Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day (August 14) is upon us. How much do we know about this humble polish Franciscan priest?
Not much if we think he was humble!
Kolbe did indeed humble himself in the end, but he always had big ideas and big plans. In fact, he drew up blueprints for an early spaceship. You could call him one of the worlds first Science-fiction fans.
Kolbe was the middle child, and was the troublemaker of his family. He once stole a neighbor’s chicken and often drove his mother up the wall. He really did want to do good, and by the grace of God, was granted a Marian vision.
The Queen of Heaven offered Kolbe, age 12, two paths for his life. A path of Purity, and a path of Martyrdom. The ambitious and high-spirited Kolbe chose both crowns.
Kolbe did lead a pure life, and many people are familiar with the last two weeks of his life. When he, a Catholic priest, took the place of a young father for punishment in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz. He was then sent to a bunker, where he was supposed to starve to death. But he survive nearly two weeks without food, water, or Sunlight, until he was injected with poison to make room for more prisoners.
Why was Maximilian sent to Auschwitz? Because he was a Catholic priest, for one thing, but Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler had another special reason to send him to his death.
Kolbe was a vehement and very loud opponent of the Nazi regime. He started a radio show in Poland that broadcasted to Czechoslovakia, Germany, and Western Russia. He spoke up against the Holocaust when no one else did. He harbored dozens of Jews at his monastery, Niepokalanów, and hundreds of other political dissidents. But Kolbe was prudent; after the Blitzkrieg that subjugated Poland, he shut down his radio program and brought hope to people through less overt means.
He also published a newspaper, Rycerz Niepokalanej (Knight of the Immaculate), at his original monastery. The monastery got so busy, that many of the older monks got mad at the loud noises that Kolbe’s printers made. So when, through a generous prince’s donation, he got the land for Niepokalanów, he moved his busy project there; from where it grew to even having a Japanese version, overseen by Kolbe at its first publication in 1930, where it was the first Catholic magazine in that country.
Maximilian Kolbe did many other things in his heroic life on earth. He founded a monastery in Nagasaki, which survived the 1945 atomic bomb. He stood up for good when it was hard to, and he fought for what’s right when all those around him cowered or neglected the weak. Through prudence, fortitude, and obedience, Kolbe informed the Führer and Josef Stalin of their atrocities. He helped the meek and forgotten, and gave the rest of us a model to look up to when oppression and evil are running rampant in our own time and place.
That is why Maximilian Kolbe is my patron saint.
So let us, as Maximilian Kolbe did, stand up for what is right. Let us all do good deeds where no good deeds are being done, and let us not forget the saints whose lives have changed the world – and us – for the better.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, martyr and priest, pray for us!