Today we commemorate the great saint of Auschwitz – Saint Maximilian Kolbe. St. Maximilian Kolbe was born, Raymond, to Julius Kolbe and Mary Dabrowska on January 17, 1894. At the age of ten years old, he had a vision of the Blessed Mother. She presented him with two crowns and asked him to choose between them. The first crown was white representing purity and the second crown was red representing martyrdom – young Maximilian chose both!
Like many saints before him, he knew as a child that he had a vocation to religious life. At the age of 13 years old, he joined The Conventual Franciscans and made his first set of vows in 1911. After years of study in his home country of Poland, Maximilian was sent to study in Rome. He was ordained a priest on April 28, 1918.
St. Maximilian Kolbe had a great love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. His love was so great he organized the group – “Militia of Mary Immaculata.” Although this group began with humble beginnings, at the time of his ordination, it has grown to be a worldwide organization within the boundaries of the Catholic Church and has received blessings from many Popes over the years. He promoted his Marian mission through the press via the bulletin, The Knight of the Immaculate. He also founded houses of Friars dedicated to the Blessed Mother. The first was in Poland, and another in Japan, where he traveled for some time.
Saint Maximilian founded the Militia Immaculata (M.I. as they call it) in response to the growing threat of Free Masonry (Freemasons). While still a student in Rome, he was walking home to the college and witnessed in Saint Peter’s Square an unauthorized demonstration of Free Masonry. They were denouncing the Church, the Pope, and had a picture of Satan crushing the head of St. Michael the Archangel.
Where Socialism and others forms of tyranny stand face-to-face with the Catholic Church, the Freemasons sneak around the back of the Church and pick pocket her from behind. The Militia Immaculata has a two-fold purpose. First, they seek to re-conquer the universe and return it to Jesus Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and second, they spiritually battle the evils of Free Masonry. The Freemasons have always been a great threat to the Catholic Church and still are today.
Years later, as war broke out in Poland, he was arrested once, but released. His brother Franciscans pleaded to go with him the second time, but he said to them, “I have a mission – the Immaculata has a mission to fulfill.” After being taken captive again by German soldiers, he was sent to the concentration camp of Auschwitz and placed in Block 14. While a prisoner at the camp, a group of men escaped. As a sign of persuasion not to try this again, the Germans chose 10 men to execute. One of men pleaded for his life for he had a family. St. Maximilian gave up his life by standing in for the man. Francis Gajowniczek, the man St. Maximilian stood in for, survived World War II. He spent the rest of his life speaking around the world on the Great Saint of Auschwitz.
After spending two weeks of surviving with other prisoners in a starvation hut, his German captives became impatient and injected Father Kolbe with carbolic acid. He was the last man to die and entered heavenly glory on August 14, 1941. It has been said by some sources that other prisoners were sneaking bread to them, but instead of eating just bread, St. Maximilian was consecrated the bread into the Body of Jesus Christ. He is considered by the Church to be one of the great saints and martyrs of the 20th century.
Blessed John Paul II canonized Saint Maximilian Kolbe on October 10, 1982. At the Canonization Mass, Blessed John Paul II said,
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” These are the words we have repeated in today’s responsorial psalm. It is truly precious and inestimable! Through the death, which Christ underwent on the Cross, the redemption of the world was achieved, for this death has the value of supreme love. Through the death of Father Maximilian Kolbe, a shining sign of this love was renewed in our century which is do seriously and in so many ways threatened by sin and death… The inspiration of his whole life was the Immaculata. To her he entrusted his love for Christ and his desire for martyrdom. In the mystery of the Immaculate Conception there revealed itself before the eyes of his soul that marvelous and supernatural world of God’s grace offered to man… And so, in virtue of my apostolic authority, I have decreed that Maximilian Maria Kolbe-who after his Beatification was venerated as a Confessor-shall henceforward be venerated also as a Martyr!”
For more information on Saint Maximilian Kolbe here in the United States, please visit the website of Marytown – The National Shrine of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Please also visit the website Militia Immaculata and Consecration.
Let us pray: O Lord, you gave your saint, Maximilian Kolbe, the passion and love for the Immaculate Virgin and gave him the grace to love and save souls. We ask that you give us the same grace to love your Holy Mother, so that we may bring her to others, and she may bring them to you. Amen.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe…Pray For Us!