One thing I do in prison is read. And since I started my conversion to Catholicism I enjoy reading about the Saints. I have been reading a great book about Maxmilian Kolbe, Saint of the Immaculata.
Father Kolbe and his followers were devout followers of the The Virgin Mary. And the mission of a group that he formed called “Militia Immaculata,” is to promote the the Mother Mary and increase our love and devotion to the Blessed Mother of God.
If you want to know more about the “Militia Immaculata,” get the book or do some research. Or in a year a so I will be free of the Federal Prison Camp in Atlanta, GA and I will be glad to discuss it with you.
Some may ask who is Father Maximilian Kolbe? He was a Polish Franciscan priest. But he was a lot more than that; he was prisoner number 16670 at Auschwitz. That’s right, Auschwitz, the World War II Nazi death camp.
It’s July, 1941 and a prisoner has done the unthinkable. This inmate has escaped. Kommandant Rudolph Hoess gave the inmates 5 days to produce the missing prisoner or face the consequences, from July 28 through August 2. The missing inmate was not produced.
This meant that 20 inmates would be executed because one inmate escaped. SS Colonel Fritsch picked the victims. But he was generous, he decided only 10 inmates would be executed this time.
One of the men selected cried he would never see his wife and children again. Then something miraculous occurred. A prisoner stepped forward and asked to take the man’s place. It was not just any prisoner it was Father Maximilian Kolbe. He reiterated that he wanted to take the place of Sgt. Francis Gajowniczek.
Talk about surprises. This simple request caught the Nazis off guard and the prisoners off guard too. After much discussion SS Colonel Fritsch approved the request. The Father was substituted for Gajowniczek. The 10 men were led to the “Starvation Bunker.” No food or water, in a hot and steaming bunker in early August. It must have been horrific. When a prisoner died, the corpse was removed from the bunker. A Polish inmate forced to remove the bodies said the Father was either praying or kneeling whenever he came in.
After twelve days of this torture, on August 14, 1941, The Father was still alive. The Nazis were getting impatient. They needed the “Starvation Bunker” for some other prisoners. So Father Kolbe was given a lethal injection of poison. He died later that day and his body was cremated on August 15, the day after that.
Neither the Father nor any of the men who died with him cursed their Nazi oppressors during their ordeal. Father Kolbe did not ask for anything either. He never asked for food, water or mercy.
Instead Father Kolbe prayed for the souls of all. Father Kolbe is known as the hero of Auschwitz. He gave his life so that another could live.
Sgt. Francis Gajowniczek did survive the war and returned to his wife. His two teenage sons were killed in the Warsaw Uprising.
On October 10, 1982 Pope John Paul II declared Saint Maximilian Kolbe to be a martyr of Charity. The ceremony took place before a large crowd in St. Peter’s Square. Sgt. Francis Gajowniczek attended the ceremony.
Reading about the Saints can be humbling. You get to see where they placed their faith and hope when the chips were down. We also find out a lot about ourselves.
Father Kolbe put his faith in God and devoted his life to God and his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. He was not concerned with “self”. His total devotion was to obeying God.
There are those who blindly follow others. This makes them easy prey for Satan. Like Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolph Hoess, who put all his faith and trust in Adolph Hitler. He joined a long list of people who grew up in the Catholic Church and yet deserted their God for hate and murder. At the end of the war this desertion earned him a rope on the gallows outside Auschwitz. Hoess got his earthly reward, justice.
And then there are those like me. I believe in God. But when the chips were down and I needed help what did I do? Wrong, that’s what I did. I did not pray. I did not seek help. I did not turn to friends. I did not seek assistance. I ended up thinking I could work things out myself. So I ended up in Federal prison with a 46 month sentence for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud.
We all will have a chance to prove our Faith. Its called works. Our works determine where we place our faith and trust. Whether it’s God, yourself or someone else. What are works? Some of them include; feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and providing shelter for the homeless.
St. Kolbe chose God in Auschwitz. He gave his life for another. Kolbe was the “Good Shepherd.” The Bible describes Jesus as the Good Shepherd; “He laid down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
Rudolph Hoess grew up in the Catholic Church. He gave his life and faith to Hitler, hate and National Socialism. The decision cost him everything.
Me, I have heard all my life from all kinds of preachers saying we are justified by faith and not works. I am probably missing something but whatever it is, I will go with James 2:14-17; “What does it profit my brethren, if a man says I have faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and if you say to them, “Go in Peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them things for the body, what does it profit? So Faith by itself, if it has no works is dead.
Everyday I try to remember the teaching of James. So that the next time I am tested I will pass with flying colors. Instead of failing like a miserable sinner.
I am a recent convert to Catholicism. Since my guilty plea to Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, the Lord has heaped blessings upon me. I was sentenced to 46 Months at the Atlanta, GA Prison Camp. That was a blessing. I have wonderful friends and that is a blessing. I am not alone and that is a wonderful blessing.
Bible verses and references are from the The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.
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