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« Religion of Peace: Why Christianity Is And Islam Isn’t | Main | Solemnity Of The Assumption - August 15th »

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Atlanta Catholic

What a great post Thomistic. Thank you for sharing the story of this unselfish priest who became a saint. How many people did not have to suffer due to his unselfishness? How many people would have suffered if he had only thought of his own feelings and comfort? I read that when St. Maximillian Kolbe was a young boy, the Blessed Mother appeared to him. Our Lady offered him one of two crowns, a red crown and a white crown. St Maximillian chose both. White for purity and red for martyrdom.


My friend informs me that Fr. Kolbe is an incorruptible. I would have assumed that his body would have been burned or buried in a mass grave, but she insists they have it somewhere. Is this true?,


St. Maximilian Kolbe was cremated at Auchwitz. However, I have heard there are relics of his hair.




St Maximilian Kolbe is a wonderful model of manly virtue for all those who think that suffering is what weak people do in dangerous situations. Thank you for this post.
Considering some of the questions asked of me in Rel. Ed., this would be a great saint to highlight this year. Despite all the modern heroes introduced to our kids, their love for the saints and their attraction to their stories seems universal and undiminished.
Maximilian Kolbe tops Harry Potter any day!

Katherine Therese

St. Maximilian Kolbe is one of my most favorite saints as well. I named my youngest son after him. St. Maximilian, pray for us!


A wonderful book of his life is "Forget Not Love". Highly recommend it.



Great makes should us realize that through God's love he gives us strength...the human frailities we experience can be overcome through prayer and penance in honor of the "The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century" and all of the saints. Thank you.


Not to be a fly in the ointment here...

I don't question St. Maximilian's sanctity nor his incredible bravery but I do have a problem with his classification as a martyr.

I would expect that a martyr would have to give his life (objectively and directly) for Christ or the Church. What St M did was brave beyond measure but did it make him worthy of martyr status?


The term martyr (Greek μάρτυς "witness") initially signified a witness in the forensic sense, a person called to bear witness in legal proceedings. With this meaning it was used in the secular sphere as well as in both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible. The process of bearing witness was not intended to lead to the death of the witness, although it is known from ancient writers (e.g. Josephus) that witnesses, especially of the lower classes, were tortured routinely before being interrogated as a means of forcing them to disclose the truth. During the early Christian centuries the term acquired the extended meaning of a believer who witnesses to his or her religious belief and on account of this witness endures suffering and death.

One is a martyr if he or she lays down their life for any aspect of the Catholic faith. St. Maximilian gave up his life out of charity for another human being, and he did so as a witness to the Catholic faith. He identified himself as a Catholic priest when he offered his life in place of the man who lived.

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)





I agree with the first part of your comment as it speaks to etymology.

The second part, however,is more problematic.

The notion that sacrificing one's life (in charity) for another is an aspect of the Catholic faith smacks of novelty. That's a service to one's fellow man - not a laying down of one's life for Christ or the Church.

If I push an old Muslim woman out of the way of a speeding car knowing that I will die as a result, am I a martyr? I may have been motivated by my Catholic faith but I would argue that the act would speak to my convictions, bravery, etc.

It might make me a Confessor, but certainly not a martyr.



I will look into your question further when I have time.

I'm sure declaring him a martyr was "kosher" otherwise, Pope John Paul II wouldn't have done it.




As far as the martyr definition goes, I can tell you what I’ve heard but I’d still like to see what Thomistic says.

I listened to a conversation of people who are knowledgeable about such things and it was their opinion that a martyr is someone who dies for, or because of their witness of, the faith.

Maximilian Kobe was sent to Auschwitz specifically because he was a Catholic priest. People who were sent to Auschwitz were sent there to die – let’s not kid ourselves about that. That’s why he is a martyr.

The conversation I was privy to was in regards to Catholic chaplains who die on the battlefield. (We were discussing specifically the book “The Grunt Padre” by Fr. Daniel Mode, which I highly recommend.) Anyway, it is the story of a priest who died on the battlefield during Vietnam. He had been wounded in a vicious battle but refused to leave the men and died in the heart of the battle zone because he was trying to administer the last rites to all the men who lay wounded and dying. Although he, no doubt, was a very courageous and holy priest, it was pointed out that he was killed as a U.S. soldier and is not a martyr.

I don’t know if this is correct or not, but it was an interesting conversation.

(As an aside, most of the chaplains who die in battle or receive purple hearts, and other awards are Catholic. Fr. Mode speculated from conversations he had with the protestant ministers that a Catholic priest has a sacramental reason to be there where the protestant ministers are just waiting to go home to their families like everyone else. And for the priest, the men he serves become like his family and therefore takes greater risks for them. Interesting, huh?)

a different Steve

The speeding car didn't hit you because you were Catholic. Big difference.

