August 14, 2021

Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Today the church celebrates the feast of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, priest and martyr. I have always been inspired by the witness and example of the saints, so while the scriptures of the day deserve our first attention, the story of Saint Maximilian is too compelling to bypass.

As most will know, Maximilian Kolbe, a polish priest and Conventual Franciscan, was a prisoner in Auschwitz in 1941. On the last day of July of that year, a prisoner from his block managed to escape from the prison. As punishment for his action, ten men were chosen at random to be starved to death. Father Kolbe was not one of the ten chosen but volunteered to replace one who was. After surviving many days without food, he died by lethal injection on the 14th of August, 1941, the eve of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. How fitting he should die at that time, having had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Saint Maximilian was a remarkably gifted man. He was small in stature but radiant in mind. His was a life and death that never ceases to impress and inspire. Indeed, this is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer meant when he succinctly said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” At this moment in the life of the church when the place and role of religious life and the priesthood are more and more being questioned, and for some even dismissed, the witness of this religious priest stands as a sign of the potency of a life lived in imitation of Christ who gave his life that we might live.

Let Us Pray:

O God, grant that we may be conformed, even until death, to your Son.


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About George Dunne, SSS