SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE: A PROPHET OF HOPE
Originally published by Blessed Is She
Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, in one of his essays, relays his experience in Auschwitz. A Jew was being executed while the rest of the camp watched aghast. As he hung on the gallows, struggling in the throes of death, an onlooker muttered under his breath, “Where is God?”
At that moment, Wiesel says, a voice within resounded, “There, on the gallows, where else?”
There is something especially galling about the innocent being killed. Our hearts freeze when we hear news of lives lost by the ruthlessness of indifference. Yet, what is it about men and women, who though stripped of everything, except the bare reality of existence, can find in such darkness, a flickering flame of hope?
How is it possible for hearts to burn with intense charity, even as mercilessness hangs as thick as a fog?
The Feast of Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Maximillian Kolbe, patron of prisoners and living testimony to the shining light of Christ amidst the darkest moments of human history.
When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Maximilian Kolbe was serving as a priest. He was immediately arrested and taken to Auschwitz where he was stripped of any vestige of his former life, his habit taken away and replaced by a prisoner’s striped uniform.
One day, in 1941, in retaliation for the escape of a prisoner, ten men in Maximilian’s cellblock were chosen randomly to be executed. One of those men cried out, “What will happen to my wife and my children?” Moved by his plight, Maximilian volunteered to take his place and the substitution was allowed.
What followed were weeks of unimaginable horror. The prisoners were stripped naked, forced into a bunker, and deprived of food and water. Two weeks later, impatient that prisoners were not dying fast enough, Maximilian and four others were executed by carbolic acid injections.
Leading to this death, eyewitnesses recounted Maximilian’s countenance as one bright and radiant, burning with unparalleled zeal as he sang hymns and encouraged fellow prisoners.
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