Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of Maximilian Mary Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who spent many years spreading Christianity in Japan and elsewhere.
Kolbe met his death during World War II in Auschwitz. Here is an account of his death:
A prisoner had escaped. The commandant announced that 10 men would die. He relished walking along the ranks. ‘This one. That one.’ As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line. ‘I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.’ ‘Who are you?’ ‘A priest.’ No name, no mention of fame. Silence. The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine. In the ‘block of death’ they were ordered to strip naked and the slow starvation began in darkness. But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang. By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive. The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying. He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle. It was filled with carbolic acid. They burned his body with all the others.
“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Most of us will never be in a situation where we are literally in a position to lay down our life for another. How would we react if we were?
Would I have offer my life in place of another as Kolbe did?
Today, on the anniversary of his death, the Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Kolbe was a Franciscan priest who was a missionary in Japan and who established a sodality called the Militia of Mary Immaculate, promoting its growth in Poland. During World War II, he was imprisoned in Auschwitz. 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.
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 the interior live.
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Memorial of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who was a missionary in Japan. During World War II, by which time he had returned to Poland, he was imprisoned in Auschwitz. 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.
Magnificat quotes some beautiful words of Kolbe that speak, of God’s creation of love for us. He writes:
You have certainly perceived how any work of your own or someone else’s craft bears in itself a likeness of the one who has made it. Likewise, the whole world bears in itself the likeness of God, its Creator. Besides, have you not noticed how any creator loves the work of his hands? Likewise, God loves his creatures. And the more perfect a work is, the greater it resembles and the more it is loved by its creator. That is the very reason why the love of parents towards their childrern is superior to any other love. In fact, to love one’s own work is also a divine act that resembles God’s.
Some words to reflect on today as we honor the selflessness and courage of St. Maximilian Kolbe.