The inhumanity of World War II created a devastating sense of hopelessness as the Nazis took over Poland. However, through all of this chaos, the characteristics of a true saint shone through the spiritual services and sacrifices performed by St Maximillian Kolbe.
Raymond Kolbe was born in Zdunska Wola, located in the kingdom of Poland on the 8th of January 1894. Even at a young age Raymond began to develop a very strong religious yearning. In Raymond’s early child hood, he recounts a vision of the Virgin Mary, that he had at the age of 12. This had a strong influence which lead him to actively promoting the immaculate Virgin Mary.
Through his strong devotion to the Virgin Mary, he became a valued member and contributor with in the Army of Mary and the Militia Immaculata. In 1910 he was admitted as an initiate and was given the religious name of Maximillian. He formed a group known as the “Knights of the Immaculate” in 1917. This group was solely dedicated to the fighting of goodness and to help encourage others to perform charitable works for people to gain an interest in religion.
In 1939 Poland was invaded by the Nazi forces, Kolbe was first arrested due to general suspicion but was released three months later. After Kolbe’s release, Polish refugees and Jews went to Kolbe’s monastery to seek sanctuary. During this time, Kolbe and the community of Niepokalanow assisted in feeding, clothing and hiding around 3,000 polish refugees.
On the 17th of February 1941 Kolbe was then arrested by the Gestapo because of hiding Jewish people, where he was then sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Three camp prisoners manage to escape on July 1941 which lead to the Deputy commander selecting 10 men to be punished horrifically in the form of starvation in an underground bunker. On July 1941, three prisoners escaped the camp, this lead to the Deputy Commander of Auschwitz commanded 10 men to be chosen and to be starved to death in an underground bunker. From the men selected one cried out “My wife! my children! Kolbe then performed a rare courageous act, he volunteered to take the man’s place saying “I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place because he has a wife and children.” – (Auschwitz.dk, 2018).
“Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:12).
Kolbe made one of the greatest sacrifices and descended into a starvation bunker that was held underground where he would be left to die in an unspeakable agony. However, within this horrible time he formed a place of great change where there were usually wailing and suffering heard from the bunker it had converted to hymns and prayers. This change was heard and seen by the whole camp and led to making a significant difference as beatings were less frequent and severe. St Maximilian made a difference through the liberation of his mission which was to remove sins from the souls of others and to make them find happiness and fulfilment by uniting them with God in light of his Immaculate Mother. Through his mission and desire to help other he inspired the salvation of souls where ever he went.
Maximilian Kolbe has a strong pursuit for social justice which was reflected in his interaction and impact upon the community. He viewed everyone to be made in the image and likeliness of God who deserve equal rights regardless of factors such as a person’s religion, age and race.
Maximillian Kolbe was very compassionate and yearned for equality which was visible as he sheltered and hid around 2000 refugees away from the Nazi party. In 1981 Maximillian Kolbe was canonized by Pope John Paul II. The Pope decided that Maximillian Kolbe should be recognised as a “Martyr of charity” and as Pope John Paul II said at his canonization: “Maximillian did not die but gave his life for his brother “.
Maximillian Kolbe was an extraordinary man who is a great role model through his courageous and selfless acts that teach us to live honestly and lovingly.
Maximillian Kolbe dedicated his life to put others before himself and inspired those around him through his display of selflessness, compassion and peace.
This story teaches and inspires young Christian people today to never lose heart in darkened times and strive to always be courageous. He is a great example that teaches us to entrust everything into our faith for Mary as she as is a guiding hand capable of helping us. It was through this time of incarceration he would pray for the guards to show peace and that they may goodness within themselves. This is a prime example which teaches young Christian people the main foundation of all holiness, humility.
This story contains evident examples of Catholic Social teachings such as Human Equality, respect for human life and Preferential Option for the poor.
In St Maximilian, we see the Icon of Jesus Christ as he is hope without an end especially for other who have had their hope ended by human injustice and sin.
Kolbe Maximilian’s legacy lives on and proves an influential notion of a militant church for building up of the Kingdom of God. Today there are still active that remain that have been inspired by St Maximilian Kolbe such as the Franciscan friars of the immaculate as well as other movements.
Overall his legacy has lived on and inspired others through his marvellous example of Love.