The Strength to Offer One’s Own Life to Save that of Another

The Catholic Church today celebrates the memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who spent many years spreading Christianity in Japan and elsewhere, who was martyred by the Nazis.

Kolbe was imprisoned and suffered greatly in Auschwitz.  In the concentration camp, he took the coldest spot in the barracks, he often gave his food to those he thought needed it more, and he spent time comforting and ministering to the other prisoners.  On August 14, 1941, he offered his own life in exchange for that of another prisoner who had been selected to die as punishment for the escape of another prisoner.

I’m confident Kolbe would say that the strength and courage to accept death in place of another does not come from himself alone.  Rather, it came from his relationship to God.

Kolbe termed prayer “the best way to reestablish peace in our souls, to reach happiness, since it serves to draw us closer to God’s love.” He wrote

Prayer makes the world anew.
Prayer is the necessary condition for the rebirth and life of every soul…
By praying both with our voices and our thoughts, we shall experiences in ourselves how the immaculate gradually takes possession of our souls, how we shall belong to her every day more in every aspect of our lives, how our sins shall disappear and our faults weaken, how smoothly and powerfully we shall be drawn always closer to God.
Our external activity is all right, but, obviously, it is not as important as our spiritual life, our life of recollection, of prayer, of our personal love for God.

Maximilian Kolbe is a reminder of the strength that comes from nourishing our relationship with God.