Lent Reflection: Fr Maxillian Kolbe

By David Morson

The nearest example that helps me understand Jesus’s sacrifice for us the most is that of one of the most recent canonised Saints of the Catholic Church Fr Maximillian Kolbe. Fr Kolbe was a Polish Priest arrested by the Nazi’s for his courageous outspoken criticism of the Nazi regime. He was imprisoned in Auschwitz.

One morning the Kommandant of the Camp assembled all the prisoners and randomly chose a number of them to die in the underground hunger cells in punishment for an escape the night before. Fr Kolbe was not one of the prisoners chosen, but one man who was chosen fell on his knees in tears, crying out that he would never see his wife and children again. Fr Kolbe then came forward and offered to take the man’s place. The Kommandant was puzzled and stunned by Fr Kolbe’s action, but agreed to the exchange.

Jesus had said at the Last Supper, “No greater love has any man that He who lays down his life for His friend.” Fr Kolbe demonstrated that ultimate sacrifice of love and also sustained the other prisoners in the cells with prayers and hymns until he was the last to survive and had to be physically killed with a saline injection.

Last week, Des sent us an article from the “Tablet” about how St Corona accepted death rather than denounce Jesus and her Christian Faith. Fortunately for us, it is unlikely that we will have to make such choices ourselves, but I am sure we have all heard of good people making sacrifices for others in an heroic manner, such as donating a kidney to another or a marrow bone. Mother Theresa sacrificed her life by helping in a seemingly helpless caring for those dying alone in Calcutta. During the Black Death St Alyoisius cared for his fellow brothers throughout the Plague until he himself succumbed to it just before it subsided.

For us, we can be overwhelmed by these examples of extreme goodness. But we too can share in the sacrifice of Jesus by doing whatever we do in our lives whether it be parents, employees, carers, husbands and wives, single people, if we do it out of unselfish love. We can give our lives for others in this way.

A wonderful conclusion to the story of Fr Maximillian Kolbe was that when John Paul II beatified him in St Peters, the man who he saved was present with his wife,children and grandchildren! So, Fr Kolbe’s sacrifice really did give new life to others, a form of resurrection,