Friday, August 14, 2015

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Witness To The Gospel Of Love

 Today we celebrate the feast of one of great Saints of the last century, St. Maximilian Kolbe, priest and martyr.  He died by lethal injection on this date in 1941, after suffering for two weeks in the starvation bunker in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.  When he was a young man he had a dream in which the Blessed Mother offered him two crowns: the white crown of purity, and the red crown of martyrdom; he chose both.  He is remembered, therefore, in addition to his dedication to spreading the Gospel through the most up-to-date means available, for his devotion to Our Lady, his personal sanctity, and his heroic, self-sacrificing death.
     From his earliest days, St. Maximilian was eager to spread the faith.  He became a Conventual Franciscan, and before he was even ordained he founded The Militia Immaculata, a movement open to all Catholics that aims, through consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the spiritual renewal of individuals and society.  Evangelization is a large part of the Militia's mission, and so St. Maximilian founded a large community for that purpose in his native Poland, and published a magazine he called The Knight Of The Immaculata.  He later established a similar community in Nagasaki, Japan, and quickly became fluent in Japanese so that he could publish in that counrtry as well.
     He also evangelized through the example, not only of his sanctity, but also of his personal warmth and prodigious generosity.  Those who knew him at Auschwitz (an amazing number of whom somehow survived the experience) always spoke of his constant concern for his fellow prisoners, in spite of the sometimes worse abuse the he himself was suffering.  In the end, he gave the ultimate gift: his own life.  When his jailers chose ten men at random to be starved to death in retaliation for an escape, St. Maximilian, who had not been chosen, volunteered to take the place of one of the ten,  because the other man had a wife and children while the celibate Catholic priest had none.
     The modern means of communication available in St. Maximilian Kolbe's day was a printing press.  If he were with use today, he would not only be publishing in print, but also would be a presence online, publishing, blogging, and taking full advantage of social media.  Not surprisingly, he is Patron Saint of journalists, as well as drug addicts, families, political prisoners, and the pro-life movement (and also one of the patrons of this blog).  Even more than his eloquence, however, or his ability to communicate the beauty of the Catholic Faith, St. Maximilian witnessed with his own life.  He lived up to both the Crowns offered by the Blesed Mother, and like Our Lord, showed us that "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).