Maximilian Kolbe was born January 8, 1894, in Poland. His father was a weaver and his mother was a midwife. He had four brothers. When he was 12, he had a vision of the Virgin Mary. In his vision, she came to him carrying two crowns. One was white representing purity. The other crown was red, representing martyrdom. She asked which he was willing to accept. He said both. When he was 13, in 1907, he and his older brother joined a Franciscan seminary. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 and earned a doctorate in theology by the time he was 28.
Maximilian organized the Army of the Immaculate One after he saw people demonstrating against Pope Pius X and Benedict XV. He tried to convert Freemasons, sinners. and enemies of the Church with the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In 1918, he was ordained a priest. He continued promoting Mary throughout Poland. He went on to teach in at a seminary, created many publications, and found many monasteries in Japan and India.
In 1936, Maximilian’s poor health caused him to return to Poland. He was one of the only brother’s who stayed at the monastery when Germany invaded Poland to begin World War II. He opened an aid station to help those in need from the invasion. He was sent to prison but released three months later.
Maximilian refused to sign papers which would make him a German citizen. He helped hide 2,000 Jews from the Germans. He issued many anti-Nazi writings. On February 17, 1941, the monastery was shut down and he was arrested. He ended up at the concentration camp Auschwitz. He continued to be a priest even though it made him a victim of harassment and violence. Men were chosen to be starved, as a warning to others. Maximilian wasn’t chosen but volunteered to take the place of another man who had a family.
Maximilian continued to pray with Mary for others. He was the last of the group to remain alive after two weeks of dehydration and starving. The guards gave him a lethal injection.
Maximilian Kolbe died on August 14, 1941. He was made a saint by Pope John Paul II in 1982. He is the patron saint of prisoners, families and the pro-life movement.