At the time of my ordination I chose St. Maximilian Kolbe as my patron saint. I thought that it might be interesting to tell you something about him.
St. Maximilian Kolbe (January 8, 1894–August 14, 1941) was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz in Poland.
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.”
On February 17, 1941 he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, and on May 25 was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.
In July 1941 a man from Kolbe’s barracks vanished, prompting Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. (The man who had disappeared was later found drowned in the camp latrine.) One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
Father Kolbe was beatified as a confessor by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982 in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man St. Maximilian saved from death. Upon canonization, the Pope declared St. Maximilian Kolbe not a confessor, but a martyr.
Although the canonization of St. Maximilan Kolbe is uncontroversial, his recognition as a martyr is, given that a Christian martyr is one who is killed out of hatred for the faith, and Kolbe wasn’t martyred strictly out of hatred for the Faith.
At the time of my ordination, I was extremely fortunate to be given a first class relic (a few strands of his hair) of St. Maximilian taken from him while he was still alive.
Fr. Ed Namiotka