St. Maksymilian Maria Kolbe

Rajmund Kolbe was born on January 8, 1894 in Zdunska Wola town near Lodz city. His parents had deal with spinning cottage industry. All his family lived only in one room.  There was a statue of Our Lady, where the family was praying at the beginning and ending a day, in the room niche. Rajmund’s parents belonged to the Third Order of St. Francis. Rajmund and his brothers were taught at home cause of lack of Polish schools, and their parents hadn’t wanted them to be taught in Russian school. Rajmund was gifted in mathematical ability and he started helping his parents as a shop assistant very quickly.

In 1907, after parish retreats leading by Franciscan, Rajmund decided to join the conventual Franciscans. With the permission of their parents, he and his brothers went to the minor seminary in Lviv, where Maksymilian Maria Kolbe was attending to the junior high school running by monks. He joined novitiate in September 1910. At an investiture he was given the name Maksymilian.

He started studying in Crakow (Krakow) in autumn 1912. Then he was sent by superiors to study in Rome. He was Ph.D. graduated in philosophy and theology. Maksymilian made a solemn vow and he was given the name of Maria on November 1, 1914. At that time his favourite book was “the Story of a Soul” written by St. Therese of Child Jesus. He got minor orders on November 29, 1914, and graduated at Ph. D. with honours at the Gregorian University on October 28, 1915.
Soon after that, Maksymilian Maria founded the society (Militia Immaculatae) in Rome.  He got the ordinations to the deacons in 1917 and to the priest one year later. After returning, Maksymilian Maria developed the Militia Immaculatae activity. He started publishing “the Knight of the Immaculata” magazine. The monthly was catechetical magazine for mass-marketed (its circulation was one million copies in 1938).

In 1927, Maksymilian Maria founded a monastery at Niepokalanow town. He built it at the ground donated by Jan Drucki-Lubecki. He started printing there i.e. “the Knight of the Immaculata” magazine and also popular “the Little Daily” from 1935. His both magazines were not only about religious themes, but also social, political and cultural sphere. Between 1931-1935 he travelled to Japan in the meantime, where he founded convent called Japanese Niepokalanow (Mugenzai no Sono -Garden of the Immaculate).
The fame of this place was increasing. About 1800 candidates were applying there every year. Father Kolbe entertained personally applying candidates. There was a limit to 100 people. The main condition of admission was desire for holiness. Niepokalanow had got their own radio station since 1938.

After the outbreak of World War II he was exported, with 303 other prisoners, by Hitlerites to Auschwitz concentration camp on May 28, 1941, where he received striped prison uniform and prisoner number 16670. He was assigned to branch of “Bloody” Krott who was a famous criminal.
To save a life of co-prisoner Franciszek Gajowniczek, Maksymilian Maria Kolbe chose voluntairly the death of starvation. Accustomed to starvation, he stayed alive without bread and water for two weeks. Finally, he was killed by dose of phenol injected by Hitlerites. His death is dated on August 14, 1941 in the Assumption of the Blesses Virgin Mary Eve. His body was cremated. The rescued co-prisoner Franciszek Gajowniczek survived the concentration camp and died in 1995, at the age of 94.  
Father Kolbe was beatified by the Pope Paul VI in Rome on October 17, 19 and Canonised by the Pope John Paul II, during his second Pilgrimage to the Homeland, on October 10, 1982.

 

Places connected with St. Maksymilian Maria Kolbe:

- Niepokalanow (around Warsaw): http://www.niepokalanow.pl/start.php
- The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum: http://auschwitz.org/