Thursday, September 1, 2005
St. Maximilian Kolbe

Memorial (1969 Calendar): August 14

St. Maximilian Kolbe died as a martyr for the faith in a concentration camp where he offered to take the place of a father there for the man to be set free. He did so and instead of being led to the gas chambers, he was starved to death for over 3 weeks. He died by receiving a lethal injection. St. Kolbe showed unwavering love and exists as one of the greatest examples of commitment to Christ's words: "As I have loved you so should you love one another"

St. Maximilian Kolbe was born Raymond Kolbe on January 8, 1894, in Poland as the second of three children to two poor but pious Catholics. In 1910, he entered the Conventual Franciscan Order and was ordained in 1918. During that time, his father, Julius, fought for Poland's independence from Russia and was hanged by the Russians in 1914. His mother, Marianne Dabrowska, later became a Benedictine nun while his brother Alphonse became a priest too. After St. Kolbe's ordination, he returned to his birthplace in Poland and began promoting his Militia of the Immaculata movement of Marian consecration; it was founded on October 16, 1917, by St. Kolbe and six friends. He previously took the name Maximilian on September 5, 1917, at his first profession of vows.

St. Maximilian Koble was considered a wild child until he completely changed his life in 1906 after he received a vision from Mary. St. Kolbe said, "I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both."

St. Kolbe was a disciple of the media. He used the media to spread the Gospel. He started a shortwave radio station and published a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000. In 1930, he established a City of the Immaculata in Nagasaki, Japan. Above all, he was a brilliant theologian that helped develop the Church's understanding of Mary as "Mediatrix" of all the graces of the Trinity, and as an "Advocate" for God's people. He was also fiercely against the errors of Freemasonry.

In World War II, the Nazis not only imprisoned Jews but many Catholics - especially priests. ON February 7, 1941, he was imprisoned and transferred to Auschwitz death camp on May 28, 1941. He was branded as prisoner 16670. Because of his calmness and kindness, he was beaten repeatedly and given the worst jobs. But, nevertheless, he continued to hear confessions and secretly administer Holy Communion. In July 1941, there was an escape and the camp guards ordered ten men to die in retribution. Francis Gajowniczek, a father and a married man, was one of them chosen to die. St. Kolbe offered his life for Francis Gajowniczek to be let free so he could return to his family. The arrangement was made but instead of taking St. Kolbe to the gas chambers, he was forced to starve to death for 3 weeks. On August 14, 1941, his captors finally ended his life with a fatal injection. He was burned in the ovens there.

Pope John Paul II canonized St. Maximilian Koble in 1982 and placed a candle in his cell in Auschwitz in 1979. Pope John Paul ll called him a "martyr of charity". Pope Benedict XVI visited that cell to pray briefly when he visited Poland in 2006. St. Kolbe's beatification miracle was the July 1948 cure of intestinal tuberculosis in Angela Testoni, and in August 1950, the cure of calcification of the arteries/sclerosis of Francis Ranier was attributed to the intercession of St. Kolbe.

A Writing of St. Maximilian Kolbe:

I rejoice greatly, dear brother, at the outstanding zeal that drives you to promote the glory of God. It is sad to see how in our times the disease called “indifferentism” is spreading in all its forms, not just among those in the world but also among the members of religious orders. But indeed, since God is worthy of infinite glory, it is our first and most pressing duty to give him such glory as we, in our weakness, can manage – even that we would never, poor exiled creatures that we are, be able to render him such glory as he truly deserves.

Because God’s glory shines through most brightly in the salvation of the souls that Christ redeemed with his own blood, let it be the chief concern of the apostolic life to bring salvation and an increase in holiness to as many souls as possible. Let me briefly outline the best way to achieve this end – both for the glory of God and for the sanctification of the greatest number. God, who is infinite knowledge and infinite wisdom, knows perfectly what is to be done to give him glory, and in the clearest way possible makes his will known to us through his vice-gerents on Earth.

It is obedience and obedience alone that shows us God’s will with certainty. Of course our superiors may err, but it cannot happen that we, holding fast to our obedience, should be led into error by this. There is only one exception: if the superior commands something that would obviously involve breaking God’s law, however slightly. In that case the superior could not be acting as a faithful interpreter of God’s will.

God himself is the one infinite, wise, holy, and merciful Lord, our Creator and our Father, the beginning and the end, wisdom, power, and love – God is all these. Anything that is apart from God has value only in so far as it is brought back to him, the Founder of all things, the Redeemer of mankind, the final end of all creation. Thus he himself makes his holy will known to us through his vice-gerents on Earth and draws us to himself, and through us – for so he has willed – draws other souls too, and unites them to himself with an ever more perfect love.

See then, brother, the tremendous honour of the position that God in his kindness has placed us in. Through obedience we transcend our own limitations and align ourselves with God’s will, which, with infinite wisdom and prudence, guides us to do what is best. Moreover, as we become filled with the divine will, which no created thing can resist, so we become stronger than all others.

This is the path of wisdom and prudence, this is the one way by which we can come to give God the highest glory. After all, if there had been another, better way, Christ would certainly have shown it to us, by word and by example. But in fact sacred Scripture wraps up his entire long life in Nazareth with the words and he was obedient to them and it shows the rest of his life to have been passed in similar obedience – almost as an instruction to us – by showing how he came down to Earth to do the Father’s will.

Brethren, let us love him above all, our most loving heavenly Father, and let our obedience be a sign of this perfect love, especially when we have to sacrifice our own wills in the process. And as for a book from which to learn how to grow in the love of God, there is no better book than Jesus Christ crucified.

All this we will achieve more easily through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin, to whom the most kind God has given the task of dispensing his mercies. There is no doubt that the will of Mary should be the will of God for us. When we dedicate ourselves to him, we become tools in her hands just as she became a tool in his. Let us let her direct us and lead us by the hand. Let us be calm and serene under her guidance: she will foresee all things for us, provide all things, swiftly fulfil our needs both bodily and spiritual, and keep away from us all difficulty and suffering.

For more of his writings, see Let Yourself Be Led by the Immaculate

7 comment(s):

del_button September 2, 2005 at 7:07 AM
Anonymous said...

Very thought-provoking; what an amazing person he was. Thank you!

del_button September 2, 2005 at 12:06 PM
Anonymous said...

Just stopping by to thank you for all the great work, ewtn and this website really has helped me become a better Catholic. Thank you!!!

del_button September 2, 2005 at 3:29 PM
Matthew said...

My entire goal was to bring 1 person closer to God and I'm humbled to hear that I have done this not through my powers but through our Lord.

Thank you so much for your comment. Thank you

del_button November 23, 2005 at 11:51 AM
Anonymous said...

I had forgotten that Maximilian Kolbe was a patron of journalists, although it makes sense, since that was his mission in Poland. I discovered him through the novels of Bud McFarland and the Mary Foundation. Even though they were Catholic "end times novels", and I kind of bought into it in the late 90's, they were good books and he was a good writer, whom I had some personal contact with.
Anyway, St. Max is a great his book "A Man for Others"...ironic in a way, since it is a motto for Jesuits and he wasn't. I have a picture of him in my wallet......

del_button November 27, 2005 at 9:52 PM
Matthew said...

Thanks, Tom. I'll look into reading that book.

del_button November 5, 2009 at 6:20 PM
Anonymous said...

thanks and you made an error with the dates after he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz it says 1914 yet he was arrested 1941 i think ou just mixed up the 4 and the 1

del_button November 5, 2009 at 6:51 PM
Matthew said...

Thanks for pointing out the typo! I appreciate feedback like this since it improve the quality of the site's information.

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