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On the 15th August the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The day before (today - 14 August) we celebrate one of her most renowned sons – Saint Maximilian Kolbe. He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans near his birthplace in Lvív, then in Poland but now in Ukraine becoming a novice at 16. Though Maximilian later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships. Ordained at 24, Maximilian saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day. His mission was to combat it. He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work, and suffering. He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata, a religious magazine under Our Ladys' protection to preach the Gospel to all nations. For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata” in Niepokalanow which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers. He later founded another one in Nagasaki, Japan. Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Our Blessed Lady. In 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland with deadly speed. Niepokalanow was severely bombed and subsequently Fr. Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In 1941, Fr. Kolbe was arrested again. The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders. The end came quickly, three months later in Auschwitz, after terrible beatings and humiliations. Offering to take the place of a prisoner selected to die in a starvation bunker, Fr. Kolbe endured weeks of depravation of food and drink along with 9 other prisoners. From the bunker only the sounds of prayer and the singing of hymns came forth. Fr. Kolbe was the last of the condemned to die, not of depravation but lethal injection. His death was not a sudden, last minute act of heroism. His whole life had been a preparation. His holiness was a limitless and passionate desire to convert the whole world to God. And his beloved Immaculata was his inspiration. Undoubtedly one of the great saints of the 20th century. St. Maxamilian Kolbe, pray for us.


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