“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” (Jn 15:13).
When I was 10, I loved baseball. I remember spending hours in my living room slugging away paper balls with a tiny ruler, while day-dreaming of one day hitting the game-winning homer on the bottom of the ninth, and clinching the World Series for the home team.
When young Raymond Kolbe was about 12 years old, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and offered him two crowns: a white one for purity, and a red one for martyrdom. Mary then asked Raymond to pick a crown, and he chose both.
During the Men’s Conference, the first speaker, Corey Flemings, witnessed that he and his nine sons had adopted a family code to help his boys made the transition from childhood into authentic manhood. Cory utilized the Eleventh Century Code of Chivalry as his frame of reference. The same code used by the knights in the shinning armors then. He said the main two principles on the code were for a man to love God with all his heart, mind and soul. The second principle was for a knight to pray at all times for a holy and honorable death, and to always be mindful that his next breath always came from the Hand of God.
The Church commemorates two major Marian feast days in August: the Solemnity of Assumption of Mary into Heaven on August 15th, and the feast of her crowning as Queen of Heaven on August 22.
Raymond Kolbe joined the Conventional Order of Franciscans at 16 and took the name of Maximilian. Kolbe was then sent to Rome from his native Poland to do his seminary studies. On October 16, 1917, while in the seminary, Raymond formed the Militia of the Immaculata, and enrolled six other seminarians in the movement. Raymond called Mary the “Immaculata” to honor her tittle as the Immaculate Conception. The seven seminarians consecrated themselves to the Blessed Mother, and Kolbe said that all Militia’s members would be called “Knights of the Immaculata.” The purpose of the Knights was to pray for the conversion of sinners and the enemies of the Church. All to win souls for the Kingdom of God and the Queen of Heaven.
Father Maximilian was ordained in 1918 and returned to Poland. During February of 1941, Fr. Kolbe was arrested by the Nazi Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz for being a Catholic priest. During July of the same year, another prisoner escaped from the concentration camp. In retaliation for the missing prisoner, the Nazi commander lined all the prisoners up at the camp and picked 10 prisoners to die at the starvation bunker. One of the prisoners pleaded for mercy and told the commander he had a wife and a family to live for. At that moment, Fr. Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to take the place of the married man. The officer accepted Kolbe’s request after he confessed to be a priest. On August 14, 1941, after he survived three weeks in the starvation chamber, the Nazis gave Fr. Maximilian a lethal injection, and cremated his body. Kolbe’s ashes were blown away on Mary’s Assumption the following day.
On October 10, 1982, Pope John Paul II canonized Fr. Maximilian Kolbe as a Martyr for the faith. Francijzek Gajowniczek, the man St. Maximilian offered his life for in Auschwitz, was present at the ceremony.
Like an all-star slugger with the game on the line, Kolbe stepped up at a spiritual “crunch time” moment and won the game for the Heavenly team. For that reason, God rewarded him with the crown of martyrdom and sainthood.
Let’s ponder: Are we conscious that our very next breath comes from the Hand of God, and pray for a holy and honorable death? If the moment arose, and our life was on the line, could we tell God, “Put me in Lord, I’m ready to die!”?
Let us Pray:
Come, Holy Spirit,
and fill my heart with Your gifts.
Let my love be true and my
charity be generous.
Help me in all my needs,
and grant me knowledge
to do what is right.
Advise me in my doubts,
strengthen me when I am tempted
and console me when I am afraid.
Graciously hear me, O Holy Spirit,
and pour Your light into
my heart, mind and soul.
Help me to live a holy life
and grow in goodness and grace.