Born Raymond Kolbe, Saint Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in the final years of the 19th century to a devout Roman Catholic family, so devout that his father ran a Catholic bookstore and was later hanged by the Russian occupiers as a traitor simply because of his faith. After her children were raised, his mother became a nun. Both of St. Maximilian's brothers became priests.

When Raymond Kolbe was twelve years old, he had a private vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the vision, the Blessed Mother held two crowns out to him in her hands. One was white, the other red. The white meant that he would be pure and chaste, the red that he would be a martyr. Asked which one he chose, Raymond said that he wanted both.

When sixteen years old, Raymond took the name Maximilian Mary and made his first holy vows in the Conventual Franciscan Order. His seminary years were marked with excellent performance.

In 1922, Father Maximilian published the first issue of "The Knight of the Immaculata", a magazine dedicated to strengthening faith and increasing devotion to the Blessed Virgin. By the late twenties, when Father Max founded his first monastery, the press run for the magazine was well over 70,000 issues, making it the most successful religious magazine of its time. A daily newspaper was added, as well, also with an immense run.

In 1930, Father Maximilian went to Japan to aid in the spread of the Catholic faith there and began publishing a Japanese language version of "The Knight of the Immaculata". Additionally, he founded a monastery in Nagasaki, which miraculously survived the A-bombing in World War II, before he headed to India to found his third monastery before returning to Poland due to ill health.

In 1939, Father Max was arrested by the Nazis for the first time. Released a few months later, he continued with his publishing ministry. By this time, the magazine and newspaper were denouncing Hitler and his regime and the monastery was helping hide Jewish refugees. Father Max was arrested once again, in 1941. Sent to Auschwitz, Father Max was beaten and tortured by the guards, and left for dead at least once after a particularly brutal beating. In the camp hospital, he spent his recuperation time hearing the confessions of other Catholic prisoners.

Just short while after he was imprisoned at Auschwitz, a fellow prisoner escaped. The camp rules required that ten men be chosen at random to be executed in retribution for the one escape. Among the ten chosen was a married man who had small children. Father Max asked for, and was granted, permission to take Francis Gajownizcek's place in the death house.

Then began the final ministry of Father Max's life. Led to the starvation block, Father Max was denied all food and water. He celebrated the Mass each day while in the block, heard confessions, gave comfort as he was able, and spent most of his time in prayer.

After three weeks, Father Max was severely weakened, but was still not dead. At this point, his Nazi jailers entered the cell block and gave him a lethal injection of carbonic acid. His body was burned in the ovens of the concentration camp.

Father Maximilian became Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe in 1982, when he was canonized by Pope John Paul II "The Great", and declared a martyr of charity.

Saint Maximilian's patronage is for drug addicts, families, political prisoners, prisoners, and journalists, among others. He is my patron, as I believe strongly that his intercession helped in my overcoming my addiction to opiates.

Today, the Militia of the Immaculata continues the work of Saint Max, bringing newfound zest for the faith to Catholic adults and youth alike, increasing personal consecrations to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and spreading knowledge of God's plan for His creation.

No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves? -- Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe

Prisoner's Prayer to St. Maximilian Kolbe

O Prisoner-Saint of Auschwitz help me in my plight. Introduce me to Mary, the Immaculata, Mother of God. She prayed for Jesus in a Jerusalem jail. She prayed for you in a Nazi prison camp. Ask her to comfort me in my confinement. May she teach me always to be good.

If I am lonely, may she say "God is here."
If I feel hate, may she say "God is love."
If I am tempted, may she say "God is pure."
If I sin, may she say "God is mercy."
If I am in darkness, may she say "God is light."
If I am unjustly condemned, may she say "God is truth."
If I have pain in soul or body, may she say "God is peace."
If I lose hope, may she say: "God is with you all days, and so am I."
Amen.

Sources:

Militia of the Immaculata Website, http://www.consecration.org

The Catholic Community Forum, http://www.catholic-forum.com

Numerous articles in the magazine "Immaculata"

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