Blog Template Theology of the Body: Maximillian, Saint of Auschwitz

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Maximillian, Saint of Auschwitz

Fr. Nelson preached a great sermon on the witness of St. Maximillian Kolbe a few weeks ago, which you can read here.

Upon the Nazi invasion of Poland, Fr. Kolbe began to shelter Jews in his monastery. At one time, he had as many as 2,000 Jews under his care. He ran a radio station, under the call letters SP3RN, time and time again speaking out against Nazi aggression in Poland and the world. And, on February 17th, 1941, he was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, famous among Russians as the final transfer point prior to Siberia. Kolbe, however, would be sent to a different kind of Siberia, the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. On his arm was tattooed the number 16670.

Kolbe still managed to execute the duties of the priesthood well, even in such conditions. Bread and wine smuggled into the barracks would become, day after day, the Body and Blood of Christ, in his hands. He preached and taught the people hymns - all from memory. But, in July of 1941, a man from his barracks went missing, prompting the camp commander to take a horrific action. The guards entered the barracks, and seized ten men to send into a famous chamber - Block 11. Block 11, everyone knew was used for torture, including dehydration and starvation. One of the men chosen cried out for help and mercy. He could not fathom loosing his family, not being able to provide for them after all of this was over. Maximilian Kolbe stood up to take his place.

After three weeks of total dehydration and starvation, only three men were still alive in Block 11. They had sung hymns together. They had prayed together. One of the three was Father Kolbe. Finding him still alive after all this time, the guards injected him with carbolic acid to make room for more prisoners.