St Maximilian Mary Kolbe was born Raymond Kolbe in 1894 near Lodz, Poland. He became a novice of the Conventual Franciscans at age 16 and was given the religious name Maximilian. When he made his Solemn Profession in 1914, he added Mary to his religious name. He was ordained in Rome in 1919 and returned to Poland the following year after having completed his doctorates in Philosophy and Theology.
He saw indifference to God as one of the greatest evils of his time and founded while in Rome along with his companions in 1917, the Militia of the Immaculate, fighting evil through the personal witness of a holy life, prayer, suffering and hard work. In 1927 he established the City of the Immaculata, Niepokalanow, near Warsaw which housed 700 of his fellow Franciscan brothers. He later founded another in Nagasaki, Japan. He was also editor of the religious magazine Knight of the Immaculata which reached almost 1 million members and subscribers.
In 1939 he was arrested by the Nazis but released a few months later on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. However, he was arrested again in the 29th of May 1941 and sent to Auschwitz after sheltering over 2000 jews. In reprisal for some prisoners escaping, the camp commandant chose ten men to be sent to the starvation bunker. When Francis Gajowniczek, a Polish sergeant cried that he had a wife and 9 children, St Maximilian asked to take his place and he was led away to the block of death with the other 9 men.
They spent the next two weeks praying and singing hymns. On the eve of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, he along with three others were still alive. As he sat praying in a corner he was injected with carbolic acid and died. His body was burnt along with the others. St Maximilian Mary Kolbe was canonised by Pope John Paul II on the 10th of October 1982 and Francis Gajowniczek whose life he had saved was in attendance with his family.
Quote from St Maximilian Mary Kolbe when first arrested by the Nazis
“Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck. The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win many souls as possible. Let us then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content and that she can do with us anything she wishes”.
At the young age of 12, Maximilian experienced a vision from the Virgin Mary
“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.”
Quote of St Maximilian Mary Kolbe
“No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do, is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield, if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?”