St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Auschwitz
June 4, 2011 § 5 Comments
St. Maximilian Kolbe, my confirmation Saint and Patron, seems to have chosen me more than I chose him. I visited a friend in Poland back in the late nineties, where I fell in love with the Polish people and culture, and had a powerful spiritual awakening one day while visiting St. Mary’s Church in Gdansk. Upon my return to America, I found myself wandering the stacks at the local library one day, as I’m wont to do, and stumbled across this book. The details of his life and death, along with his patronage of drug addicts and prisoners (I have been both), had a profound effect on me, and greatly influenced my decision to convert to the Catholic Church.
The book, Maximilian Kolbe, Saint of Auschwitz by Elaine Murray Stone, published by Paulist Press in May, 1997, though written for younger readers (preteens), serves as a great introduction to the life, works, and martyrdom of St. Max. Every facet of his life is touched upon, from his visitation by the Blessed Mother, to his founding of the Militia Immaculata and Niepokolanów, “City of the Immaculata”, as well its Japanese counterpart, his helping of the Jewish population in Nazi occupied Poland, and his work in disseminating the Rycerz Niepokolanej (Knight of the Immaculata) magazine and its moral content which ultimately landed him in the death camp at Auschwitz. We see St. Maximilian’s faith in Christ and Our Lady throughout, unshakeable even amid the horrors of life at Auschwitz. His positive attitude and selfless actions had a profound impact on his fellow prisoners, especially the one for whom St. Max ultimately gave his life- an innocent Jewish family man for whom the Saint volunteered to die when ten of his fellow prisoners were selected for a slow death in the starvation block because of an escape by one of their number.
The author doesn’t diminish St. Maximilian’s Marian spirituality, as some even in his own Militia Immaculata have done. St. Maximilian was not ashamed of his love of Mary Immaculate; devotion to her was the point of everything he did, and this shows in the book. The author makes no attempt to explain away this Marian devotion, but rather factually recounts it and leaves the reader to discover how such devotion to Mary is ultimately centered on Christ her Son. I recommend this book for any Catholic who wants to know more about this Saint who Blessed John Paul the Great called the Patron of our difficult century, and especially for Franciscans (St. Max was a Franciscan), MI members, all who wear the Miraculous Medal (required for every MI member), and anyone interested in World War II history, Polish people and culture, or Marian spirituality.
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