Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esther John, Lucian Tapiedi, and Wang Zhiming.
Westminster Abbey, London, UK
Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe
Maximilian Kolbe is definitely a saint for our times. In an age where love of self is promoted above everything else, even the lives of our unborn, the life and death of Maximilian Kolbe stand out as a beacon of what love and the Christian life should be.
Born in 1894, Kolbe became a Franciscan, was ordained a priest in 1918 and later became a great promoter of the Immaculate Medal. However it is for his death in the camp at Auschwitz. At the start of the Second World War, when Germany invaded his homeland of Poland, Maximilian Kolbe refused to leave his monastery. After being arrested a couple of times he was eventually sent to Auschwitz in 1941, where he continued to act as a priest and for which he was violently harassed.
At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick ten men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, "My wife! My children!" Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
Shortly after the war the cause for the canonization of Maximilian Kolbe soon began. He was finally canonized on Oct 10th, 1982 by John Paul II. One wee point of interest: Maximilian Kolbe is one of ten 20th century martyrs whose statues have been erected above the Great West Door at Westminster Abbey in London.
His act of courage and his willingness to lay down his life for a stranger are what sets Maximilian Kolbe apart; his act of love stands out in stark contrast to our world today.
The prisoner whom Kolbe replaced, Franciszek Gajowniczek, eventually survived the camp and went on to live till 1995, dying on March 13th, living to see the man who saved his life raised to sainthood.