Saint Maximillian Mary Kolbe
Canonized October 10, 1982
Patron saint: amateur radio operators, drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, the pro-life movement and “Our a Difficult Century”(assigned by Pope John Paul II).
In 1907, Saint Maximillian Kolbe and his older brother joined the Franciscans. When he took his final vows in 1914, he added the name Mary. He changed his name from Raymond to Maximillian Kolbe to Maximillian Mary Kolbe. Although many on cloistered communities will take on another name, this second change of his name signifies his full surrender to God through devotion Mary.
This devotion began when he was a child, after a dream where Mother Mary came to him holding two crowns. One crown was for purity and the other was for martyr. After she asked him which crown he wanted, he said he wanted them both.
As a monk, he started a publication made up of lay brothers and not priests, that was found in Poland, Japan, China and India called the Knight of the Immaculate. They focused on what they felt was the heresy of the Freemasons. Then in 1927, he created a monastery near Warsaw called the city of Niepokalanow which means “A city that belongs to the Immaculate” and continues to exist today.
After six years in Asia as a missionary, his ongoing health issues from tuberculosis caused him to return he to Poland. His return was during the time of Nazi occupation of Poland. During his return, he helped run the monastery as a hospital that is said to have housed exiles from Poland and thousands of Jewish people. This continued until February 1941, when the friary was shut down and everyone arrested, including Saint Maximillian Kolbe who was sent to Pawiak prison.
In May of that year he was sent to Auschwitz. On August 14, 1941, Reverend Maximillian Mary Kolbe died after two weeks in the starvation bunker, with 9 other individuals. Having lives past everyone else, he was given an injection of carbolic acid, to end his life, which happened to be on the day of the Vigil of the Assumption of Mary.
He had volunteered himself in place of another prisoner. The man whose life he took the place of, was Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek. For this man, pleaded his life not for himself, but because he had children and a wife. He wanted to remain, living in the horrible conditions of a concentration camp, because of the hope he had of being reunited with his wife and children. He said that, he was not a popular man, after the death of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, because they took the life of a friend and a confessor to many in the camp.
It seems Saint Kolbe recognized Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek was pleading his own life to remain in devotion for his family. He also lived to see the canonization of Saint Maximillian Mary Kolbe, by Saint Pope John Paul II. This is not the same pleading as a fear of death, this is the same devotion that Saint Maximilian Kolbe gave to Mary the Immaculate, as he was quoted to have said, “Oh Immaculate, how sweet will be the death of those who belong to you”! Since he truly felt he was connected to Mary from his childhood, he may have seen his death differently, than someone without such devotion. Saint Maximillian Mary Kolbe was not leaving behind anyone, he had already spread the seeds of faith to others, that will carry his message.
In the end he lived as Mary did throughout her life, living a life of devotion and compassion. Saint Maximillian Kolbe said, “Never forget to love!”, which he lived out in his actions until the end of his life.