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.

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