Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Feast of St Maximilian Kolbe

'Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.' (St John 15:13)

So it is that today, 14 August, we celebrate the Feast of St Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Auschwitz, model of Franciscan poverty, true son of Mary, Priest who sought only the Heart of Jesus, exemplar of Christian self-sacrifice and advocate for the Faithful in Heaven.

With Blessed Titus Brandsma, with St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and others, Maximilian Kolbe shines as a beacon of hope in the horror of the concentration camps established by the Nazi regime in the century marked by bloodshed, fraternal hatred and totalitarian systems that reduced mankind to rubble.

The world disputes the holiness and charity of some Saints, but before the example of St Maximilian Kolbe, the world falls silent in the story of his sublime act of self-sacrifice. The world disputes the holiness of Pope Pius XII, but can say nothing of reproach for the Franciscan friar who stepped in place of a Jew who was condemned to die, saying, "He has a wife and family, I am a Catholic Priest, take me instead." His reputation will never tarnish or fade. With one act of love he sealed his fate as an icon of Christian love, fidelity to Jesus, lover of the Jewish people and unique pastor to the persecuted people of the ancient Covenant.

According to Wikipedia...

'Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv., (Polish: Maksymilian Maria Kolbe; 8 January 1894 – 14 August 1941) was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II. Kolbe was canonized on 10 October 1982 by Blessed Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement. Pope John Paul II declared him "The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century". Due to Kolbe's efforts to promote consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.'

Like Blessed Titus Brandsma, St Maximilian Kolbe evangelised through the media and produced tracts and devotional articles that could propagate the Catholic Faith, especially against the attacks of Freemasonry upon the Church and the World. According to Wikipedia, 'the Immaculata friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques in publishing catechetical and devotional tracts, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. Kolbe also used radio to spread his Catholic faith and to speak out against the atrocities of the Nazi regime. He is the only canonized saint to have held an amateur radio license, with the call sign SP3RN.'

The Church now has St Maximilian as a holy intercessor before the Throne of God, to aid Christians to live lives of love and service. He will always point us to Jesus and most especially to the Blessed Mother of God, who was always his refuge and strength in times of trial. Even in the concentration camp, St Maximilian would sing hymns and antiphons to Our Lady. St Maximilian was chosen at a tender age to be consecrated to the Mother of God. Biographies of the Saint testify that when he was but a child, 'I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a Child of Faith. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me 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.'

Kolbe's Gift is a new play about the Saint of Auschwitz

And so it was that on this day in 1941, his childhood vision having been brought to its fruition, having offered his life as a ransom for his Jewish fellow prisoner, St Maximilian was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid. His body was cremated the following day on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady.

There is currently a play showing in London about the life of the Saint and the Jewish man who, following 'Kolbe's Gift', always had reverence for, devotion to, gratitude to and deep love for the Franciscan Conventual who set him free.

The play in London's Ten Ten Theatre is called Kolbe's Gift, telling the story of St Maximilian Kolbe and Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man in whose condemned place, the Martyr of Auschwitz stepped and took, for the love of God and neighbour. St Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.

1 comment:

  1. You might be interested in reading about the first-class relics of St Maximilian Kolbe. There are many spurious legends going around the Internet; the truth is quite straightforward. This webpage uses original documents (translated from Polish-language archives at Niepokalanów) and original photographs (taken at Niepokalanów in 2013 by a Polish Conventual Franciscan) to set the record straight.


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