Today is not the feast of Maximillian Kolbe. I’d like to tell you about him, however. There have been many very holy people who have lived in this last century whose stories are remarkable and inspiring. I am moved by Maximillian’s courage and love of neighbor – He showed great compassion and even gave his own life for someone he didn’t even know.
Maximillian was one of the many priests who were rounded up by the Nazi’s in World War II and placed in concentration camps along with millions of Jews, Christians and other people who did not fit Adolf Hitler’s image of the “perfect race.” On one occasion, Nazi soldiers called for a line up of prisoners – some would be called out of the line to be executed in retribution for an escaped prisoner. A gentleman was called to step forward. He was a husband and a father of two small children. He began to plead for his life for the sake of his family. Father Kolbe interrupted the man’s desperate pleas, and volunteered to die in the man’s place. The Nazi soldier agreed to the exchange. Father Kolbe was placed in solitary confinement. The cruel plan was to starve him to death by denying him all food and water. After two weeks in a cold, dark cell, the prison guard went to see if Kolbe had succumbed to lack of nourishment. Surprised and upset to find Kolbe still clinging to life, the guard injected him with carbolic acid to “finish him off.”
Kolbe’s bravery was astounding. His willingness to give his life for a total stranger – inspiring! He did not do this incredible thing on his own. Only through the power of God could he make such a daunting sacrifice. I assume that it is because of his death by lethal injection that Maximillian Kolbe has been named the patron saint of those suffering from addictions. Saint Maximillian Kolbe, pray for us!