Maximilian Kolbe, born as Raymond Kolbe in Poland in the year 1894, decided to enter the seminary after Our Lady appeared to him while he was praying in church. Our Lady presented him two crowns, one white and one red. The white crown symbolized chastity while the red crown meant he would die a martyr’s death. When she asked him which one he preferred, he responded, “I would like them both”.
Before his ordination, Kolbe founded the Militiae Immaculatae, a confraternity that was determined to convert sinners and heretics through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. With the help of the Militiae Immaculatae, Kolbe began his mission of fighting religious apathy by starting monasteries in Poland and Japan and publishing The Knight of the Immaculata, a profound Catholic magazine that would counteract the influence of the Church’s enemies and promote devotion to Our Lady.
The Knight of the Immaculata was gaining world-wide notoriety just as World War II exploded. Catholic Poland was enslaved by both socialist Nazism and atheist Communism. Kolbe was sent to Auschwitz, where he endured humiliations and beatings. Despite the harsh conditions, Kolbe secretly heard confessions and was even able to say Mass using smuggled hosts. He sacrificed his food to feed others, often giving it all away so there was nothing left for him. His ultimate sacrifice came when ten prisoners were chosen to be killed. Kolbe offered himself in place of a man who had a family. While they were in the pit waiting for death, Kolbe led the men in prayer and song lifting their spirits during their final days.
From feeding the hungry to instructing the ignorant to comforting the distraught, Father Kolbe’s life was filled with merciful acts. Following his death, the news of Father Kolbe’s great love spread throughout the whole world. Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1982 naming him the patron saint of prisoners.
Website: Loyola Press http://loyolapress.com/saints.htm#