Friday, March 16, 2012

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Feast Day: August 14
1894-1941

Patronage:

    drug addicts (against drug addiction)
    prisoners
    journalists
    pro-life movement
    families

Known as Apostle of Consecration to Mary

Pope John Paul II declared him the “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”



Maximilian was born in 1894 as Raymond Kolbe. He is the second of the 3 sons born to a poor Catholic family in Poland which was then occupied by Russia.   His parents were both Franciscan lay tertiaries who worked at home as basket weavers. His father later ran a religious book store then enlisted in the army.  His mother, on the other hand, soon worked as a midwife and owned a grocery store in part of her rented house. In 1907, Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscan junior seminary in Lwów. In 1910, Raymond Kolbe was allowed to enter the novitiate and professed his first vows a year after. He adopted the name Maximilian Maria to show his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
and received the final vows at age 20. That same year, his father who fought for Polish independence from Russia was captured and hanged by the Russians as a traitor. Maximilian's mother eventually became a Benedictine nun.

While in seminary, Maximilian and his six friends founded the Immaculata Movement to work for the conversion of sinners, opposition to freemasonry, as well as the spread of the Miraculous Medal and devotion to Our Lady.

During this time, he contracted tuberculosis which nearly killed him and though he recovered, Maximilian remained frail all his life. In 1915, he earned a doctorate in philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University,
and a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure for years after. 
After receiving a doctorate in theology, Maximilian Kolbe spread the Immaculata Movement through a monthly magazine publication called "The Knight of the Immaculata" which had over a million circulation.  The Immaculata friars also published catechetical and devotional tracts as well as newspapers reaching thousands of people daily.

Maximilian founded the monastery of Niepokalanów near Warsaw. He established a seminary, a radio station (used to spread Catholic faith and to speak out against the atrocities of the Nazi regime) and several other
organizations and publications. Kolbe is the only canonized saint to have held an amateur radio license.

In 1930, Maximilian along with 4 brothers left for Japan and within a month upon their arrival was printing a Japanese version of the Knight of the Immaculata. Six years after, the magazine grew to a circulation of 65,000.  Maximilian founded a monastery in Nagasaki in 1931 that still stands today as a center of Franciscan work in Japan.

He was forced to return to Poland because of poor health and by 1939, following the Nazi invasion of Poland, Maximilian along with several of his brothers were arrested.  They were released barely 3 months later.  But on 17 February 1941, Maximilian was imprisoned in Pawiak, Warsaw and the brothers dispersed for housing Polish refugees many of whom were Jewish and for publishing materials considered to be anti-Nazi.  He was transferred to Auschwitz and branded as prisoner #16670. Maximilian suffered a lot from the abusive guards and was even left for dead after being beaten and lashed. Nevertheless, Maximilian ministered to other prisoners and spent his time hearing confessions, conducting Mass and giving communion when unleavened bread is made available.

On July 31, 1941, there was an escape from the camp and in retribution for one prisoner's escape, ten men were to be starved to death. One of the selected men, Francis Gajowniczek, was a young married man and father.  Father Kolbe offered himself in place of him.

In the prison cell, Kolbe led the other 9 men in prayer and worship. Each time the guards checked on him, he was seen praying and ministering to others or would be singing hymns to the Virgin Mary. After enduring 3 weeks of starvation and dehydration, only Kolbe remained alive. 

The guards wanted the bunker emptied so Maximilian Kolbe was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid. 

Kolbe was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982 in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek and declared Maximilian Kolbe a martyr of charity.
   
Maximilian Kolbe's beatification miracles include the cure of intestinal tuberculosis of Angela Testoni in July 1948 and the cure of calcification of the arteries/sclerosis of Francis Ranier in August 1950.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Saint Boniface also known as Bonifacius

Saint Boniface also known as Bonifacius


680-754 A.D.
Patron Saint of Germany (The Apostle of the Germans)

Feast Day: June 5

Boniface, or Winfrid (his baptismal name), was born into a Christian family of noble rank. At a very young age, Winfrid found himself listening to the conversation of some monks then visiting their home.  Soon after, he devoted himself to the monastic life.  At first, the boy's father was againsts it but a serious illness made him change his decision and sent Winfrid to the neighboring abbey of Exeter.  He received further theological training in the Benedictine monastery and minster of Nursling and after completing his studies he was appointed head of the school.

At the age of thirty, Winfrid was ordained priest but God revealed to him that their was greater work needed in the foreign lands. Northern Europe and most of Central Europe were still living in paganism. Willibrord, the Northumbrian missionary, had long been striving to bring the Gospel to these people and it was to this region that Winfrid felt himself called.


In 716, he set out on a missionary expedition to Frisia but after a year their efforts were frustrated by the war and had to go back.  He went straight to Rome, where Pope Gregory II renamed him Boniface and appointed him missionary bishop for Germania.

Boniface along with Saint Albinus, Saint Abel and Saint Agatha propagated Christianity in the Frankish Empire during the 8th century. Although, isolated missionary groups had penetrated central German, it was not until the 8th century that a systematic effort was formed to Christianize the vast pagan territory. From that time the work of evangelization proceeded steadily. Saint Boniface paved the way to this region and created a hierarchy under direct commission from the Holy See. Boniface established the first diocese in Germany at the Frankish fortified settlement of Büraburg. They destroyed idols and pagan temples, and then built churches on the sites.


Boniface became the first Archbishop of Mainz. Saint Boniface is regarded as a unifier of Europe, and is seen as a German national figure.
He reformed the churches in his see and became the chief fomentor of the alliance between the papacy and the Carolingian family.  Boniface helped shape Western Christianity through his efforts to reorganize and regulate the church of the Franks.  St Boniface built religious houses in Germany, founded or restored the dioceses of Bavaria, Austrasia, Alemannia, Franconia, Thuringia etc.  Boniface was able to carry through many important reforms and many of the dioceses remain until today.  Boniface has been called the pro-consul of the papacy.


After 36 years of missionary labor, Saint Boniface was killed in Frisia in 755, along with 52 others including Saint Adaler and Saint Eoban.

Ending at last in martyrdom, Saint Boniface was quickly given the designation "Apostle of Germany".


Reflection:

It is said that St. Boniface won more than 100,000 people to Christianity in the course of his ministry. Boniface shaped the church through his zeal, love, faith and evangelization efforts.
It was for Christ's sake that Boniface toiled for souls and that in Jesus Christ, salvation is offered to all men. 

Evangelization is a duty of every Christian. It is an essential mission of the Church and we must embrace this calling and make it a part of our every day life.

For most Catholics, however, evangelization is perceived to be the work of a special group of people within the Church like the priests, missionaries and those with a special vocation.

We take for granted what we have today.

Let us remind ourselves to be thankful to those who like Saint Boniface labored for us. 

May we evangelize as he did. By the example of Saint Boniface, may we be reminded that we have been called to bring home those who have lost their way, to heal wounds and to proclaim Christ to all peoples.

We may not be living in pagan darkness but our challenge today as Catholics is to evangelize to those who do not yet believe in Christ and to bring back Christ to the non-practicing Christians.