"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
This is the statue in Westminster Abbey of St. Maximilian Kolbe, martyr of Auschwitz, who famously gave his life for another.
FOR MILLIONS the bleak image of the gates of the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau have come to symbolize an age of genocide. The commemoration of one Christian man who died there, in light of the destruction of five million Jewish lives between 1941-5, may give us reason to hesitate. But Maximilian Kolbe, who died as prisoner 16770 in Auschwitz-Birkenau, is much remembered in the Christian Church. He offered his own life to save a fellow prisoner, Franciszek Gajowniczek, condemned to death by the camp authorities after a successful escape by a fellow prisoner…
At Auschwitz [Fr. Kolbe] was known discreetly to give his own food to other prisoners, even as his own health crumbled, to hear confessions and, in the face of stern prohibitions, to celebrate Mass. It was late in July 1941 that a prisoner in his own block escaped, and now Kolbe stepped forward to make his sacrifice.
In the starvation cell six of the ten who had been selected died within two weeks. Kolbe was still fully conscious when, on the eve of the Assumption of Mary, 14 August 1941, he was killed by lethal injection.
The cell where he died is now a shrine…His image may be found in churches across Europe.
Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of another in being starved to death in an act of reprisal by camp authorities.
To discourage escapes, the camp had a rule that if a man escaped, ten men would be killed in retaliation. In July 1941, a man from Kolbe's bunker escaped…
The ten were selected, including Franciszek Gajowniczek, imprisoned for helping the Polish Resistance. He couldn't help a cry of anguish. "My poor wife!" he sobbed. "My poor children! What will they do?"
When he uttered this cry of dismay, Maximilian stepped silently forward, took off his cap, and stood before the commandant and said, "I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children"…
Kolbe was thrown down the stairs of Building 13 along with the other victims and simply left there to starve. One by one, the men died of hunger and thirst. Maximilian Kolbe encouraged the others with prayers, psalms, and meditations on the Passion of Christ. After two weeks, only four were alive. The cell was needed for more victims, and the camp executioner…came in and injected a lethal dose of carbolic acid into the left arm of each of the four dying men…
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You'd think many would find the example of St. Maximilian Kolbe germane to the case of Terri Schiavo in Florida.