“Pray that I will love without any limits.”
Written by Maximilian Kolbe to his mother.
Sunday, August 14th is the Feast Day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a priest who gave up his own life for a stranger while a prisoner at Auschwitz in 1941. St. Maximilian provides special inspiration for me because his extraordinary final act of selflessness was merely the culmination of his years spent dedicated to God. As a young boy, Raymond Kolbe had a vision of the Virgin Mary who presented him with two crowns and asked if he was willing to accept either one of them. One was white meaning he would remain pure and the other red meaning he would become a martyr. He did not hesitate in accepting both. From that moment on, he spent his life dedicated to the veneration of our Blessed Mother and gave of himself completely in the service of others.
St. Maximilian is also special to one of our Residents, Brother Raphael Ruffolo, OFM. As a young man, Michael Ruffolo enlisted in the Army and served with great distinction winning a Purple Heart among his many honors. After witnessing the brutality of war, Ruffolo felt blessed to have survived and felt a calling to spend the rest of his life in service to God and others. He left the military and met a Conventual Franciscan named Fr. Dominic Szymanski who was starting a new apostolate inspired by Maxilmilian Kolbe’s goal of global evangelization. Ruffolo was equally moved and entered the community in 1949 becoming one of the founding members of the friary they called Marytown. He held many roles there over the next half century and was instrumental in moving Marytown to its current location in Libertyville, Illinois in 1979. In 2000, the National Council of Catholic Bishops designated Marytown the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
In 2010, Br. Raphael received the Maximilian Kolb Award given to individuals who have dedicated their lives to teaching others about St. Maximilian Kolbe and exemplified his dedication to the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist.
Br. Raphael’s quiet presence is a reminder of St. Maximilian Kolbe not only on his feast day but throughout the year.
Top: Aerial view of Marytown/Kolbe Shrine; Left: Brother Raphael Ruffolo, OFM