On Saturday 21st January 2017, Pluscarden Abbey was visited by Franciscan Friars, bearing the relics of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
Following the traditional 9.00am sung mass celebrated in Latin in the “Ordinary Form”, with readings in English, the congregation, well represented by pilgrims from the Highlands and Moray and possibly further afield, had the opportunity to venerate the relics. People lined up to bow to, kiss, or touch the relic held within the statue of St. Maximilian Kolbe, and view the reliquary.
At 11.00am a service was held with readings and meditations on the life of Maximilian Kolbe (see link below). This celebration in honour of St Maximilian Kolbe was followed by a further opportunity to venerate the relics.
The relics are from his beard, which he had shaved off. Beards provoked the enemy, as would the Franciscan habit. As a compromise, Maximilian parted with his beard however would not sacrifice his habit. His beard should have been burned on the fire, however the fire had gone out and unbeknown to Maximilian Kolbe, the Barber, Brother Kamil, probably suspecting Maximilian’s sanctity at that time, preserved the hair. The strands are placed in a glass case in a statue of the saint, and in a silver and bronze reliquary, the design of which includes important symbols from his life. The base is shaped like Poland, the place of his birth and where his vocation and work first flourished. From this grow thorns symbolising the occupation of Poland by the Third Reich, and then the Auschwitz concentration camp. From the thorns grow two flowers, a lily to symbolise purity, and a tulip, a fragile flower which withers quickly as was expected of our saint by the guards, symbolising martyrdom. The two crowns from his childhood vision of Our Lady, purity and martyrdom – symbols of love triumphing over hate. The glass case which contains the strands from his beard is encircled by a Franciscan cord with its traditional three knots for the three Franciscan vows, of chastity, poverty and obedience, representing his vocation.