“Hatred destroys; love alone creates,” Maximilian Kolbe
While in a Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, a prisoner escaped from his barracks, and in retaliation, the Nazis chose 10 men to execute by slow starvation. Franciszek Gajowniczek, one of the 10 chosen was distressed and cried out that he had a wife and children. Kolbe, who was a Catholic Priest of the Franciscan Order, offered to take Gajowniczek’s place.
Name: Maximilian Kolbe
Birth Date: January 8, 1894 – August 14, 1941
Job Functions: Catholic Priest
Known For: Died on behalf of Franciszek Gajowniczek
To get the most from The Invisible Mentor Profile of Maximilian Kolbe, while you are reading the profile in wisdom, reflectively answer the following questions:
- What can you learn from the Maximilian Kolbe?
- Look at the way you currently do your job, are there ideas from the profile that could help you to become more efficient?
- After reading the profile, what is one concrete action you can take?
- What are your five takeaways from the profile?
Maximilian Kolbe’s Unexpected Journey to Sainthood
- Born in 1894, Maximilian Kolbe was one of five sons of Julius Kolbe and Maria Dabrowska (two died before they reached the age of five).
- As a young teen, Kolbe attended business high school with his older brother Francis.
- In 1907, Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscans, which had just opened in Lwow (previously called Lemberg).
- On September 4, 1910, he entered the Conventual Franciscan Order’s novitiate where he took the name Maximilian (He was baptized Raymond Kolbe)
- On September 5, 1911, professed simple vows as a friar.
- In 1912 he went to a college in Rome to study philosophy, theology, mathematics, and physics.
- On November 1, 1914, professed solemn vows.
- In 1915 he earned a doctorate in philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
- On October 16, 1917, he founded the Militia Immaculatae (Knights of the Immaculata Movement) as a result of witnessing brutal demonstrations against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV in Rome. Kolbe’s intent for Militia Immaculatae was to convert sinners and enemies of the Catholic Church.
- On April 28, 1918, he was ordained a priest in Rome at S. Andre della Valle Church.
- In 1919 he earned a doctorate in theology at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure.
- In 1919 he returned to an independent Poland where he continued his evangelization work.
- In 1922, he launched the publication Rycerz Niepokalanej (Knight of the Immaculate). Monthly circulation grew to one million issues by 1939.
- In 1927, although he was suffering from tuberculosis, Kolbe convinced a local aristocrat to donate land where he founded a Franciscan friary and evangelization center, Niepokalanów (City of the Immaculate) near Warsaw.
- The seminary opened in 1929 then Kolbe left for Asia where he founded a similar seminary in Nagasaki, Japan in 1930. He spent six years building the Japanese mission.
- In 1936 he returned to Poland and focused on activities at Niepokalanów seminary where close to 1,000 men lived or studied there.
- During World War II, he provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, which included close to 2,000 Jews who he hid from Nazi persecution. He was sensitive to their religious orientation and made it possible for them to celebrate Jewish religious feasts.
- Held a radio license – SP3RN and decried Nazi actions.
- On February 17, 1941, after publishing an article entitled “Truth,” he was arrested by the Gestapo.
- On May 28, 1941, he was transferred from Pawlak jail in Warsaw and transported to Auschwitz concentration camp as prisoner #16670.
- While in the concentration camp, he was severely punished because he was a priest.
- Late July 1941, a man from Kolbe’s barracks disappeared (he was later found dead). SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, chose 10 men from the barracks to die slowly from starvation, in Block 13, as an example to prevent further escape attempts. Franciszek Gajowniczek was one of the 10 men chosen and he cried out, “My poor wife and children.” Kolbe announced that he would die in place of Franciszek Gajowniczek.
- He survived without food and water for nearly two weeks at which time the Nazis killed him by lethal injection of carbolic acid on August 14, 1941.
- On October 17, 1971Pope Paul VI beatified him.
- On October 10, 1982, Pope John Paul II canonized him with the title “Martyr of Charity.”
Biggest Accomplishments Why Maximilian Kolbe’s Contribution Matters
- Founded a Franciscan seminary near Warsaw (Niepokalanów) and a similar one in Nagasaki, Japan.
- During his imprisonment he listened to confessions, counseled other prisoners and held mass. He also gave away his watery soup or bread to other prisoners who he believed needed it more.
- He sacrificed his life for Franciszek Gajowniczek.
- When he hid the Jewish refugees he made it possible for them to celebrate their religious feats.
Lessons from Maximilian Kolbe
- The world is more than about you or me, other people matter.
- You do not have to die for another, but life involves making sacrifices.
- Life goes on. Although he was beaten and persecuted by Nazis in the concentration camp, he continued his work as a priest, ministering to others. He had a strong work ethic.
- He exposed others to his work – he traveled in Asia for several years and built a seminary in Nagasaki, Japan.
Why would Maximilian Kolbe make a good invisible mentor?
He stood for something and made his life matter. By observing Kolbe’s life we can learn a lot from him. “He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners and the pro-life movement. Pope John Paul II declared him the “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.”
- What do you want to be known for?
- What would you want your epitaph to say?
- What can you learn from Maximilian Kolbe’s work ethic?
- Start working toward your mission in life today.
- Life isn’t easy and you’ll encounter many speed bumps and valleys along the way, but never give up.
- Do something good for another.
Pope John Paul II – Requiem Father Kolbe
St Maximilian Kolbe
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Book links are affiliate links.
Encyclopedia of World Biography
New Catholic Encyclopedia
Performing Arts Journal
Toronto Star, August 20, 2009
Contemporary Heroes and Heroines