Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Testimony of Maximilian Kolbe

When I went to visit Auschwitz in Poland I was reminded of the story of Father Maximilian Kolbe. I even saw the cell where he died and Pope John Paul II left a candle in his memory. I was inspired by his story greatly (more detail below) and thought about him a lot the rest of the trip. Then a pastor at our church mentioned him in a sermon and told his story there. I thought it was kind of neat that I heard that story twice in less than a week and was even there. THEN, I received my July 2007 issue of the Voice of the Martyr's Newsletter and there he was again! Three times in less than two weeks. Apparently God wants people to know Father Kolbe's story.

Here is what is written in the July 2007 issue of the VOM newsletter.

"I am a priest. I wish to die for that man."

These were the last words of Maximilian Kolbe as he offered to give his life in a Nazi Concentration Camp for another man who pleaded for mercy. Kolbe was born to hard-working Polish nationalist parents onJanuary 8, 1894. At 12 years of age he gave himself completely to the service of the Lord. When asked whether he would like a crown of purity or of martyrdom he said, "Both." After his studies, Maximilian served as a missionary in Japan, opened a seminary in Warsaw and started a radio station, newspaper and magazine. At age 45 Kolbe was a vibrant leader, but to be a Polish leader in 1939 was neither safe nor prudent. Indeed, his media outreach began to assail the dangers of Germany's militarism. Kolbe and his team also began to hide Jewish refugees. Before his arrest by the Gestatpo, they kept 1,500 Jews under cover.

In a well known statement Kolbe said, "No one can change the Truth. What we can do is to seek truth and serve it when we have found it...There are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are victories on the battlefield if we are defeated in our innermost personal selves?"

Kolbe brought these words with him to Auschwitz in May of 1941. After offering his life for another his wish was granted and he was locked in a starvation cell with nine other prisoners. Kolbe was heard leading hymns and prayers. When he was too weak to speak, he whispered. After two weeks he was still alive, so a Nazi guard injected him with carbolic acid to kill him. He was later found drowned in the camp latrine.

Kolbe also wrote:
"Your blood now runs in mine; Your Soul, Incarnate God, penetrates mine, giving courage and support. What miracles! Who would have ever imagined such!"

Francis Gajowniczek, the man whom Kolbe offered his life, lived to an old age, dying in Poland in 1997 owing his life to a faithful priest who had chosen the two crowns of purity and martyrdom.

I think the story of Father Kolbe speaks for itself.

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