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Statuary St. Maximilian Kolbe

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St. Maximilian Kolbe

St Maximilian Maria Kolbe (1894 – 1941) born in Poland, was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II and declared a martyr of charity. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement.

Pope John Paul II declared him "The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century".

Due to Kolbe's efforts to promote consecration and entrustment to Mary, he is known as the Apostle of Consecration to Mary.

Biography

He was born Raymund Kolbe on 8 January 1894 in Zduńska Wola, in the Kingdom of Poland, which was a part of the Russian Empire, the second son of Julius Kolbe and Maria Dabrowska. His father was an ethnic German and his mother was Polish. He had four brothers, Francis, Joseph, Walenty (who lived a year) and Andrew (who lived four years).

Kolbe's family moved to Pabianice, where his parents initially worked as basket weavers. Later, his mother worked as a midwife (often donating her services), and operated a shop in part of their rented house, where she sold groceries and household goods. Julius Kolbe worked at the Krushe and Ender Mill and also worked on a parcel of rented land where he grew vegetables. In 1914, Julius joined Jozef Piłsudski's Polish Legions and was captured by the Russians and hanged for fighting for the independence of a partitioned Poland.

Kolbe's life was strongly influenced by a childhood vision of the Virgin Mary that he later described:

� That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a Child of Faith. 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.

Franciscan friar

In 1907, Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscans. They illegally crossed the border between Russia and Austria-Hungary and enrolled at the Conventual Franciscan minor seminary in Lwow. In 1910, Kolbe was allowed to enter the novitiate, where he was given the religious name Maximilian. He professed his first vows in 1911, and final vows in 1914, in Rome, adopting the additional name of Maria, to show his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Kolbe would later sing hymns to the Virgin Mary in the concentration camp.

Kolbe was sent to Krakow in 1912, and later that same year to the house of studies of the Order in Rome, where he studied philosophy, theology, mathematics and physics. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and a doctorate in theology in 1919 at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure. During his time as a student, he witnessed vehement demonstrations against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV in Rome during an anniversary celebration by the Freemasons. According to Kolbe,

� They placed the black standard of the "Giordano Brunisti" under the windows of the Vatican. On this standard the archangel, St. Michael, was depicted lying under the feet of the triumphant Lucifer. At the same time, countless pamphlets were distributed to the people in which the Holy Father was attacked shamefully.

This event inspired Kolbe to organize the Militia Immaculata, or Army of Mary, to work for conversion of sinners and enemies of the Catholic Church, specifically the Freemasons, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. So serious was Kolbe about this goal that he added to the Miraculous Medal prayer:

� Oh 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.

The Immaculata friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques in publishing catechetical and devotional tracts, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. Kolbe also used radio to spread his Catholic faith and to speak out against the atrocities of the Nazi regime. He is the only canonized saint to have held an amateur radio license, with the call sign SP3RN.

In 1918, Kolbe was ordained a priest. In 1919, he returned to the newly independent Poland, where he was very active in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, founding and supervising the monastery of Niepokalanow near Warsaw, a seminary, a radio station, and several other organizations and publications. Kolbe founded the monthly periodical Rycerz Niepokalanej in 1922, and in 1927 founded a Conventual Franciscan monastery at Niepokalanow, which became a major publishing centre. Kolbe left Poland for Japan in 1930, spending six years there. The monastery at Niepokalanow began in his absence to publish the daily newspaper, Mały Dziennik, which became Poland's top-seller.

Kolbe was accused of anti-Semitism based on the content of these newspapers, which allegedly included claims of a Zionist plot for world domination. Researchers seeking to rebut accusations of anti-Semitism often point to the fact that Kolbe sheltered Jewish refugees during the war, and, according to one person who worked close to him: "When Jews came to me asking for a piece of bread, I asked Father Maximilian if I could give it to them in good conscience, and he answered me, 'Yes, it is necessary to do this because all men are our brothers.'"

Between 1930 and 1936, Kolbe undertook a series of missions to Japan, where he founded a monastery at the outskirts of Nagasaki, a Japanese paper, and a seminary. The monastery he founded remains prominent in the Roman Catholic Church in Japan. Kolbe decided to build the monastery on a mountainside that, according to Shinto beliefs, was not the side best suited to be in harmony with nature. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Kolbe's monastery was saved because the other side of the mountain took the main force of the blast.

Death at Auschwitz

After the outbreak of World War II, which started with the invasion of his nation by Nazi Germany, Kolbe provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalanow. On 17 February 1941, he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On 28 May, he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.

At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, "My wife! My children!", Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

In his prison cell, Kolbe celebrated Mass each day and sang hymns with the prisoners. He led the other condemned men in song and prayer and encouraged them by telling them they would soon be with Mary in Heaven. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied and they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Some who were present at the injection say that he raised his left arm and calmly waited for the injection. His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.

Canonization

Kolbe was beatified as a Confessor of the Faith by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and canonized as a martyr by Pope John Paul II on 10 October 1982, with Franciszek Gajowniczek in attendance. Upon canonization, the Pope declared St. Maximilian Kolbe not a confessor, but a martyr. The miracle which was used to confirm his beatification was the July 1948 cure of intestinal tuberculosis in Angela Testoni, and in August 1950, the cure of calcification of the arteries/sclerosis of Francis Ranier was attributed to Kolbe's intercession.

After his canonization, St. Maximilian Kolbe's feast day was added to the General Roman Calendar, which is used by the Catholic Church throughout the world. He is one of ten 20th-century martyrs who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London.

Controversy

Kolbe's recognition as a Christian martyr also created some controversy within the Catholic Church, in that, while his ultimate self-sacrifice of his life was most certainly saintly and heroic, he was not killed strictly speaking out of odium Fidei (hatred of the Catholic faith), but as the result of an act of Christian charity, which Pope Paul VI himself had recognized at his beatification by naming him a Confessor and giving him the unofficial title "martyr of charity". However, Pope John Paul II, when deciding to canonize him, overruled the commission he had established (which agreed with the earlier assessment of heroic charity), wishing to make the point that the systematic hatred of (whole categories of) humanity propagated by the Nazi regime was in itself inherently an act of hatred of religious (Christian) faith, meaning Father Kolbe's death equated to martyrdom.

Religious influence

Kolbe's influence has found fertile ground in his own Franciscan Order, in the form of the Franciscan Friars of Mary Immaculate (O.F.M.I.), a Franciscan religious institute whose Rule is influenced by the spirituality of St. Maximilian. These friars are even taught basic Polish so they can sing the traditional hymns sung by Kolbe, in the saint's native tongue. According to the friars,

� "Our patron, St. Maximilian Kolbe, inspires us with his unique Mariology and apostolic mission, which is to bring all souls to the Sacred Heart of Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Christ's most pure, efficient, and holy instrument of evangelization – especially those most estranged from the Church."

Immaculata prayer

Saint Maximilian composed the Immaculata prayer as a prayer of consecration to the Immaculata, i.e. the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary.

The text in this box was generated from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the CC-BY-SA.

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