Daily Reflection
August 14th, 2002
Richard Super
History Department
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Memorial of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe
Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-22
Psalm 113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Matthew 18:15-20
Vigil Mass for Assumption of the 
Virgin Mary into Heaven
1 Chronicles 15:3-4, 15, 16; 16:1-2
Psalm 132:6-7, 9-10, 13-14
1 Corinthians 15:54-57
Luke 11:27-28
The Auschwitz Concentration CampAuschwitz.  A Nazi concentration camp in Poland.  It only functioned for five years during World War II, yet, more than a half century later, its very name conjures up images that horrify the eye, tear at the heart, and bewilder the mind about the potential for brutality within the human condition.  With its victims numbering more than one million men, women and children, how many cruelties must have been inflicted there every minute of every day of every year of its awful existence.

It is a testament to the inherent goodness of the same human condition that uncountable acts of mercy, kindness, and self-sacrifice also took place within those same electrified fences.  While most of those selfless deeds were lost to history with the lives of the ones who performed them, one that is remembered is celebrated today, the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan monk, the acknowledged “saint of Auschwitz.”   Maximillian KolbeKolbe had already made his mark in the Church, long before his imprisonment.  A passionate devotee of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, he had employed his extraordinary organizational skills to promote that Marian devotion through establishment of new monastic communities, a lay movement, and numerous widely read journals.  What has etched his name in religious history, however, took place after he had been interred at Auschwitz, when a fellow prisoner from his housing block was discovered missing.  In retaliation, as was the practice, ten men were arbitrarily selected for starvation.  When one of them, a young sergeant in the Polish army, bemoaned never seeing his wife or children again, Kolbe stepped forward to take his place.  His final tortuous days were spent in prayer, support, and encouragement of his companions as they slid toward death.  On August 14, 1941, prison guards, needing the space for another batch of the condemned, injected him with a lethal dose of carbolic acid and sent his corpse off to a camp crematorium.

Today’s readings are a befitting celebration of this holy and heroic man.  Ezekiel reminds us of both the justice and the mercy of God, Who knows all that happens, Who punishes our “abominations” while still recognizing the good that we do.  It is in the Gospel passage, however, that my reflection on Maximilian Kolbe lingers and that my admiration for him grows.  Through Matthew, Jesus reminds us that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”  That Kolbe found Christ amid the dirt, the disease, the desperation, and the death of Auschwitz is not only inspiring, but also astonishing.  Likewise called to find God in all things, surely then I can find that Loving Presence in my own relatively trivial trials—in children who defy, in colleagues who disagree, in students who disappoint, in drivers who dawdle, even—indeed, especially—in my own struggles to live out Christ’s message.  Today, that’s St. Maximilian Kolbe’s message, too.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook