Saint Maximilian Kolbe was born Raymund Kolbe in Poland on January 8, 1894. He was a normal child and yet there is this one stunning exception. One night in Kolbe’s childhood, Our Lady appeared to him in a dream holding a white crown and a red crown. He later related, “She asked 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.” 

As a student, the young Raymund excelled and also had a passionate interest in all things military. A childhood dream of the priesthood was almost lost, as he had hoped for a military career defending his beloved Poland. Complications caused him to abandon these plans and he entered the Franciscan novitiate late in 1910 and was ordained in 1918.            

His still had a soldier’s heart, but now waged a spiritual war. With several friends a new type of army was founded, the Militia Immaculatae, an army to convert sinners and bring all to love Mary Immaculate. By the time, he was in his early thirties, Father Kolbe founded a religious house near Warsaw, Niepokalanów – the City of the Immaculate, from which to expand his evangelization efforts. Starting with a handful of friars, within a decade it grew to house nearly 1,000. He and a handful of his brothers travelled to Japan, where they opened another house in Nagasaki. 

Saint Maximilian Kolbe was arrested in Poland in February of 1941, and in May sent to the Auschwitz death camp. As prisoner number 16670, two months after he was taken prisoner, several men were chosen to face death by starvation as a warning to other prisoners against escape. Maximilian was not chosen, but offered to go in place of a young husband and father, Franciszek Gajowniczek, who had cried out in pain for his family upon being selected. 

What followed were weeks of unimaginable horror, as the men suffered the pains of dehydration and starvation. But this holy man not only offered to be one of the suffering, he ministered to them as well. After three weeks, there were only four prisoners left alive. It was on this day in 1941, the day before the Church celebrates the Assumption of Saint Maximilian’s beloved Mary, the Immaculata, that Father Kolbe and three fellow prisoners were killed with injections of carbolic acid. Father Kolbe died on August 14, 1941, at the young age of 47. 

Saint Maximilian was beatified by Pope Paul VI on October 17, 1971 and was Canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982. His feast day is August 14th. Saint Maximilian is the patron saint of families, prisoners, journalists, political prisoners, drug addicts and the pro-life movement. During the canonization, John Paul II declared him to be “the patron saint of our difficult century.” 

As part of the Archdiocese of Hartford Pastoral Plan, on June 29, 2017, the parishes of Saint Thomas, Saint Casimir, and Immaculate Conception will begin the process of being merged into a new parish, Saint Maximilian Kolbe. We will also welcome a new pastor, Rev. Joseph Crowley, who will work with the parishioners of Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish and his assistant, Rev. Tomasz Sztuber, to unify our community, while respecting the unique identity, rituals, traditions, and roots of our three church locations. 

 

Prayer for Families        
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, you gave your life so that a family might not be deprived of a husband and father. By your heroic martyrdom of charity, teach us that the value of family life is worth our sacrifices also. Just as you found in Mary the channel of those graces that strengthened you to be faithful to her Son, help us to rejoice also in her who was given to us as a mother by Jesus from the cross. Be with us, Saint Maximilian, as we pray for the special needs of our family. Amen.