The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century

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I remember when I was invited to select a saint for Confirmation along with my 8th grade classmates.  Being 25% Polish, I first looked into the Polish saints, and one of the first I read about was Saint Maximilian Kolbe.  After reading about his life and eventual martyrdom, I chose him to be my Confirmation Saint, but he’s been so much more to me than that.

Since I was young, I have wanted to die a martyr’s death.  I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I learned that it’s one of the quickest ways to Heaven and Sainthood (because martyrdom is dying for your faith in Jesus), maybe it’s because you don’t hear about many martyrs these days, but I have desired it nonetheless.  So, it kind of makes sense why I wanted a martyr to be my patron saint.

St. Maximilian Kolbe grew up in the early 1900’s and he led an honorable life.  As a boy, he had the honor and privilege of the Virgin Mary appearing to him.  She offered him 2 crowns, one white representing a life of purity, and the other red representing a martyr’s death.  Mary asked which he would wear, and he answered both.  That was such an amazing decision to me, because I never would have imagined becoming a priest at the time (which I saw the white crown representing) and because I wouldn’t have thought to pick both.  St. Max had the courage to ask for both a life of complete and perfect purity AND a martyr’s death.  That blew me away.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was devoted to our Mother from then on.  Even before he became a Franciscan priest, he began the Militia Immaculata, or Army of Mary (I didn’t know this group started before he became a priest – I learned this in my research on www.catholic.org, a good resource for more info).  He spread the movement around the world through a magazine called “The Knight of the Immaculata.”

Probably the most widely known story of St. Maximilian Kolbe occurs during World War II.  During the War, St. Maximilian was imprisoned twice by the Nazis.  After his second arrest in 1941, he was sent to theAuschwitzconcentration camp.  During his time there, a fellow prisoner escaped.  As a result, the camp commander chose 10 men to die of starvation as a form of punishment and warning to discourage more breakouts.  One of the men chosen fell to his knees and begged for mercy, crying out, “My wife!  My children!”  St. Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward, said he was a Catholic priest, and offered to take his place, which they gladly obliged.  During their imprisonment in the tiny cell known as “The Death Block” (probably only about 60 square feet), Kolbe led his fellow prisoners in songs and prayers, even treating them when they became sick.  Two weeks after the imprisonment began, only Kolbe was still alive.  On August 14, 1941, the guards lethally injected him.  Kolbe even raised his arm in anticipation – he couldn’t wait to go see Mary in Heaven.

Blessed John Paul II canonized St. Maximilian Kolbe, proclaiming him a martyr, while also declaring him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century.”  This is just one of the many reasons I love this saint.  He has been a constant guardian for me, looking out for me, praying for me, and helping me through the difficult situations in my life.  I recommend getting close to this saint, he will help you change your life.

 
Brett Drvol

About Brett Drvol

Born and raised in Omaha, NE, Brett is a die-hard Husker and Royals fan. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he became involved in FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, and eventually became a FOCUS Missionary at Ball State University in Muncie, IN and Bradley University in Peoria, IL. He has since retired from FOCUS Staff and works as an engineer in Omaha, where he lives with 4 other men in a house to help each other grow closer to Christ through His Catholic Church.