St. Maximilian Kolbe: ‘a martyr of charity’
Reflections on the readings for the Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14, 2021): JOS 24:14-29; PS 16:1-2,5,7-8,11; MT 19:13-15
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St. Maximilian Kolbe said, “No one in the world can change the Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it..."
On this day commemorating the life and death of Maximilian Kolbe, we venerate a saint whom Pope St. John Paul II called, “a martyr of charity.” He was born in Poland in 1894 and demonstrated an immense love for both Jesus Christ and His mother. He called her Immaculata and, at age 12, he asked her what would happen to him. He saw her offering him two crowns – a white one of purity and a red one of martyrdom. He said that he wanted them both. Entering the order of Conventual Franciscans at an early age, he was ordained in 1918. He promoted devotion to the Blessed Virgin while teaching at the seminary. Maximilian then contracted tuberculosis and, although he recovered, his health remained frail. He began publishing spiritual material that attracted thousands of readers. He then went to Japan and India to establish monasteries. Returning to Poland in 1936, he headed a monastery and started a radio station. The outspoken priest condemned the Nazis, was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. In 1941, 10 men were picked to undergo death by starvation in retaliation for a prisoner’s escape. Maximilian offered to die instead of a man who had begged for mercy because he was a husband and father and entered the death cell for him. After two weeks without food or water, all the other prisoners were dead. The guards then poisoned Maximilian with a fatal shot of carbolic acid.
St. Maximilian Kolbe said, “No one in the world can change the Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and…extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?” He was canonized in 1982 in the presence of the man who lived because St. Maximilian died instead.
Suggested missionary action: We can venerate St. Maximilian Kolbe by serving God with the courage that can only come from entrusting ourselves to Him and by asking Mary to lead us home to her Son.