Pluscarden Abbey was very blessed and honoured on Saturday 21 January 2017 to receive a visit of relics of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
The relics were brought by four Conventual Franciscan Friars. They joined us for our conventual Mass, at which one of them preached. Then they hosted a special service honouring the Saint's memory, telling his story, and displaying his relics for veneration. A good group of the faithful came to participate in that.
2017 is the centenary year of the foundation of the Militia Immaculatae, which St. Maximilian was inspired to found while still a student in Rome.
On completing his studies, and being ordained Priest, he plunged into an astonishingly fruitful apostolic career, founding what was soon to be the largest religious community in the world, and also the largest circulation religious newspaper in the world. All of this work was placed under the protection of Mary Immaculate, to whom St. Maximilian had total devotion.
In 1938, returned from Japan, and already anticipating the Nazi invasion of his native Poland, the Saint had his long beard shaved off. He ordered the Friar barber to put the shavings in the oven. That was done, but the oven was not lit. So the precious relics were recovered, and then carefully stored away.
The story of his heroic death in Auschwitz Concentration camp, on 14 August 1941, is well known. He volunteered to die of starvation in a punishment bunker, in place of a married man, who needed to stay alive for the sake of his family. After the Saint's terrible death, his body was incinerated, so no trace of it now remains.
Pope St. John Paul II, in canonising Maximilian Kolbe, defined him a martyr for charity. He also explicitly affirmed the theological correctness of St. Maximilian's strong and bold teaching about Our Lady.
Fragments of St. Maximilian's beard were displayed at Pluscarden in two reliqueries. One was a beautifully made stand, with symbolic significance attached to all its parts. But it also has sharp thorns, liable to injure anyone coming too close. So the other one was used for the personal veneration: a small statue of the Saint, with the relics fixed in its base.