Just to echo carolg, St. Maxilimian was arrested twice because of his activities as a Catholic priest. He wasn't a Jew; he wasn't a soldier. He was a Catholic priest...and a very vocal one and the Nazis did not like it. After being released from prison the first time, he continued his work with greater fervor using his radio station to vilify the Nazi occupation of Poland in addition to his original goal of the conversion of souls. Fr. Kolbe sent most of the friars of Niepokalanów into hiding. He would not go into hiding. He continued his media efforts and also sheltered thousands of Jewish refugees at Niepokalanow. While at Auschwitz, Kolbe was singled out for special abuse because he was a priest. He took all the abuse without a word of complaint while praying for the conversion of his captors. He risked further abuse by administering the sacraments in the evenings. Like carolg stated, the Nazis didn't send people to the camps for rehabilitation and he certainly wasn't going to be paroled. Fr. Kolbe didn't get a quick death. His death was slow, miserable, and lasted several months. Not the romantic view of a quick, violent martyr's death, but a martyr's death nonetheless.

a different Steve

Thomistic is correct. The only relics of St. Maximilian is some hair that a brother saved after he cut Fr. Kolbe's hair. Fr. Kolbe saw this and told the brother to throw the hair away. The brother complied with the order from his superior but took the hair out of the trash once Fr. Kolbe left.


That was a smart brother!



I have a question about St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Abouth 3 weeks ago, I traveld to New York City and, with my parents, decided to take a break from walking and shopping on 5th Ave. To do this, we went into St. Patrick's Cathedral. Granted, I had walked passed it on previous trips, but I had never ventured inside. Sitting in the pews from over 100 years ago, I was awe-struck by the beauty and intricate detail. After a few minutes of rest, I started walking around.

As I wandered through the cathedral, I came up to one of the many side altars/shrines. The focal point was an Icon of the Virgin Mary and around it were other Icons in the Byzantine Style(I was not used to seeing Byzantine-type Iconography in a Catholic Church!). To the left was one of a man that wore glasses and was dressed Monastically. On his right breast, though, a portion of the material was removed and I could see the pin-stripes reminiscent of the German Concentration Camps and also two insignias of concentration life: The ID code and a Pink Triangle. I was interested in this Icon and took a picture (unfortunately I lost my camera on the trip).

Coming back home to Chicago, I had talked to my priest after Divine Liturgy (I am Greek Orthodx)about this Icon I had seen. He informed me that: A: It is common now to find Icons in the Byzantine Style in Western Churches (as I am used to only seeing them only in Orthodox ones); and B: The Icon I saw was that of St. Maximilian Kolbe. He told me the story and I was amazed by his great life and his tragic death in the Death Camps. He seemed to be a great man; and on doing more research on him, he seemed extraordinary. It was a wonderful deed that the Catholic Church Canonized him.

My Question, after all this background, is why is he depicted having a pink triangle? I know what that insignia meant in Nazi Germany, but why was he given that?

Hope you can answer my question,
Peter in Chicago.


Peter in Chicago - Is this the painting you mean?

The triangle does not look pink to me, it looks red. Furthermore it has a P in it for "Pole". So it means he is Polish - a country Germany considered an "enemy of the Reich".

Yes I just looked it up and "P" on a red triangle stood for "Pole" or a Polish national (citizen of Poland). Any conquered nation was considered by the Nazis to be an enemy. They did not treat political prisoners well in camps.


Look at the chart at the bottom. A P with red triangle signifies a Polish citizen.

Look at all of the different triangles - I didn't realise that women could be jailed simply for using birth control or for prostitution. Also Jehovah's Witnesses and vagrants had triangles.


Apologies. This was the link I meant in the prior post, with the chart at the bottom. This lists the meanings of concentration camp triangle patches.


Father of Maximilian

Hello there,
My wife and I delivered our own baby, unintentionally as he just 'wanted out', in our kitchen a few weeks ago.
We were researching names that would beget the incredible birth we encountered and came upon the awe inspiring story of Saint Maximilian (Kolbe). Well, you can imagine what we did next ...we decided that name would be our child's name !! He will carry it with him for eternity. This one priest has , and will continue to have, a great impact on the world.
We must hold people like him in the highest regard as the Roman Catholic Church felt it necessary to do.

Here is the story of 'our' Maximilian's birth Please visit if you have time and feel free to leave any feedback.


God Bless

~Robert (Father of Maximilian)

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