It is a profoundly humbling task to gaze at the life of Maximilian Kolbe and not be utterly blindsided by this radiant saint! Writer Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in this world is for enough good men to do nothing.” Kolbe demonstrated tendencies diametrically opposite to ‘doing nothing’ particularly throughout the Nazi occupation of Poland.
The second son of a humble Catholic family, Kolbe was born in Poland on January 8, 1894, and had a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary that emanated from a mystical encounter in childhood. This experience shaped his life profoundly propelling him to join the Conventual Franciscans leading to priestly ordination in 1914. Kolbe was a spectacular academic who earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 and then a doctorate in theology a few years later.
Kolbe organized the Army of Mary (Militia Immaculata) to propagate the faith and react against the enemies of the Church through publishing catechetical and devotional material, a daily newspaper reaching thousands, and a magazine boasting over a million subscribers. Most notably, at the outbreak of World War II, Kolbe used his publications and radio broadcasts to strike out against the Nazi Regime.
Thus, Kolbe led an active evangelical life reaching millions. He founded a Conventual Franciscan monastery (an outpost for his prolific publishing activities), participated in missionary work in Japan, and created radio broadcasts, all the while continuing to remain deeply committed to veneration of the Mother of God.
Above everything else, however, the most spectacular, compelling and courageous act completed by Kolbe was his martyrdom in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He deliberately and consciously traded his own life for the life of a prisoner condemned to death. Kolbe simply said, “I wish to die for that man.” This act remains in perpetuity as one of the most riveting witnesses to a selfless act of pure love and mercy. We learn from Scripture that we receive grace and mercy from God. Whether the condemned prisoner deserved it or not, he received mercy from Kolbe, who remained in perfect harmony with Christ.
—Linda Hazelden, Sales Associate