Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe was also known as Raymund Kolbe. He was a Catholic priest and a Conventual Franciscan friar born on January 8 1894 in Zduńska Wola, Poland, and died on August 14 1941 at the age of 47 in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland during the German occupation in World War II when he volunteered to die in place of a stranger. His feast day is celebrated on August 14 every year in the Catholic Church.
|Saint Maximilian Kolbe Biography|
|Date of Birth||January 8 1894|
|Place of Birth||Zduńska Wola, Poland|
|Profession||Priest and Conventual Franciscan friar|
|Place of Work||Poland|
|Date of Death||August 14 1941|
|Place of Death||Auschwitz concentration camp, Poland|
|Feast Day||August 14|
|Beatification||By Pope Paul VI on October 17 1971 in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City|
|Canonization||By Pope John Paul II on October 10 1982, Saint Peter’s Square Vatican City|
|Patron Saint of||Against drug addictions,
Saint Maximilian Kolbe Life History
Saint Maximilian Kolbe had four brothers and he was the second born. His father was a German and was called Julius Kolbe. He worked as a weaver. His mother was Polish and was called Maria Dąbrowska. She worked as a midwife.
In 1906, When Kolbe was 12 years, he had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary went to him with two crowns, one red and one white and asked him which one he preferred. The white crown meant that he should remain pure and the red one meant that he will die as a martyr. Kolbe chose both of them.
Maximilian and Francis, his elder brother, joined The Order of Friars Minor Conventual, commonly known as the Conventual Franciscans, in 1907. After two years they joined the Conventual Franciscan minor seminary in Lwow. Kolbe entered the novitiate in 1910, and chose Maximilian as his religious name, in 1911, he took his first vows, and in 1914 he professed his final vows and adopted another name, Maria.
In 1912, Kolbe went to Rome and enrolled at the Pontifical Gregorian University and graduated in 1915, with a doctorate in philosophy. He thereafter joined the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure and graduated with a doctorate in theology.
Unfortunately, World War I broke out and his father was accused of being a traitor and murdered by the Russians. This traumatized Kolbe very much. He was also disturbed by the frequent demonstrations by the Freemasons against Popes Pius X and Benedict XV in Rome. They distributed fliers that shamefully attacked the pope and still made a banner that depicted Michael the Archangel lying beneath a victorious Lucifer.
These events prompted Kolbe to organize the Army of the Immaculate One (Militia Immaculatae) to convert, with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Freemasons and other enemies of the Catholic Church. He wrote this prayer;
“O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you, and for all who do not have recourse to you, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to you.”Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was ordained as a priest in 1918 and continued to promote the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. He taught at the Kraków Seminary from 1919 to 1922 but took leave for rest after he contracted the deadly tuberculosis.
Kolbe had a passion for publishing and broadcasting and therefore in January 1922, he founded a publication called Rycerz Niepokalanej (Knight of the Immaculata). This publication had a monthly periodicity. Thereafter, he started a religious publishing press and in 1927 he founded a Conventual Franciscan monastery called Niepokalanów (City of the Immaculata) in Teresin, 40 kilometers west of the city of Warsaw. This place became a major center for publishing religious publications.
The publishing press published a daily newspaper called “the Small Diary” which commanded a circulation of over 100,000 daily. Kolbe also started a radio station at Niepokalanów called Radio Niepokalanów in 1938.
Kolbe unsuccessfully tried to evangelize in China but when he went to Japan in 1931, he managed to found a Franciscan monastery in Nagasaki called Mugenzai no Sono (Garden of the Immaculate). The residents there said that the monastery was built on the wrong side of the slopes of Mount Hikosan because it was on the opposite side not facing the city of Nagasaki. But unlike other buildings, the monastery survived the 1945 atomic bomb that was dropped by the United States.
After World War II broke out in 1939, Kolbe and a few other friars remained in the Niepokalanów monastery where they operated a temporary hospital. The town of Teresin, Poland was captured by the Germans and he was arrested but later freed because of his ethnic German ancestry. He returned to the monastery where he provided shelter to refugees including some 2,000 Jews whom he hid from the Germans. He also continued publishing especially the publications that were against the Nazi occupation of Poland.
The Niepokalanów monastery was shut down by the German authorities on February 17 1941, and Maximilian Kolbe together with four others were arrested and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. He was transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp as prisoner number 16670 on May 28 1941.
In the Auschwitz concentration camp, he continued with his God-assigned duties of a priest. He was always beaten and mistreated but friendly inmates came to his aid and would take him to the prison hospital.
One fateful day in July 1941, there was a prisoner who successfully escaped from the prison. To teach the prisoners a lesson and to scare others from escaping, the prison commanders selected 10 men to be starved to death in an underground dungeon.
One of the selected men cried out saying he has a wife and children who depend on him and cannot afford to die. Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take his place. Inside the dungeon, Kolbe would lead the other prisoners in prayer amidst the biting starvation and thirst they experienced. All others died of thirst and starvation and only Kolbe remained.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe Death
When Kolbe remained alive after all the other prisoners died of thirst and starvation, the prison administrators wanted to clear the dungeon. So they decided to get rid of Kolbe altogether. They injected him with poisonous carbolic acid, during which Kolbe did not offer any resistance. He died on August 14 1941 and his body burned the following day on August 15 which coincidentally happened to be the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.
There are hairs from his head and beard that were preserved by his friars-cum-barbers at the Niepokalanów monastery. His clothes and personal effects are preserved in a chapel and in the room he stayed at the Niepokalanów monastery.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was beatified on October 17 1971 by Pope Paul VI in Vatican City. The Pope recognized this sacrifice and named him a Confessor and a “martyr of charity.”
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was canonized on October 10 1982 by Pope John Paul II in Vatican City. The pope clarified that Kolbe was a true martyr and not only a confessor.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe Feast Day
His feast day is celebrated on August 14 every year in the Catholic Church.
St Maximilian Kolbe is the Patron Saint of
- Amateur radio operators
- Militia Immaculatae
- Political prisoners
- The pro-life movement
- Recovery from drug addiction
Churches and Catholic institutions named after St Maximilian Kolbe
There are hundreds if not thousands of Catholic Churches across the world that are named after Saint Maximilian Kolbe. We cannot enumerate them here but examples are;
- Kolbe Catholic College in Rockingham, Western Australia
- St. Maximilian Kolbe Church, West Chester, PA
- St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church – Pembroke Pines, FL
- St. Maximilian Kolbe Printing Press, Limuru, Kenya
- St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church Houston, TX
- St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Parish – Liberty Twp, OH USA
- Saint Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Westlake Village, CA.
- In 2000, the US National Conference of Catholic Bishops made Marytown, Libertyville, Illinois the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe Prayer
“O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you, and for all who do not have recourse to you, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to you.”
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