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 Maximilian Kolbe

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Born: January 7 or 8, 1894

Died: August 14, 1941

Canonized: October 10, 1982, by Pope John Paul II

Feast Day: August 14

Patron Saint of: political prisoners

Maximilian Kolbe was born of a poor family in 1894 in Zdunska Wola which is near Lodz, Poland. His parents' solid religious foundation led Maximilian to join the Franciscans at the age of 6 and was ordained a priest in Rome in 1919 at the age of 25. A struggle with tuberculosis forced him to return home where he instructed others in the faith. Maximilian was a highly respected mathematician, scientist and journalist. While in Poland, he published a Christian periodical which eventually became headquartered out of a newly established friary in Niepokalanow, Poland. In 1936, Maximilian relocated to Niepokalanow to take up the post of friar superior. When word came that Nazi Germany was moving toward Poland, Maximilian ordered the friars to flee, yet he remained to use the friary as a refuge for some 4500 Poles and Jews. He was captured by the Nazis in 1941 and was sent to the concentration camp Auschwitz on the 17th of February of that year, prisoner number 16670. The Catholic priests in this camp were singled out for cruel treatment and Maximilian Kolbe was no exception. He was horse-whipped by a guard 50 times and was left for dead. Maximilian Kolbe survived the beating and returned to comforting those suffering and dying. Shortly thereafter, one of the prisoners escaped the camp. In retaliation, and to discourage any future attempts at escape, the guards picked 10 men to die of starvation. Maximilian Kolbe negotiated the starvation sentence of one of those prisoners, a man named Francis Gajowniczek, by offering his life instead. Without food or water, the ten men died one at a time. Maximilian was that last to die, surviving for 14 days, comforting the other nine men during their torture and death. Impatient, Maximilian's captors ended his life by lethal injection of carbolic acid.