I was the second of three sons born to a poor but pious Catholic family in Russian occupied Poland. I was known as a mischievous child, sometimes considered wild, and a trial to my parents. However, in 1906, at age twelve and around the time of my first Communion, I received a vision of the Virgin Mary that changed my life.
I entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lwow, Poland, in 1907, near my birthplace, and at 16 became a novice. Though I later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, I was deeply interested in science.
I was ordained at 24. I had a limitless, passionate desire to convert the whole world to God. I had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to teach the Gospel to all nations. For the work of publication I founded the monastery of Niepolalanow, the City of the Immaculate. This housed 700 of my Franciscan brothers. I went to Japan in 1930 and India in1932 and founded monasteries there. However, because I suffered from ill health, I had to return to Poland.
In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed. Niepolalanow was severely bombed. My friars and I were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. In 1941 I was arrested again and sent to Auschwitz where I suffered terrible beatings and humiliations. I was Number 16670.
Less than three months later, the commandant announced that ten men would die, because a prisoner had escaped. I offered to take the place of one man who had a wife and children. We were to be starved to death. There was no screaming – we sang. By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive. The jailer came to finish me off as I sat in a corner praying. I was injected with carbolic acid. My body was later burned along with all the others.
“Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes.”
St Maximilian Mary Kolbe
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