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Day 18 – 18th January: St Maximilian Maria Kolbe (1894-1941)

Maximilian Kolbe was born on 8 January 1894. He joined the Conventual Franciscans and was ordained in July 1919. He was an educated man having earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 and a doctorate in theology in 1919. He was an ardent promoter of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. He actively published periodicals, papers and books and in 1938 set up a radio station all promoting the cult of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. He visited Japan and India as a Missionary, but his recuring tuberculosis meant he had to return home to Poland.

When WWII broke out, he remained in the monastery carrying for the sick, harbouring refugees including 2,000 jews. On 17 February 1941, the Nazi authorities shut down the monastery and took him to Pawiak prison before transferring him to Auschwitz. His prison number was 16670. Since he refused to give up his priestly responsibilities he was badly treated. In July 1941 a prisoner escaped from the camp and SS Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch picked 10 men to be starved to death. One of the men was Franciszek Gajowniczek who expressed his despair since he had a wife and children, so Fr Maximilian took his place.

He prayed and worshipped with the other prisoners and was the only one left alive after two weeks of being deprived of food and water. He was finally killed by the Nazis by a lethal injection of Carbolic Acid on 14 August 1941. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on 10 October 1982. Franciszek Gajowniczek was present.

St Maximilian is the patron saint of political prisoners, prisoners, drug addicts and amateur radio operators, families and journalists.

Prayer St Maximilian

St Maximilian,

you gave the ultimate sacrifice echoing

Jesus’ sacrifice for the whole of humanity.

Teach us to stay true to our faith

in whatever the circumstances.

Through Jesus Christ Our Lord,


St Maximilian Kolbe. Pray for us.

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