His Holiness John Paul II began his homily at the canonization of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr of charity, with the words, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). John Paul II added that Maximilian, “was granted the grace of carrying out these words of the Redeemer in an absolutely literal manner.”
Maximilian was born in Poland. He joined the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Conventual and his ordination to the priesthood followed in 1918. He founded the Militia of the Immaculata, a pious association in the service of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which came to publish a monthly magazine. For his writing in the magazine, the Nazis ultimately incarcerated Maximilian as prisoner 16670 at the Auschwitz concentration camp. After an escape from the camp in the summer of 1941, the Nazis arbitrarily condemned ten prisoners to die in a starvation bunker. Maximilian voluntarily offered his life in the place of a married prisoner with children. After weeks of harsh treatment, the Nazis finally martyred Maximilian, the last of the ten condemned, by lethal injection on 14 August 1941.
In the words of John Paul II, “Maximilian prepared for this definitive sacrifice by following Christ from the first years of his life in Poland. From these years comes the mysterious vision of two crowns – one white and one red. From these our saint does not choose. He accepts them both. From the years of his youth, in fact, Maximilian was filled with great love of Christ and the desire for martyrdom.” The feast of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe is celebrated on 14 August.
(This narrative is printed on the back of Note Cards. A copy is included with each plaque.)
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