“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Jesus said. This is exactly what St. Maximilian Kolbe did at Auschwitz, the infamous concentration camp in Poland. On Aug. 14, 1941, he offered to take the place of a condemned prisoner and died a martyr. But who is this Polish saint who was canonized by Blessed John Paul II? He was a Conventual Franciscan who was ordained priest in Rome. He had a deep devotion to Mother Mary and promoted a Marian sodality in Poland and other parts of the world. He went to Japan as a missionary to spread Christianity before being martyred at Auschwitz.
St. Maximilian lived the life of a missionary and of dedication to Jesus and Mary. In one letter he said, “The most resplendent manifestation of God’s glory is the salvation of souls. To work for the salvation and sanctification of souls is the preeminent purpose of the apostolic life.” He also said, “Let us love our loving Father with all our hearts. Jesus Christ crucified is our sublime guide toward growth in God’s love. We will learn this lesson more quickly through the Immaculate Virgin whom God has made the dispenser of His mercy.” Because of his apostolic zeal, St. Maximilian became a missionary and because of his love for the Father, he followed in the footsteps of Jesus and gave up his life as a supreme sacrifice of charity. Let us pray to St. Maximilian whenever our hearts become hardened and indifferent to others. He will inspire us to love our fellowmen out of love for God.