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August 14

St Maximilian Kolbe - August 14

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Priest, Martyr of Charity

(1894 – 1941)

“Do not worry about me or my health, for the good Lord is everywhere and holds every one of us in his great love.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Saint’s Life Story

Youthful Vision of the Virgin Mary

Raymund Kolbe was born in Zduńska Wola, Poland on January 8, 1894. He was the second son of the German weaver Julius Kolbe and Polish midwife Maria Dąbrowska. The hardworking and religious parents educated their four sons with rectitude. Raymund’s life was strongly influenced in 1906, when he was 12, by a vision of the Virgin Mary. He later described this incident:

That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.

Entered Franciscan Seminary

When Raymund was 13 years old, he entered the Franciscan Fathers Seminary in the Polish city of Lvov, where he adopted the name Maximilian. He completed his studies in Rome. Before his ordination as a priest in 1918, Maximilian founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to our Lady. He spread the movement through a magazine entitled “Rycerz Niepokalanej” or  “The Knight of the Immaculata”. 

Missions in China and Japan

Between 1930 and 1936, Maximilian undertook a series of missions to East Asia. He arrived first in Shanghai, China, but failed to gather a following there. Next, Maxilimilian moved to Japan, where by 1931, he had founded a Franciscan monastery built on a mountainside, Mugenzai no Sono, on the outskirts of Nagasaki. The Franciscan monastery survived after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.  In mid-1932, Maximilian left Japan for Malabar, India, where he founded another monastery, which has since closed.

Started Radio Station in Poland

After a few years in Japan, St Maximilian was summoned back to Poland, largely due to his ever-declining health. Two years later, in 1938, he started a radio station at Niepokalanów, Radio Niepokalanów. Maximilian held an amateur radio licence, with the call sign SP3RN.

Arrested and Released

After the outbreak of World War II, Maximilian was one of the few friars who remained in the monastery, where he organized a temporary hospital.  After the town was captured by the Germans, they arrested Maximilian on September 19, 1939; he was later released on Decemeber 8th. 

Provided Shelter

Maximilian refused to sign the Deutsche Volksliste, which would have given him rights similar to those of German citizens in exchange for recognizing his ethnic German ancestry. Upon his release, Maximilian continued to work at his friary where he and other friars provided shelter to refugees from greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from German persecution in the Niepokalanów friary.

Prisoner 16670 at Auschwitz

On February 17, 1941, the monastery was shut down by the German authorities. That day Maximilian and four others were arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On May 28, 1941, Maximilian was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner 16670.

Maximilian Kolbe Auschwitz Block 11 by Todeszelle Pater

Continuing to act as a priest, Maximilian was subjected to violent harassment, including beatings and lashings. Once he was smuggled to a prison hospital by friendly inmates.

Volunteered his Life For Another

At the end of July 1941, one prisoner escaped from the camp, prompting Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick ten men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children!” Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

According to an eyewitness, who was an assistant janitor at that time, in his prison cell Maximilian led the prisoners in prayer. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. Maximilian was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst and neglect.

His Death by Injection

On August 14, 1941 in the Auschwitz concentration camp in German -occupied Poland, “Hail Mary!” was the last prayer on the lips of St Maximilian Mary Kolbe, as he offered his arm to the person who was about to kill him with an injection of phenolic acid.

Beatified:           October 17, 1971 by Pope Paul VI

Canonized:        October 10, 1982 by Pope John Paul II

Feast Day:         August 14

Patron Saint:   Against Drug Addictions, Drug Addicts, Families, Imprisoned People



Saints are made, not born. Even more so martyrs. Maximilian Kolbe was so impressive a man that he may have been canonized even if that oh-so-brief, oh-so-intense, my-life-for-his exchange in the grim prison yard of Auschwitz had not led to his martyrdom. From a young age, Maximilian felt the call to self-sacrificing holiness. When he was a boy of twelve, the Virgin Mary came to him in a vision and held out two crowns for him to choose from: one white for a life of purity, and one red for martyrdom. The pre-teen Maximilian responded to his Lady: “I choose both.” 

While you and I may not have a vision or given a choice of a white or red crown, we do have the ability as St. Paul stated to have “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).

What act of kindness will you do today to show your faith is working through love?

Source: Adapted from  Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Priest and Martyr – My Catholic Life!


Saint Maximilian Kolbe, you were prepared to be generous in your last moments by a long life of sacrifice, humility, and devotion. May we so prepare ourselves day in and day out, so that when a moment of heroic generosity presents itself, we will respond like you.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Pray for us.  Amen.

Source: Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Priest and Martyr – My Catholic Life!


St. Maximilian Kolbe gave an unforgettable witness of standing up to powerful evil and persevering in the truth, no matter how cruelly the people in power treated him. His example and intercession are ones our Church greatly needs today.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!

Source: Maximilian Kolbe, a hero for our time (

Saint Links 

Aleteia – Maximilian Kolbe, a hero for our time

All Saints & Martyrs – Novena to St. Maximilian Kolbe

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 14 August – St Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr (1894-1941) Prisoner 1667

Catholic Culture – St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Immaculate Conception

Catholic Exchange – Fire of Love: Lessons from St. Maximilian Kolbe

Catholic Fire – St. Maximilian Kolbe and Me

Catholic Ireland – Aug 14 – St Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) Franciscan martyr

Catholic News Agency – Saint Maximilian Kolbe Feast Day: Aug 14

Catholic Online – St. Maximilian Kolbe – Saint Maximilian Kolbe

Franciscan Media – Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe

Loyola Press – Father Kolbe, Like Jesus, Offered Himself Feast Day August 14

My Catholic Life – Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Priest and Martyr

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s Story

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)

Saints Sources – Maximilian Kolbe

uCatholic – Saint Maximilian Kolbe


Video Link

St. Maximilian Kolbe – YouTube Video (Catholic Online)