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Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Franciscan priest, missionary and martyr, is celebrated throughout the Church today, August 14. The saint died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, during World War II, and is remembered as a “martyr of charity� for dying in place of another prisoner who had a wife and children. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982.St. Maximilian is also celebrated for his missionary work, his evangelistic use of modern means of communication, and for his lifelong devotion to the Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception.All these aspects of St. Maximilian's life converged in his founding of the Militia Immaculata. The worldwide organization continues St. Maximilian Kolbe's mission of bringing individuals and societies into the Catholic Church, through dedication to the Virgin Mary.St. Maximilian, according to several biographies, was personally called by the Virgin Mary, both to his holy life and to his eventual martyrdom. As an impulsive and badly-behaved child, he prayed to her for guidance, and later described how she miraculously appeared to him holding two crowns: one was white, representing purity, the other red, for martyrdom. When he was asked to choose between these two destinies, the troublesome child and future saint said he wanted both. Radically changed by the incident, he entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans at age 13, in 1907. At age 20 he made his solemn vows as a Franciscan, earning a doctorate in philosophy the next year. Soon after, however, he developed chronic tuberculosis, which eventually destroyed one of his lungs and weakened the other.On October 16, 1917, in response to anti-Catholic demonstrations by Italian Freemasons, Friar Maximilian led six other Franciscans in Rome to form the association they called the Militia Immaculata. The group's founding coincided almost exactly with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal.As a Franciscan priest, Fr. Maximilian returned to work in Poland during the 1920s. There, he promoted the Catholic faith through newspapers and magazines which eventually reached an extraordinary circulation, published from a monastery so large it was called the “City of the Immaculata.� In 1930 he moved to Japan, and had established a Japanese Catholic press by 1936, along with a similarly ambitious monastery. That year, however, he returned to Poland for the last time. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and Fr. Kolbe was arrested. Briefly freed during 1940, he published one last issue of the Knight of the Immaculata before his final arrest and transportation to Auschwitz in 1941.At the beginning of August that year, 10 prisoners were sentenced to death by starvation in punishment for another inmate's escape. Moved by one man's lamentation for his wife and children, Fr. Kolbe volunteered to die in his place. Survivors of the camp testified that the starving prisoners could be heard praying and singing hymns, led by the priest who had volunteered for an agonizing death. After two weeks, on the night before the Church's feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the camp officials decided to hasten Fr. Kolbe's death, injecting him with carbolic acid. St. Maximilian Kolbe's body was cremated by the camp officials on the feast of the Assumption. He had stated years earlier: “I would like to be reduced to ashes for the cause of the Immaculata, and may this dust be carried over the whole world, so that nothing would remain.�

Aug. 14 Memorial of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr, Memorial

Maximilian Mary Kolbe was born in Poland. He consecrated himself to the Lord in the Franciscan Order. Filled with love for the Virgin, he founded the Militia of the Immaculate Mary and, with his preaching and writing, undertook an intense apostolic mission in Europe and Asia. Imprisoned in Auschwitz during the Second World War, he offered himself in exchange for the father of a large family who was to be executed. He was given a lethal injection when he failed to die fast enough from starvation in the concentration camp. John Paul II proclaimed him the Patron of Our Suffering Century.

Aug. 13 Optional Memorial of Saints Pontian, pope and martyr and Hippolytus, priest and martyr, Opt. Mem.

St. Pontian (Pontianus) was a victim of the persecution of Alexander Severus, who directed his attention particularly against the leaders of the Church. St. Pontian governed the Church from 230 to 235. He was exiled to the mines of Sardinia and died in exile. St. Hippoytus, a priest and a person of some importance in the Church in Rome at the beginning of the third century, provoked a schism which lasted for some years. He was exiled to Sardinia with St. Pontian, where he was reconciled with the Church and died for the faith in 235.

Aug. 12 Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday

"Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die (John 6:46-50)."

Aug. 11 Memorial of St. Clare, virgin, Memorial

St. Clare of Assisi was the first woman to practice the life of entire poverty as taught by St. Francis. Placed by him at the head of a few companions in the small convent of San Damiano, she governed her community for forty-two years thus founding at the gates of Assisi the Order of Poor Clares. Their Rule included austerities hitherto unknown in monasteries of women. They went barefoot, slept on the ground, kept perpetual abstinence and made poverty the basis of their lives. St. Clare died on August 11, 1253, and was canonized two years after her death.

Aug. 10 Feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, Feast

Lawrence was chief among the seven deacons who served the Roman Church during the mid-third century. The young cleric held a position of great trust, caring for the goods of the Church and distributing its alms among the poor. He was arrested under the Emperor Valerian in 258, laid upon a gridiron and slowly roasted to death. Lawrence rejoiced in his awful martyrdom and died praying for the conversion of the city of Rome, in the hope that from it the faith of Christ might spread throughout the world. From that time idolatry began to decline in Rome.

Aug. 9 Optional Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, virgin and martyr , Opt. Mem.

Edith Stein was born of Jewish parents in 1891, becoming an influential philosopher following her extensive studies at major German universities. After her conversion to Catholicism she became a major force in German intellectual life, entering the Discalced Carmelites in 1933. Sister Teresa Benedicta was arrested by the Nazi regime in 1942, along with all Catholics of Jewish extraction and transported by cattle train to the death camp of Auschwitz. She died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz that same year.

Aug. 8 Memorial of St. Dominic, priest, Memorial

At the end of the twelfth century the Church in France was ravaged by the Albigensian heresy, a doctrine which was not only entirely unchristian but which, in addition, constituted a social evil. Effective measures were required to be taken to combat it. Where others had failed, a Spanish canon, Dominic Guzman, succeeded. He was notable for his learning and love of poverty. The Order of Friars Preachers, which he founded about the year 1215, was endowed by him with these two characteristics; instead of manual labor, as practiced by the Cistercian monks, he required his friars to work with their minds by preaching and teaching. He died at Bologna on August 6, 1221. His friend, Gregory IX, canonized him three years later.

Aug. 7 Optional Memorial of Sts. Sixtus II, pope and martyr and companions, martyrs and Optional Memorial of St. Cajetan, priest, Opt. Mem.

With the future Pope Paul IV, St. Cajetan founded the first congregation of Clerks Regular, a new form of institute which corresponded with the needs of the time. Trust in God was its principal rule; its members were forbidden to ask for alms and depended entirely on the spontaneous charity of the faithful. Such was Cajetan's zeal in seeking the salvation of souls that he came to be called "the hunter of souls." He died at Naples on August 7, 1547.

Aug. 6 Feast of the Transfiguration, Feast

This feast became widespread in the West in the 11th century and was introduced into the Roman calendar in 1457 to commemorate the victory over Islam in Belgrade. Before that, the Transfiguration of the Lord was celebrated in the Syrian, Byzantine, and Coptic rites. The Transfiguration foretells the glory of the Lord as God, and His Ascension into heaven. It anticipates the glory of heaven, where we shall see God face to face. Through grace, we already share in the divine promise of eternal life.