Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) was a Polish Franciscan with a special devotion to the Virgin Mary because he had childhood visions of Mary inviting him to a life of purity and martyrdom. He effectively used modern media to spread the Good News in an age of hostility by starting a newspaper and a magazine and even producing an amateur radio show. He also founded a mission near Nagasaki, Japan (which miraculously survived the atomic blast). Kolbe was arrested by the Nazis and died at Auschwitz, having volunteered himself to take the place of a stranger who had a wife and children. He was locked in an underground bunker with nine other men while given no food or water, but Kolbe led his fellow prisoners in song and prayer. After two weeks, he was the only one left alive and was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982. His feast day is August 14.
“A single act of love makes the soul return to life.” — St. Maximilian Kolbe
Questions for Reflection
- In his childhood, Maximilian Kolbe had a vision of Mary holding two crowns. One was white for purity, the other red for martyrdom. She asked if he would like to have one, and he answered that he wanted both. Throughout the course of his life, Maximilian got what he prayed for. What moments in your own childhood had such an impact on your life? In what memories did the seed of your faith take root?
- When was a time you made a sacrifice in order to help someone else? What gave you the courage to make that sacrifice?