Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The ultimate sacrifice

     On August 15th in 1941, a forty seven year old Franciscan priest from Poland was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid and died.  His body was cremated in the ovens at Auschwitz, were he had been a prisoner since May 28th of that year.  His death came after a two week period of starvation which he had survived. His feast is celebrated today, the 14th of August, since the 15th is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  His name is Father Maximilian Mary Kolbe, a saint of the Church.

     Father Maximilian Kolbe had been arrested in his native Poland by the Nazi's because he was an intellectual, a noted communicator through the press and radio (he led a group that published a monthly magazine and a daily newspaper that at its high point reached 230,000 people), and one who resisted the regime.

     He accomplished many things in his lifetime, including a great devotion to Mary, a great defense against the enemies of the Church, and a effective ministry for six years to the people of Japan ... but his greatest achievement was found in his last actions.  At the end of July, a few prisoners escaped the confines of Auschwitz.  The commandant was furious, and order a number of random prisoners to be put to death in retaliation.  One of those chosen was a young man named Franciszek Gajowniczek, who cried out for mercy since he had a wife and child.  Hearing this, Father Maximilian stepped forward and offered to take this man's place.  Franciszek was spared, and Father Maximilian "laid down his life for another".   His death was the greatest witness that he could give of following in the footsteps of Christ and laying down his life for another.  If I remember correctly, Franciszek Gajowniczek was present at his canonization on the 10th of October in 1982. At a time when all too many "look out for number one", his witness gives a tremendously necessary lesson for which we are grateful.

1 comment:

  1. Great story...always enjoy your history lessons in the bulletin as well.