Feast Day: 14 August
One evening at the dawn of the 20th century in Poland, a ten-year-old boy named Raymond prayed to the Mother of God, asking her what kind of man he was to be. In answer to his prayer, Mary appeared to him later that night, holding two crowns. Mary, who had seen her own divine Son accept a crown of thorns, held out two crowns to this young man. The first crown was white, which signified virginity; the second crown was red, signifying martyrdom. Mary asked Raymond if he were willing to accept either crown. The young man’s answer was breath-taking: “I choose both.”
This little boy grew up to be known by the Nazis at Auschwitz as Prisoner 16670. He is known to the choirs of heaven as Saint Maximilian Kolbe. His legacy is a story of heroism, courage and self-sacrifice; a beacon of hope for the future. St Maximilian Kolbe’s Feast Day is 14 August – the day he died at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in 1941, at the age of 47 – having offered his life in substitution for the life of a fellow prisoner who had been condemned to death.
St Maximilian was born Raymond Kolbe in Poland, on 8 January 1894 and died on 14 August 1941. At a young age he contracted tuberculosis. Although he recovered, he remained frail all his life. He was sent to study in Rome and became a priest in 1918. In 1941, the Nazis imprisoned him in the Auschwitz death camp. He offered his life for another prisoner (a young husband and father) and was condemned to death. He was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst and neglect. This is why St Maximilian Kolbe is the patron saint of families and prisoners.
St Maximilian inspires us to look for ways to live out our faith by emulating the life of Jesus, just as he did. We are drawn by his charism to look for new ways to authentically live the gospel in our everyday lives and to serve others with unconditional love and tireless energy.