St Maximillian Kolbe
Written and researched by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska

Raymond Kolbe was born on January 7, 1894 in the city of Zdunsks Wola. From his poor, but industrious parents, Raymond learned of the noble exploits of Poland's national heroes. He also learned to love the Blessed Virgin. His brother Francis Kolbe was thought to be the priest in the family, while Raymond was to stay home and learn his father's trade. A local pharmacist named Kotowski began tutoring Raymond, and in the summer of 1907, he attended secondary school at Lwow with his older brother. Raymomd excelled in mathematics and physics there.

The Franciscans began a seminary at Lwow, and Raymond and his brother, Francis, were admitted. One September 4, 1910, Raymond Kolbe invested in the Franciscan order and took the name Maximillian. Maximillian, the Friar, still was fascinated with the world of science, and thought he had made a mistake by entering the seminary. His mother visited him and helped him to stay on his course. On September 5, 1911 Maximillian made his first vows.

In 1912, he began studies in Krakow, in the autumn. He was then to visit Rome and attend the Gregorian Pontifical Institute. Maximillian received his docturate in philosophy in 1915 (at age 21). On April 28, 1918, Father Maximillian was an ordained priest. He celebrated his first mass at the Church of St. Andrew delle Fratte. His brother, Joseph also became a Franciscan and took the name of Friar Alphonse.

Maximillian Kolbe founded the Knights of the Immaculata in 1917, just three days after the final apparition of our Lady at Fatima was seen in Portugal. Our Lady of Fatima had asked for consecration to her Immaculate Heart, promising the conversion of Russia. Maximillian predicted that one day a statue of the Immaculata would be placed upon the Kremlin in Moscow.

In 1920, in Poland, Maximillian's chronic tuberculosis came upon him. He had contracted it in Rome during his student days, and eventually, after months of recuperation in a sanitarium at Zakopane, he was cured. From this he went to Krakow and recruited more members to the Knights of the Immaculata and wrote a about his group (Rycerz Niepokalanej).

In 1922, Father Maximillian was in northern Poland at Grodno. In 1927 he was given a plot of land near Warsaw for the Immaculata. It was here he began his City of the Immaculata, which was built by himself and his brotherhood. In 1930 Maximillian headed to spread the word with an Eastern Mission in Turin. He also visited Lourdes for council. His word would spread to Syria, Egypt, Abyssinia, India, Annam, and China.

Leaving Japan in 1936 he again went to Poland. In 1939 the German army came and arrested him and his companions, then released them on December 8, 1939. They were deported to Amtitz (near Berlin), then to Ostrzewzow. Many Germans tried to win his favor, but he refused and was arrested again on February 17, 1941. Maximilian and four other priests were jailed in Warsaw in the Pawiak jail. No one knows what the charges were for his arrest. In Pawiak, Father Maximillian fell ill with lung troubles and was place in the infirmary. On May 28, 1941, Father Maximillian was transferred with 320 prisoners to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. He was number 16670. He was made to work transporting tree trunks in the area of Babice. Father Maximillian was made to toil more and more, even though his health was failing. He got so bad that he could not longer speak and was burning up with fever. He was placed in a Typhus ward. He continued to hear confessions, say prayers and helped fellow prisoners. He was again moved to Block 14 which was assigned to farm laborers. Here he sacrificed his life for that of the family of Francis Gajowniczek. He was then put in the starvation bunker. In this bunker, no one received food or drink. On August 14, 1941, Father Maximillian received an injection of lethal acid. On August 15, 1941 his body was burned in the crematorium.


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