Maxmillian Kolbe

Memorial Day: August 14th

[photograph of Saint Maximilian]

Maxmillian Kolbe

The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers.

....Saint Maximilian Kolbe


"Pray that my love will be without limits." --Saint Maximilian Kolbe in his last letter to his mother.

    Maxilian Kolbe was the son of Franciscan tertiaries, who were impoverished weavers. He entered the minor seminary at Lwow in 1907 and became a Franciscan in 1910. When their children were grown, his parents followed their natural inclinations and separated to become religious. His mother first entered the Benedictines and later became a Felician lay sister. His father was a Franciscan until he left the order to run a bookstore at the Our Lady's shrine at Czestochowa. At the beginning of World War I, he enlisted with Palsudski's patriots, was wounded by the Russians, and hanged as a traitor to Mother Russia in 1914 at the age of 43.

    Maximilian studied in Rome, where he was ordained in 1919. Upon being diagnosed with tuberculosis, he returned to Poland and took up the teaching of ecclessial history in a seminary. After he came close to dying of the disease, he became even more zealous. He founded a militant sodality and a magazine of apologetics for Christians. When he moved the antiquated presses from Cracow to Grodno circulation increased to 45,000. New machinery was installed, which was run solely by priests and lay brothers. Following another attack of tuberculosis, Maximilian re-established the presses near Warsaw at Niepokalanow. Here Kolbe founded a Franciscan community that combined prayer, poverty, and the production of a daily and weekly newspaper using the latest technology.

    As unlikely as it may seem, Kolbe's next act was the founding of a Franciscan community at Nagasaki, Japan. In 1936, he was recalled to Niepokalanow as the superior over 762 friars. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Kolbe sent most of the brothers home with the warning that they should not join the underground resistance. Those that remained were interned, released, and returned to the monastery, which had become a refugee camp for 3,000 Poles and 1,500 Jews. The remaining friars continued to publish newspapers critical of the Third Reich.

    In 1940, the Nazis established a concentration camp at Oswiecim in southern Poland--Auschwitz. Prisoner #16670, a Catholic priest named Maximilian Kolbe, who had refused German citizenship, was arrested on February 17, 1941, on the charge that he was a journalist, publisher, and intellectual. The Gestapo officers who seized Maxilian and four other brothers were amazed at how little food was prepared for the brothers. They were sent to Auschwitz in May 1941.

    Priests in Auschwitz were especially vilified. They were given the job of moving loads of logs and were beaten when their strength gave way under the heavy work. One of the savage guards once horsewhipped Kolbe 50 times and left him for dead in a wood. The saint recovered some of his strength, and continued to comfort his fellow prisoners, insisting that everything, even sufferings, came to an end, and the way to glory was through the cross.

    Father Kolbe also undertook the task of moving the bodies of the tortured. Throughout his internment, he continued his priestly ministry: hearing confessions in unlikely places and smuggling in bread and wine for covert Masses. He was conspicuous for his compassion towards those even less fortunate than himself.

    One day a prisoner escaped, which meant that men from the same bunker must be selected to die. In reprisal the prison guards chose ten men, whom they planned to starve to death. One was a married Polish sergeant named Francis Gajowniczek. Maximilian Kolbe begged the camp commandant to let him take Gajowniczek's place, "I am a Catholic priest. I wish to die for that man." The request was granted. "I am," argued the 47-year-old priest, "old and useless; he has a wife and children" Maximilian Kolbe comforted each one in the death chamber of Cell 18 as they prepared to die with dignity by prayers, Psalms, and the example of Christ's Passion. Two weeks later only four were left alive and Maximilian alone was still fully conscious. His guards could scarcely bear the saint's composure, and they speeded his end by injecting him with phenol.

    Although Maximilian Kolbe had been a brilliant scientist, mathematician, and religious journalist, he is remembered for this last act of charity. Kolbe was epitomized the Polish religious and the many unsung heroes of the concentration camps.


Novena Prayer to Maximilian Kolbe

O Lord Jesus Christ, who said, "greater love than this no man has that a man lay down his life for his friends,"
through the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe whose life illustrated such love, we beseech you to grant us our petitions . . .
(here mention the requests you have).

Through the Militia Immaculata movement, which Maximilian founded, he spread a fervent devotion to Our Lady throughout the world. He gave up his life for a total stranger and loved his persecutors, giving us an example of unselfish love for all men - a love that was inspired by true devotion to Mary.
Grant, O Lord Jesus, that we too may give ourselves entirely without reserve to the love and service of our Heavenly Queen in order to better love and serve our fellowman in imitation of your humble servant, Maximilian. Amen.

(Say 3 Hail Marys and a Glory Be)

Prisoner's Prayer to Maximilian Kolbe

O Prisoner-Saint of Auschwitz, help me in my plight. Introduce me to Mary, the Immaculata,
Mother of God. She prayed for Jesus in a Jerusalem jail. She prayed for you in a Nazi prison camp. Ask her to comfort
me in my confinement. May she teach me always to be good. If I am lonely, may she say "God is here." If I feel hate, may she say "God is love." If I am tempted, may she say "God is pure." If I sin, may she say "God is mercy." If I am in darkness, may she say "God is light." If I am unjustly condemned, may she say "God is truth." If I have pain in soul or body, may she say "God is peace." If I lose hope, may she say: "God is with you all days, and so am I."


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 as 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.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

For Jesus Christ I am prepared to suffer still more.

Saint Maximilian 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 ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?

Saint Maximilian Kolbe in the last issue of the Knight