"Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar most famous for volunteering to die in place of a stranger at Auschwitz."
This is the opening line on the life of the saint from the Jewish online library.
St Maximilian Kolbe (born January 8, 1894; died August 14, 1941) was born as Rajmund Kolbe and was later also known as Maksymilian or Massimiliano Maria Kolbe and “Apostle of Consecration to Mary."
Maximilian went to Japan where he built a comparable monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement. In 1936 he returned home because of ill health. After the Nazi invasion in 1939, he was imprisoned and released for a time. But in 1941 he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
On July 31, 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner's escape, ten men were chosen to die. Father Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father. And he was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect.
He was canonized by the Catholic Church as Saint Maximilian Kolbe on
October 10, 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity.
He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners,
families, journalists, prisoners and the pro-life movement.
Pope John Paul II declared him the “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.
In his youth Maximilian was very heavily involved in promoting devotion to the Immaculate Medal. He had great devotion to Mary, the Mother of God. Kolbe's life was strongly influenced by a childhood vision of the Virgin Mary that he later described:
That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a Child of Faith. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.
According to the O.F.M.I Friars,
"Our patron, St. Maximilian Kolbe, inspires us with his unique Mariology and apostolic mission, which is to bring all souls to the Sacred Heart of Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Christ's most pure, efficient, and holy instrument of evangelization – especially those most estranged from the Church."
"No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hetacombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?"
-- St. Maximilian Kolbe