Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe. He was born in Poland. He became a Franciscan priest.
Maximilian lived in the time of World War One, the depression and the build-up of both Communism and Fascism.
Maximilian believed in communication as a tool in helping people’s and the world’s salvation.
He founded a newspaper and sodality called the Knights of Mary Immaculate, which spread in many places.
When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939 he was at Teresin where thousands of refugees were sheltered, most of them Jews.
1941 he was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz where, though a prisoner himself, ministered to the inmates.
When a prisoner escaped, the authorities in reprisal chose ten people to die of starvation. One man had a family and Maximilian offered to take his place. This was accepted, and as he himself was slowly dying he spent his last days comforting his fellow prisoners.
I visited Auschwitz in 2016 when I was accompanying young people to World Youth Day in Poland, as chaplain.
I looked at the amazing engineering that the Nazi regime had put into building the huge complex. The human mind can be so clever and innovative!
The potential for good is huge.
Then I looked at the crematorium and the many other terrible places that were used to kill people and to dispose of their bodies.
We can have the potential for so much evil!
I looked beyond the crematorium and beyond the guard tower on the perimeter of the camp. The forest was just outside. The trees were green and beautiful.
Rays of sun came through the trees and into the camp. They were full of life.
The light of God was able to penetrate through the darkness and gloom in this death camp.
It was the light of God that embraced St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Edith Stein, and so many others to become beacons of hope amidst so much evil!