Maximilian Kolbe Priest Hero of Death Camps By: Amanda Harris
Saint Kolbe’s Childhood • Born Raymond Kolbe in Zdunska Wola, Poland. – Born to a devout Roman Catholic family with a particular devotion to Mary. • In Raymond’s childhood he was like any normal child until one day his family noticed a drastic change in his behavior. This was due to a major life event for Saint Kolbe.
Saint Kolbe’s Childhood (cont.) At 12 years old St. Kolbe saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. This experience changed and shaped his life. – St. Kolbe asked Mary what was to become of him when he grew up and Mary informed him that he had a choice… – The belief he had in this vision shaped all his future endeavors.
Saint Kolbe’s Choice “That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a Child of Faith. 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.”
Saint Kolbe’s Early Life • In 1907, Saint Kolbe and his elder brother entered a junior Franciscan seminary in Lwow, Poland. • Kolbe was extremely bright and others saw that he had a passion for military. His interest in the military made him lose his interest in becoming a priest. He wished to fight against those who tried to oppress Poland. • Before he could tell anyone about his decision his mother and father announced that, she and her husband intended to enter religious life. • Raymond didn’t want to upset his parent’s so he changed his plans for joining the army and continued his religious pursuits. • Kolbe traveled to Rome, there he studied philosophy, theology, mathematics and physics. • He was received as a novice in September 1910 and with the habit he took the new name of Maximilian.
Saint Kolbe’s Young Adult Life • At the age of 21 Kolbe received his doctorate in philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and a doctorate in theology at the age of 25 from Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure. • In 1918 at the age of 24 Kolbe was ordained a priest. • In 1919, he returned to Poland, where he founded the monastery of Niepokalanów near Warsaw and also created a seminary, a radio station, and several other religious organizations and publications. • The love of fighting didnt leave him, but instead of wanting to fight in a military way he wanted to fight spiritually. He didnt like what he saw of the world and he thought the world was becoming evil. • On 16 October 1917, with six of his brothers, he founded the Knights of Mary Immaculate, this organization’s aim was to fight for the good of mankind, it encouraged people to study and practice religion in their lives and perform charitable works for others • The Knights published a journal which was intended to “illuminate the truth and show the way to true happiness”
Saint Kolbe’s Time in Japan • Kolbe left Poland with four brothers to tour Japan in 1930 because he wasn’t content with his work. He spent six years learning and spreading the word of God. • Kolbe and his brothers were poor and they didn’t know a word of the Japanese language. • He did not try to impose Christianity on the Japanese people. He respected Buddhism and Shintoism, and instead he looked for ways to engage in religious dialogue and learn. • In Nagasaki, Maximillian published a Japanese version of his Polish journal “The Knight” called “Seibo no Kishi”. It increased to a circulation of 65,000 by the time he finished his work in Japan. • In 1931 he founded a monastery in Nagasaki, Japan
St. Kolbe’sTime in Japan (cont.) • The monastery pictured is the church that Saint Kolbe founded in Nagasaki, it still remains prominent in the Roman Catholic Religion in Japan. • Kolbe build the church on a mountainside because according to Shinto beliefs, this was not the side best suited to be in harmony with nature. • Ironically, when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the church was spared from the blast because the other side of the mountain took the main blow. • After his time in Japan, Saint Kolbe left for Malabar, India where he started another monestary. Unfortunately due to the lack of resources to keep it running it did not survive.
Saint Kolbe Returns to Poland • Poor health forced Saint Kolbe to return to Poland in 1936. • In 1938 the monastery started its own radio station and because of the public outreach, by 1939 the monastery housed nearly 800 men. • During this time this was the largest religious group in the world, and it was completely self-sufficient and it had its own medical facilities which were staffed by the religious brothers of the monestary. • In 1939 Saint Kolbe was arrested along with several of his brothers after the Nazi invasion of Poland. This was due to the radio station’s “anti-nazi” broadcasts. Soon after, they were released and went back to their work despite the Nazi orders. • Maximilian prepared people to accept suffering with love as the war approached…then the second world war began.
Saint Kolbe Returns to Poland (cont.) Along with their work broadcasting and publishing “The Knight,” the brothers helped harbor Polish refugees, which were mostly Jews. Maximilian was arrested and taken to prison in Warsaw because he started publishing again and ignored the commands of the Nazi’s. In 1941 he was sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp…
A Concentration Camp Hero • St. Kolbe was prisoner 16770, and his work group was supervised by the most brutal of guards. • His tranquil attitude and dedication to his faith angered the guards, and brought him the most terrible jobs and the most beatings of anyone. • Once he was beaten within an inch of his life and left to die. Luckily he was snuck into to the prison hospital where he spent his recovery time hearing confessions. • When he returned to the camp he continued to look after the other prisoners. He conducted Mass, gave blessings and even gave his own food to prisoners. • In June 1941, there was an escape from his area in Auschwitz. According to Nazi rule, 10 men were to be killed for each escapee. Francis Gajowniczek was one of the men chosen to die. • He cried out, "My wife! My children!....”
A Concentration Camp Hero (cont.) • In the camp, Kolbe celebrated Mass each day and sang hymns with the prisoners trying to give them hope. • He led the other nine men who were chosen for execution in song and prayer, and let them know they would soon be with Mary and the Lord in Heaven. • After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, the only man of those sentenced to execution that remained was Kolbe. • The guards wanted Kolbe out of the bunker so they administered a lethal injection of carbolic acid which killed Saint Kolbe at the age of 47. • Those who were present at the injection said that Saint Kolbe raised his left arm and calmly awaited his fate. • His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.
Saint Kolbe’s Canonization• Kolbe was beatified in 1971 as a Confessor of the Faith by Pope Paul VI.• In 1982 Saint Kolbe was canonized by Pope John Paul II and the Pope declared St. Maximilian Kolbe not a confessor, but a martyr.• Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man that Saint Kolbe replaced at the concentration camp was in attendance at the canonization.• St. Maximilian Kolbes feast day was added to the General Roman Calendar as August 14th, following his canonization. The General Roman Calendar is used by the Catholic Church throughout the world.• He is one of ten 20th-century martyrs who is one of the statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey
St. Kolbe’s Patronage • against drug addiction • drug addicts • families • imprisoned people • journalists • political prisoners • prisoners • pro-life movement
Prayer to Saint Maximilian Kolbe Lord, You inflamed St. Maximilian with love for the Immaculate Virgin and filled him with zeal for souls and love for neighbor. Through his prayers, grant that we may work strenuously for Your glory in the service of others and so be made comfortable to Your Son until death. Amen