Monday, October 31, 2011
Maximilian Kolbe was a Capuchin priest when he was arrested with other Christian and Jewish Polish people by the Nazi during World War II. He had been publishing devotional material that promote consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for when he was a child the Virgin Mary appeared to him in a vision and offered him two crowns a white one (for purity) and a red one for martyrdom. He said he accepted both. During his theological studies at Rome, he observed the vehement demonstrations by Freemasons against the Pope in which they placed the black standard of the "Giordano Burnisti" under the windows of the Vatican, on which the archangel Michael was depicted lying under the feet of the triumphant Lucifer (Satan). The event inspired Maximilian to organize the militia immaculata to convert Freemasons to the Catholic faith through the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God. When the German military occupied Poland in 1939, they sent those suspected of hiding the Jews to Auschwitz concentration camps where they were subjected to hard labour and eventually extermination. The story of Maximilian's true heart is shown in the last few weeks of his earthly life. As always, prisoners attempted to escape the brutal situation, and at one night on July 31, 1941 three prisoners succeeded in their escape. The German commander immediately picked up 10 men to be starved to death as a deterrent for other prisoners. The men, picked up randomly, cried out in despair but one of them shouted "My wife; my children!" At this moment, Maximilian asked the commander to take him instead saying "I am an old priest and this man has a family." The commander accepted and Maximilian went to the starvation prison with the other 9 people. One of the most dramatic moments in the life of the universe echoed then and there, for it was followed by the conversion of those taken with Maximilian due to his persevering and encouraging prayer with them. On August 14, 1941, he was injected with a lethal injection as, while all his co-prisoners were already dead, he appeared to survive longer than expected. A hero of love in imitation of Christ, this man died so that another man and his family may live. He was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and canonized as a martyr by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1982 in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man who was saved by Maximilian's death in the War.