August 14.ST. MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, O.F.M. Conv.Martyr, Apostle of Consecration to Mary.Patron Saint of Prisoners, of those struggling against Drug Addiction, Pro-Life Movement, and Radio Reporters
Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a man with a huge heart and a tremendous operative love for the Most Blessed Trinity, Our Lady and his neighbor. A holy man who knew how to love with deeds by forgetting himself, and thus, capable of serving those who are in need.
At a young age, he had a vision of the Virgin Mary which he later recounts:
“That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”
His filial love for the Blessed Virgin Mary led him to organize the “Militia Immaculata” (Army of the Immaculate One), with the aim of working for conversion of sinners and enemies of the Catholic Church, specifically the Freemasons, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. He was so intent on this objective that he added to the Miraculous Medal prayer:
“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. And for all those who do not have recourse to thee; especially the Masons and all those recommended to thee.”
He also dedicated himself in promoting the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary during his lifetime, even when he was already imprisoned in Auschwitz.
Dear friends, below is a brief profile of the saint’s life and his heroic self-giving and death in the prison camp which I hope would inspire us TO FORGET OURSELVES, TO GIVE YOUR LIFE FOR OTHERS, SERVE THEM EVEN UP TO DEATH, JUST LIKE OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST AND FOR LOVE OF GOD.
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Maximilian was born in 1894 in Poland and became a Franciscan. He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. Before his ordination as a priest, Maximilian founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Our Lady. After receiving a doctorate in theology, he spread the Movement through a magazine entitled “The Knight of the Immaculata” and helped form a community of 800 men, the largest in the world.
Maximilian went to Japan where he built a comparable monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement. In 1936 he returned home because of ill health.”
“After the outbreak of World War II, which started with the invasion of Poland by Germany, Kolbe was one of the few brothers who remained in the monastery, where he organized a temporary hospital. After the town was captured by the Germans, he was briefly arrested by them on 19 September but released on 8 December. He refused to sign the Deutsche Volksliste, which would have given him rights similar to those of German citizens in exchange for recognizing his German ancestry.
Upon his release he continued work at his monastery, where he and other monks provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 1,000–2,000 Jews whom he hid from German persecution in their friary in Niepokalanów. Kolbe also received permission to continue publishing religious works, though significantly reduced in scope. The monastery thus continued to act as a publishing house, issuing a number of anti-Nazi German publications. On 17 February 1941, the monastery was shut down by the German authorities. That day Kolbe and four others were arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On 28 May, he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.
Continuing to act as a priest, Kolbe was subjected to violent harassment, including beating and lashings, and once had to be smuggled to a prison hospital by friendly inmates. At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children!”, Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
According to an eye witness, an assistant janitor at that time, in his prison cell, Kolbe led the prisoners in prayer to Our Lady. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. “The guards wanted the bunker emptied, so they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Kolbe is said to have raised his left arm and calmly waited for the deadly injection. His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.”
TEXT SOURCE: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=370 and www.wikipedia.org