Remembering St. Maxmillian Kolbe, martyr of charity
|Martyrdom of St. Maximillian Kolbe, |
Museum Niepokolanow, Poland
But who was this saint Maximilian Kolbe? Born Raymond Kolbe on the 8th of January 1894 in Zdunska Wola, Poland which at that time was occupied by Russia. The Kolbe home was poor but full of love. He later became a Conventual Franciscan Friar.
Around 1906, an event took place that marks a fundamental milestone in the life of the young boy. His mother herself related the event a few months after her son's martyrdom.
He was ordained a priest in 1918 and spent his life promoting the devotion to Mary throughout Poland through the Immaculata Movement devoted to our Lady. He spread the movement through a magazine entitled "The Knight of the Immaculata". "We should conquer the universe and each soul, now and in the future until the end of time, for the Immaculata and through her for the Sacred Heart of Jesus." (St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, The Knight of the Immaculata). He would later found monasteries in Japan and India but bad health saw him transferred back to Poland. Together with some of his confreres, he was arrested in 1941 by the German Gestapo and transferred to Auschwitz. There, on 31st of July 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner's escape, ten men were chosen to die. Fr. Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father. And he was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect. Until the end St. Maximillian led prayers to our Lady and encouraged the other prisoners to be strong in faith. Even after 2 weeks, he did not succumb to starvation and was given a lethal injection.
Kolbe was beatified as a Confessor of the Faith by Pope Paul VI on 17th of October 1971 and canonized as a martyr by Pope John Paul II on 10th of October 1982, with Franciszek Gajowniczek (the man whose place he took) in attendance. Upon canonization, the Pope declared St. Maximilian Kolbe not a confessor, but a martyr.He is often depicted in a prison uniform and with a needle being injected into an arm. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, prisoners, families and the pro-life movement.
|Room of St Maximilian, Niepokolanow|
Going back to my original two questions. Every day I see that these are not actually rhetorical questions. The Scriptures tell us that there is no greater love than someone to lay down their life for their friends. The Lord might not ask me to physically 'give' my life as a martyr but everyday I am asked to die a little to what I want, and be more present to those around me and love them with a heart that only Jesus can give. How would I feel if someone gave their life for me? Well, someone did. SomeOne did when He opened his arms wide on the Cross to embrace all those who wanted love, mercy and grace. Does this change how I live? It should...it's an opportunity to live in a blessed way, everything is grace, everything is Eucharistic thanksgiving!