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Tuesday, August 14, 2012
As a convert to Catholicism I am just learning about the many saints of our faith. I am always greatly amazed by the examples they have set by their lives. And none more so than St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe whose feast day is August 14.
St. Kolbe was born in Poland under the name Raymund Kolbe on January 8, 1894. As a young man he contracted tuberculosis. He always had a strong devotion to the blessed mother and as a youth had a visitation from her .This experience prompted him to take the name Maria when he was ordained a priest. Eventually he recovered and though he was frail from his illness he went on to establish a devotion to Our Lady called the Immaculate Movement. He also started news publications that spread the message.
Later he became a Franciscan Priest, traveling to Japan and India establishing monasteries following the Immaculate Movement. During this time he also received his doctorate in theology. While in India he grew ill and returned to his native Poland. During WW11 St. Kolbe was anti Nazi and his publications reflected his stance. He had a license to use an amateur hand held radio and the saint used this medium to speak out against atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. The friary he established in Poland was a refugee for thousands of Jews during this persecution. At one point he was arrested and taken to a camp but was released. Eventually St. Kolbe was arrested again and taken to Auschwitz.
There are so many aspects to this martyrs life! While in the death camp, the Nazi's went about selecting 10 men to be taken underground and left to starve following the escape of 3 men. One man who was chosen exclaimed "my wife, my family!" Upon hearing this poor mans cries the saint offered himself over in place of the prisoner.
While being held in this underground prison, St. Kolbe said daily mass never wavering from his strong Catholic faith. He sang songs and psalms with the other prisoners and every day reminded the men that they would be united with the blessed Mother in heaven. Such endurance! He died in 1941.
This amazing saint never gave up on his faith and his strong devotion to Mary. It seems all his life he had struggles but with his strong beliefs and courage he was an inspiration to all he encountered even after his death.