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Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Life Well Lived

I have had discussions with several Protestant friends of mine about the place of the Saints in the Catholic Church. Having been raised Catholic but now a Protestant, I have a slightly... different view than either the average Catholic or the average Protestant. At least, I think I do.

According to the Bible, every Believer is a saint. (Just go here and put "saint" into the search box. You'll see how often the faithful were called "saints.") To me, the "Capital S" Saints are those Believers of the past whose lives we can look to for encouragement. They faced trials and were faithful through them. I do not believe, as Catholics do, that they are to be prayed to, however. I pray to God in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, with the intercession of the Holy Spirit. (John 14:13-14; Romans 8:26-27)

OK... I just needed to get that out of the way before I got to the topic of this post. Today is the feast day of Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

The inscription reads "Knight of the Immaculate" or "Immaculate Knight" in Polish.
I can't translate the Japanese. It may be "Seibo no Kishi" which is also "Immaculate Knight."

He was a Franciscan priest and missionary to Japan in the 1930s. He founded a monastery near Nagasaki which survived the bombing at the end of World War II and is still in use today.

That is not why he was sainted by the Catholic Church, however. This is why:
During the Second World War he provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalan├│w. He was also active as a radio amateur, with Polish call letters SP3RN, vilifying Nazi activities through his reports.

On February 17, 1941 he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, and on May 25 was transferred to Auschwitz I as prisoner #16670.

In July 1941 a man from Kolbe's barracks vanished, prompting SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts.[citation needed] (The man who had disappeared was later found drowned in the camp latrine). One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

During the time in the cell he led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid.
Mr. Gajowniczek was present when John Paul II canonized Father Kolbe as a martyr. His classificationas a martyr was not without controversy, though. (He was beatified as a "confessor" but canonized as a "martyr", even though he was not murdered odium Fidei (out of hatred for the Faith). He is the patron saint of, among other things, the pro-life movement.

Does it really matter how he is classified? No, not really. Was he the only person who sacrificed himself to the point of death during World War II. Hardly. But his was a life of service that we can look up to and admire.

(h't to Gateway Pundit, who added this link.)

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