Saint of the Day: Maximilian Kolbe, “martyr of charity”
Polish, b. 1894, d. 1941
The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him in 1906; entered the Franciscan novitiate at 16; ordained a priest at 24; established friaries in Japan and India; founded the Militia of the Immaculata movement to spread devotion to the Blessed Mother; during the Nazi invasion of Poland, welcomed refugees to the friary; arrested in 1941, he became Auschwitz prisoner #16670; after a prisoner from his barracks escaped, the Nazis selected 10 men to die in the starvation bunker, Block 13; Kolbe offered his life in place of one of the 10 selected men, a husband and father, who, when condemned, cried out in fear
I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me, a stranger. Is this some dream?
I was put back into my place without having had time to say anything to Maximilian Kolbe. I was saved. … The news spread quickly all around the camp. It was the first and last time that such an incident happened in the whole history of Auschwitz.
— Francis Gajowniczek, the man Kolbe saved
patron of addicts
- Read/listen bio at americancatholic.org
- Read Priest Hero of a Death Camp
- Read Who is St. Maximilian?
- Read Apostle of Mary
- Read 9 Things to Know about Kolbe
- Read Pope John Paul II’s homily at the canonization of St. Maximilian Kolbe (1982)
- Watch Saint of Auschwitz
- Watch documentary about Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe
Each time I went to the underground cell of Fr. Kolbe and his companions, I was greeted by fervent prayers and hymns to the Holy Virgin. Fr. Maximilian would start to pray out loud. Then the others would join him. By the sixth day even Fr. Kolbe was too weak to sing anymore. The others lay motionless on the cement floor, but not this priest who still went from one sufferer to the next praying in a whisper. Yet a look of serenity still lit his face. The prisoners were dying fast. I had to remove a corpse each day. — Bruno Borgowiec, assistant to the janitor and eye-witness