In the last week, we have been remembering and thinking about those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we might be free. Amid the horror and suffering of conflict, stories of heroism and self sacrifice often emerge. Maximillian Kolbe was born in Poland at the turn of the 20th century. He was Roman Catholic priest known for his care for the needy. When WW II broke out, he sheltered refugees and became a wanted man by the German Gestapo. Soon enough, Kolbe was arrested and transferred to Auschwitz in 1941. At Auschwitz, a man from Kolbe’s barracks vanished, prompting the Commandant to select ten men to be starved to death as penalty.
One of the men chosen, Francis Gawanichek, cried out for his life. Immediately, Kolbe stepped forward shouting: “Take me Commandant. I am old and alone. I have no family.” Let me go in his place.” So, along with the others Fr Kolbe, was taken into a holding cell. The time in that confinement was astonishing. Rather than loud laments being heard, the men were encouraged and led in songs and prayer, by Kolbe. Bruno Borgowiec, an eyewitness of those last terrible days wrote: “In the cell of the poor souls there were daily loud prayers, the rosary and singing, in which prisoners from neighboring cells also joined. Fervent prayers and songs to resounded in all the corridors of the Bunker. I had the impression I was in a church. Fr Kolbe bore up bravely, he did not beg and did not complain but raised the spirits of the others. Two weeks passed in this way.
After all the others had died, Fr Kolbe, himself gave his arm to the one who took his life. Through love, encouragement and hope, Kolbe had extended and enriched the lives of the others. Maximillian Kolbe’s self sacrificial life was never forgotten. So, on October 10, 1982, he was canonized by Pope John Paul II in the presence of Francis Gajownicze- attending with his children and grandchildren.
Friends, as we have been remembering loved ones who gave their lives for us in the World Wars, or proceeding conflicts, we may wonder if there is hope for peace. The words of the Revelation to John were of great encouragement to Kolbe and for us. We are reminded of the truth that God is preparing a place where there will only be peace, joy and where hope will be realized. A place that we can enjoy if we trust Jesus. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”
So, what was it that enabled Fr Kolbe to endure. Was he superhuman? Was he a positive thinker? Fr Kolbe put his hope not in his own good thoughts or ability to stand up in the face of torture, rather he allowed God to work in Him and he put his hope in the One who paid the ultimate sacrifice for Him 2000 years before. While you or I may never share a similar experience to Kolbe, we do have the opportunity allow Jesus to grow and mature in us such that we can stand up in whatever opposition we face.
In His Peace, Rob+