St. Maximilian Kolbe (Priest and Martyr)

As a child, Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) had a deep devotion to Our Lady. On one occasion he had a vision in which Mary offered him either a white garment, symbolizing purity, or a red one, symbolizing martyrdom. “I choose both,” the boy replied. His heart was transfixed by Our Lady. Later he prayed that when he died, he would be blessed with departing life on a Feast Day of the Blessed Mother.

Maximilian entered the Franciscan Order at age thirteen, and was ordained a priest in 1918. After serving some years as a humble parish priest, Fr. Kolbe was named director of one of the largest Catholic publishing firms in Poland.

To better “win the world for the Immaculata,” St. Maximilian’s friars utilized the most modern printing and administrative techniques. This enabled them to publish countless catechetical and devotional tracts, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000, and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. Maximilian started a shortwave radio station and planned to build a motion picture studio — he was a true “Apostle of the Mass Media.”

Following the German conquest of Poland in 1939, he (like many priests) was arrested, but soon released. Maximilian devoted himself to helping Jewish refugees. When the Nazis discovered this, he was again arrested and sent to Auschwitz in 1941. There he tried to set an example of faith and hope for the other prisoners.

When a prisoner escaped from camp, the Germans chose ten men at random and sentenced them to death by starvation; one of them was a Polish sergeant, Franciszek Gajowniczek, whom Kolbe had befriended. Fr. Kolbe left his place in the ranks and asked permission from the commandant to take Gajowniczek’s place. The shocked German officer agreed, and Kolbe and nine others were taken away to die. Maximilian helped the others prepare for death. He was the last to succumb, dying on August 14, the eve of the Assumption.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Vigil of the Assumption

St. Eusebuis (357), Priest, Martyr

  • Guest

    "Following the German conquest of Poland in 1939". Easy sentence for a non-Pole to make, it smacks of literary expediency and incompetance. There was no conquest, there was an invasion, there was subjugation, there was oppression and suffering but there was no conquest. In fact it was the opposite. Poland was the first to say: We will not do the "sig heil! and never did. The author might as well have said that St. Maximillian was conquered by the commendant. Poland, like Fr. Kolbe chose their fate and chose their white and red colors. Political only conquest was later wraught by the Allies, all of that smacked of political expediency and gross incompetance.


  • Arkanabar Ilarsadin

    “When a prisoner escaped from camp, the Germans chose ten men at random and sentenced them to death by starvation…”

    That prisoner did not escape from the camp. He died in Auschwitz, but in a place where the Nazis did not find him for days after Fr. Kolbe and the others died.