration of the Indian and Latvian [14] Cities of the Immaculate […] We are praying here for the intentions of the Chapter […] because this year it is a more important matter than in preceding ones” (Pisma 759a). The August 1939 Provincial Chapter in Krakow, however, which had to face the laborious task of the division of the hitherto one Polish Province into two independent ones, did not give the question of the missions the priority hoped for.

Less than one week after the conclusion of the Chapter, the outbreak of World War II on September 1st, 1939 put an abrupt end to any further visible progress in the first part of St. Maximilian’s plan of conquering the world for the Immaculate. St. Maximilian, however, did not lose hope, ever mindful of God’s promise of victory in the enmity with the serpent: “She will crush your head” (Gen 3:15), and the City of the Immaculate in India never left the Saint’s mind; even during the gloomy days of the war, he would animate the friars to pray and hope to arrive there one day (cf. Pisma 777).

Today, the work remains still to be done, more urgent than ever.

Footnotes

[1] – Fr. Jacob Naduvathucherry

[2] – The competent Roman Dicastery, that is [translator’s note].

[3] – 200 iugera is equivalent to around 200 acres.

[4] – Provincial Chapters fell every three years, hence the next one was slated for 1933.

[5] – The Fr. Guardian in Japan at that time was the former Polish Provincial, Fr. Cornelius Czupryk [trans.].

[6] – The equivalent word for “City of the Immaculate” in the local Malayalam language.

[7] – Fr. Peregrine Haczela, of the Polish Province, residing in Rome as a Socius, that is an advisor and assistant of the Minister General.

[8] – ‘A non-formed house’ was a canonical category of the 1917 Code of Canon Law; such a religious house lacked the required minimum of six professed friar members of a community (four of whom had to be priests) necessary to constitute a ‘formed house’ (domus formata).

[9] – A group of advisers which every Provincial Superior is obligated to have.

[10] – Abp. Joseph Antipetty was consecrated Coadjutor of the archdiocese of Verapolis, where Ernakulaum was situated, in 1933, and succeeded Archbishop Perez y Cecilia in 1934.

[11] – About 6 acres.

[12] – Pisma 733a

[13] – Pisma 101

[14] – Some time before, a benefactor came forward willing to donate land for a foundation in Latvia.

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