If you haven’t yet heard of St. Maximilian Kolbe, well now you will. St. Maximilian Kolbe, also known as Maximilian Maria Kolbe was born in Zdunska Wola, Poland on the 8th January 1894. He was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar and was also known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary. He set up institutions devoted to the Virgin Mary and even extended those institutions to Japan and India. He then returned to Poland, only for the war to break out soon after. However, the reason why I am impressed by him is not so much his dedication to the Church but rather to humanity. His ability to see the world with the lenses of warmth and to provide comfort to those around him is what I believe sets him apart. Even back then when he was sent to Auschwitz, the German death camp of World war II for aiding the Jewish and Polish underground, his example of utter selflessness and love is very much relevant in today’s age.
In a place, where hopelessness prevailed, St. Maximilian Kolbe was known to bring comfort as he prayed for those around him and provided whatever support he could to his fellow prisoners while being subjected to the similar predicament. He held masses, heard confessions, and didn’t stop his service to people even when the guards attempted to deter him. The reason why I am sharing about him today, is due to why and how he died. Due to a prisoner’s escape, ten men were randomly chosen to be put to death as punishment and one of which was a man by the name of Franciszek Gajowniczek, a married man who cried out to be spared for the sake of his family. St. Maximilian chose to volunteer to take his place so that the man could be with his family. He was starved mercilessly for weeks and when he and a few who were still alive, the guards injected them with carbolic acid and then had them cremated. While in those cells as those anguishing weeks dragged, he comforted those around him by leading them to pray and mediate. He was the last remaining of the ten men, and when he was about to die, he stretched forth his arm to his guards calmly and died while praying. He is an example of selflessness when the fight for survival was surreal, where men can only fend for themselves and struggle to even do so in such dire circumstances.
What I think we can take away from St. St. Maximilian is that we should remember our brothers and sisters in humanity and to lend a helping hand whenever we can. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, and it could be even checking up on someone that needs help or is going through a troubling time. It could even be greeting each other in genuine warmth, as it might comfort those who might benefit from such a kindness. We do not know what each and everyone of us are going through and just like how our faces are all different so are our needs and struggles. It is a selfless concept to put others before ourselves and to be a provider of comfort when possible. What I can understand from his teachings is that hatred, division and segregation and prejudice cannot prevail for long, and it will crumble in the light of love. We are made of a stronger stuff despite of our human fragility with our mortal bodies; it is not one that can be classified by region, race or class but rather of substance and that substance is incontestably love , in and of itself.
Maximilian Kolbe, Eugene Ionesco and Rosette Lamont Performing Arts Journal
Vol. 6, No. 2 (1982), pp. 32-36 (5 pages)