‘Let us consider the tragic and sublime conclusion of Maximilian Kolbe’s innocent and apostolic life. It is mainly to this that we owe the glorification of the meek humble, hard working religious, exemplary follower of St Francis and knight in love with Mary Immaculate that the Church celebrates today. The circumstances of his departure from this life are so horrible and harrowing that we would prefer not to speak of them, and never to contemplate them again, in order not to see the depths of inhuman degradation to which the abuse of power can lead, an abuse which seeks to make a pedestal of grandeur and glory from the impassive cruelty it inflicts upon helpless beings that it has degraded to the rank of slaves and doomed to extermination. There were millions of these victims sacrificed to the pride of force and the madness of racism. Nevertheless it is necessary to scan this dark picture again in order to pick out, here and there, the gleams of surviving humanity. Alas, history cannot forget these frightful and tragic pages. And so it cannot but fix its horrified gaze on the luminous points that reveal, but at the same time overcome, their inconceivable darkness.
One of these points, perhaps the one glowing most brightly, is the calm, drained figure of Maximilian Kolbe. A serene hero, always pious and sustained by a paradoxical, yet reasonable confidence. His name will remain among the great; it will reveal what reserves of moral values lay among those unhappy masses, petrified by horror and despair.
Over this immense vestibule of death hovers a divine and imperishable word of life, that of Jesus revealing the secret of innocent suffering: to be the expiation, the victim, the burnt sacrifice and, above all, to be love for others. “There is no greater love than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. Jesus was speaking of himself in the imminence of his sacrifice for the salvation of men. Men are all friends of Jesus, if they at least listen to his words. Father Kolbe fulfilled his maxim of redeeming love in the fatal concentration camp of Oswiecim. And this by a double title’.
from the homily of Pope St Paul VI, 1897-1978
at the Beatification Mass for St Maximilian Kolbe, 17 October 1971
Most gracious God, who didst fill thy Priest and Martyr Maximilian Kolbe with zeal for thine house and love of his neighbour: vouchsafe that, helped by the prayers of this devoted servant of the immaculate Mother of God; we too may strive to serve others for thy glory, and become like unto thy dear Son, who loved his own even unto the end; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
Fr Lee Kenyon