August 28, 2013: Martyr of Charity

~ by Mary Galvano

During my pilgrimage to Poland for the International Eucharistic Congress back in 1997 one of my most moving experiences was visiting the prison cell of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe at the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was an unexpected visit of emotions for me because as a person growing up in America after WWII, I never really understood what really went on for the countries under communist rule during that time. It is a trip I wish more Americans would take to understand how good they have it here in the States. And how freedom of religion is a pretty good thing.

As I walked down the dark narrow hallway of the camp, our group came to a small cell no bigger than a small closet and in there was set up a memorial for the heroic saint. He died to save another.

Kolbe’s life was strongly influenced by a childhood vision of the Virgin Mary that he later described:

“That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a Child of Faith. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”

St. Maximilian took his vow to become a Franciscan friar and later started the Immaculata Friars which was an Army of Mary in order to convert souls. I had the honor of visiting the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculata in Niepokalanow, Poland. Miximilian’s Francisican friary is right next door. The basilica had an enormous medalion of the Blessed Mother above the tabernacle and there were ribbons of blue, white, and gold coming down from the ceiling. There is a moving memorial outside in honor of St. Kolbe.

His crime was doing good for others; showing love and compassion to the Jews. During the Second World War, St. Kolbe provided shelter to refugees from Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary. On February 17th, 1941, he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On May 28th, he was transferred to Aushwitz as prisoner #16670.

At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting the deputy camp commander to pick 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, , cried out, “My wife! My children!”, Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

In the starvation cell, he celebrated Mass each day and sang hymns with the prisoners. He led the other condemned men in song and prayer and encouraged them by telling them they would soon be with Mary in Heaven. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied and they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Some who were present at the injection say that he raised his left arm and calmly waited for the injection. He died on August 14, 1941 at the age of 47 and his remains were cremated on August 15th, the feast of the Assumption of Mary.

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe is a great saint and one to think of on his feast day, August 14. Rememer him in your prayers this week. He is the patron saint against drug addictions, drug addicts, families, imprisoned people, journalists, political prisoners, prisoner, and the pro-life movement.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, please pray for us, and thank you for being an example of great love of neighbor for all of us.

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Mary Galvano-Bajohr is a singer/songwriter, LPGA golf instructor, speaker and author. On the golf course she is a dedicated professional, but go to a Yankee game, a Pro-life event or other venue and you just might see her step up to the microphone and sing the National Anthem or the Ave Maria.

Visit Mary’s website at www.marygalvano.com.

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