St. Maximilian Kolbe: Heroic Witness to Our Lady

**This originally published on the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe in 2015. I thought that I would repost it, especially since this week I won’t be blogging as much since my daughter and I are getting her school year started. My weekly Catholic Exchange contribution will publish on Thursday.**

St. Maximilian Kolbe was born on January 8, 1894 in Zdunska Wola, Poland. His entire life was centered on his great love and devotion to Our Lady through her Immaculate Conception. At the age of six he had a vision of her:

That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.

—Regis Armstrong and Ingrid Peterson, The Franciscan Tradition, 50

Kolbe and his older brother entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1910 and he made his final vows to the evangelical counsels of poverty, obedience, and chastity in 1914. He was then sent to Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University where he pursued a doctorate in Philosophy. He then continued on to receive a doctorate in Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure in 1922.

Throughout his studies he remained steadfast in his devotion and commitment to Mary and consecration to her. He had taken the additional religious name Marie. His devotion to her grew as he witnessed attacks on Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV at the hands of Freemasons. It was then that he founded the Militia of the Immaculata in order to combat Freemasonry, as well as other enemies of the Church. The movement was founded for the evangelization of the world through the intercession of Mary. His devotion was so great that he even added a prayer to the Miraculous Medal:

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. And for all those who do not have recourse to thee; especially the Masons and all those recommended to thee.

During the midst of his studies, Kolbe was ordained to the priesthood and he returned to the newly independent Poland where he taught at seminary. He continued his dedication to Our Lady and vehemently opposed Leftist ideologies, including Communism. While there he battled his second round of Tuberculosis and upon his recovery lived in a weakened physical state until his death.

After his recovery, he made multiple missionary trips to East Asia. He struggled to garner a following to Jesus Christ and His Church in China, but was able to establish a monastery in Japan. The monastery actually survived the nuclear blast on Nagasaki. In 1936 Kolbe’s poor health forced him to return to Poland.

World War II began for him with the invasion of Poland and Kolbe remained in the monastery with a few of his brothers in order to serve in the area. They opened a small hospital for the wounded and sick. He was briefly arrested and refused to sign the Deutsche Volksliste which would have given him the same rights as Germans if he claimed his own German ancestry; Kolbe’s father was German. He then began his work that would most directly lead to his eventual imprisonment in a concentration camp.

His monastery hid and protected people throughout Poland including 1000-2000 Jews. He also continued his religious publications, even though they were limited by the new Nazi regime. Many of the works they published were anti-Nazi in nature. On February 17, 1941 his monastery was shut down and along with four others, Kolbe was sent to Pawiak prison. On May 28 he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.

Read the rest over at Catholic Exchange.

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