Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Look at St. Maximilian Kolbe

Saturday (August 14) is the feast day of one of my favorite saints, St. Maximilian Kolbe.

I say favorite like when parents say they have a favorite child, or rainbows have a favorite color, or me picking a favorite food.

Ok, glad to have cleared up how I feel.

Seriously, St. Maximilian is probably one of the coolest, best examples of saintly living in the last century. He is the patron saint of journalists (which makes him inherently awesome), so I have had a special connection to him for years.

In brief, he was born in Russia-occupied Poland, grew up to be a Franciscan priest, created and published the magazine Militia of the Immaculata (on a prayer and zero capital), took his missionary work to Japan and India, returned to Poland, and was arrested alongside his brother priests--twice.

The second time, 1941, he ended up in Auschwitz.

Truly, the most awe-inspiring element of his life is his death: In July 1941, one of the prisoners in Auschwitz escaped one evening. It was not until the next morning that both the other prisoners and the guards discovered that he was gone. To scare the other prisoners out of doing the same, and as a projected punishment, the Nazi guards selected ten men from the camp to be locked away and starved to death. One of the men selected had a wife and children, and begged to live.

Father Kolbe asked to take the man's place.

While the ten men, weakened from work at the camp, should have died within a few days, they remained alive for much longer (up to two weeks) by singing hymns and praying the Rosary. Father Kolbe was the last to die. He didn't starve to death, but rather was killed by lethal injection by the guards.

There is so much to admire about a man like this. Instead of thinking things like, "I could never be that good. I could never do all that," I like to think more about achieving what I can through the same route: a service of love. St. Maximilian lived to serve our Lord and His people. And really, there isn't a better way to live.

Like so many other topics that make their way to this blog, I cannot begin to do St. Maximilian Kolbe justice here. I highly recommend reading more about him here and here, learning about the Militia of the Immaculata here, and learning a bit more about martyrdom in general here and here.

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