Monday, August 14, 2006

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr

Today is the feast day of the great St. Maximilian Kolbe. A biography records: "On 28 May 1941 he was transferred to Auschwitz and branded as prisoner 16670. He was assigned to a special work group staffed by priests and supervised by especially vicious and abusive guards. His calm dedication to the faith brought him the worst jobs available, and more beatings than anyone else. At one point he was beaten, lashed, and left for dead. The prisoners managed to smuggle him into the camp hospital where he spent his recovery time hearing confessions. When he returned to the camp, Maximilian ministered to other prisoners, including conducting Mass and delivering communion using smuggled bread and wine.
"In July 1941 there was an escape from the camp. Camp protocol, designed to make the prisoners guard each other, required that ten men be slaughtered in retribution for each escaped prisoner. Francis Gajowniczek, a married man with young children was chosen to die for the escape. Maximilian volunteered to take his place, and died as he had always wished - in service."

My love for St. Maximilian has increased after visiting Auchwitz last year. The inhumanity of concentration camps has been described by many survivors, yet this man was able to act in a superhuman and heroic fashion amidst extreme hate, ugliness, and death. After he and the 9 other men were locked in the starvation bunker, the guards, so used to hearing screams and cursing heard instead prayers and singing. St. Maximilian, Knight of the Immaculate, was also full of grace. His life should remind us that Our Lady will give us power to overcome the strongest powers of evil, if we only allow her to work in us. St. Maximlian Kolbe, pray for us!

The room where he died.

Courage, my sons, Don't you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes.

-Saint Maximilian Kolbe

No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?

-Saint Maximilian Kolbe in the last issue of the Knight

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

You gotta love St. Max.