Today we Franciscans keep the feast of our brother St. Maximilian Kolbe, martyr of Auschwitz who died on Aug.14, 1941.
He was a Polish Conventual friar, well known for his immense love of Our Lady, who provided shelter for thousands of Jews in his friary and was an active voice against the Nazi violence. He was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned at Auschwitz.
When a fellow prisoner escaped from the camp, the Nazis selected ten other prisoners to be killed in reprisal. As they were lined up to die, one of the ten began to cry, “My wife! My children! I will never see them again!” At this, Maximilian stepped forward and asked to die in his place. When asked why he would sacrifice himself for others he replied simply, “I am a catholic priest!” His request was granted, and he led the other men in song and prayer as they awaited their deaths, in the end he was executed by letahl injection as his prayer and serenity was slowly converting even the guards.
Fr. Maximilian had also lived in Japan and founded one of the largest monasteries in the history of the Church on the outskirts of Nagasaki. Four years after his martyrdom, on August 9, 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, but his monastery miraculously survived. St. Maximilian’s feast day, is when Christians around the world celebrate his life and sainthood as a hero of the church, and falls one week after Nagasaki Day, on the Vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so in August each year, we spend the week reflecting on the best and the worst that human beings are capable of remembering that in each moment we choose to ally ourselves with light or darkness.
May peace prevail always, Lord make us instruments of your peace!