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German archbishop in Auschwitz: Stand up against hubris of the politically powerful 

August 14, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Krakow, Poland, Aug 14, 2019 / 02:31 pm (CNA).- On the eve of the 80th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, a German archbishop has called for a stand against hubris and arrogance of those in political power.

Speaking on the occasion of a Mass in the former Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz/Oświęcim on Aug. 14, Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg recalled the witness of the Polish martyr and saint Fr. Maximilian Kolbe.

“On the anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War, Maximilian Kolbe reminds us to profess that God is the Almighty to whom all must submit for peace and unity in our world today,” Archbishop Schick said.

“No person can put themselves above God, and no nation can put itself above another, the German prelate stressed, adding that the most important contribution of Christians to peace and unity among peoples and nations was “to profess the one and only benevolent God, the Father of all creation.”

God gives equal dignity and rights to all people, peoples and nations, and imposes the same duties of charity on all, Schick said, adding that St. Maximilian Kolbe had deeply committed himself to the obligation of charity.

The Polish priest resisted the totalitarian terror of Nazi ideology and was incarcerated in Auschwitz concentration camp. In 1941, he gave his life for a fellow prisoner. He was brutally executed after suffering starvation in a hunger bunker.

Today, St. Maximilian Kolbe is a patron saint of Europe, reminding Catholics to stand against war, abuse of power and arrogance on the part of politicians, powerful men and leaders who presume to take God’s place, Schick continued.

Archbishop Schick is Chairman of the Contact Group of the German and Polish bishops’ conferences. He is taking part in the 10th workshop of the Maximilian Kolbe Foundation, of which he is Chairman of the Board of Directors, on St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Day of Remembrance at Oświęcim/Auschwitz. Since last Sunday, 45 participants from twelve European countries have been meeting there to discuss the topic “Dealing with the violent past.”

This article was first published by CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language sister agency. It has been adapted by CNA.


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The Miraculous Medal: St Maximilian Kolbe’s weapon for evangelization

August 14, 2019 CNA Daily News 2

Rome, Italy, Aug 14, 2019 / 10:58 am (CNA).- As World War II raged around him in Poland, St. Maximilian Kolbe fought for souls using a printing press and another “weapon” – the Miraculous Medal.

“Even though a person be the worst sort, if only he agrees to wear the medal, give it to him…and then pray for him, and at the proper moment strive to bring him closer to his Immaculate Mother, so that he have recourse to her in all difficulties and temptations,” Kolbe said of the Miraculous Medal.

“This is truly our heavenly weapon,” the saint said, describing the medal as “a bullet with which a faithful soldier hits the enemy, i.e. evil, and thus rescues souls.”

The Miraculous Medal is a sacramental inspired by the Marian apparition to St. Catherine Laboure in Paris in 1830. The Virgin Mary appeared to Laboure as the Immaculate Conception standing on a globe with light streaming from her hands and crushing a serpent under her foot.

“A voice said to me, ‘Have a medal struck after this model. All who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck,” Laboure said.

As a Franciscan seminarian studying in Rome in 1917, Kolbe was moved by the story of the role the Miraculous Medal played in the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne.

Ratisbonne was a French Freemason and an atheist of Jewish descent, who received the grace of conversion while wearing a Miraculous Medal given to him by one of his Catholic friends in Rome. The Virgin Mary appeared to Ratisbonne Jan. 20, 1842 in a side chapel in the Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte in Rome.

St. Maximilian Kolbe chose to celebrate his first Mass April 29, 1918 in the side chapel in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, where the Virgin Mary appeared to Ratisbonne.

Ratisbonne went on to be ordained a Jesuit priest, and eventually left the order to move to Jerusalem in 1855 to found a convent for sisters in the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, a congregation founded to “to witness in the Church and in the world that God continues to be faithful in his love for the Jewish people.”

Kolbe went on to give his life for a Jewish man imprisoned with him in Auschwitz, who had a wife and children. He died of a carbolic acid injection in the concentration camp Aug. 14, 1941. The Nazi officials cremated Kolbe’s body on the feast of the Assumption of Mary.

Kolbe is known for being an effective evangelist and missionary. Before moving to Japan in 1930, Kolbe made a pilgrimage to the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal on Rue de Bac in Paris.

The Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Paris. Credit: Courtney Grogan/CNA.

St. Pope John Paul II remembered Kolbe’s visit when he prayed in the Paris chapel in 1980:

“I come as a pilgrim, after all those who came to this chapel in 150 years, like all Christians who flock here every day to express their joy, their trust and their supplications. I come as Blessed Maximilian Kolbe: before his missionary journey to Japan, just fifty years ago, he came here to seek your support to propagate what he later called ‘the Militia of the Immaculate’ and undertake his prodigious work of spiritual renewal under your patronage, before giving his life for his brothers,” John Paul II said.

Kolbe formed the Militia Immaculata in 1917 to “lead every individual with Mary to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” He asked all Militia Immaculata members to wear the Miraculous Medal as a sign of their total consecration to Mary.

“Now in this epoch of the Immaculate Conception the most Blessed Virgin has given mankind the ‘Miraculous Medal’. Its heavenly origin has been proven by countless miracles of healing and particularly of conversion,” Kolbe wrote.

“The Immaculata herself in revealing it promised all who would wear it very many graces; and since conversion and sanctification are divine graces from God, the Miraculous Medal will be one of the best means for attaining these gifts,” he said.

Kolbe also added to St. Catherine’s prayer associated with the sacramental: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.” To this, Kolbe added, “and for all who do not have recourse to you, especially the enemies of the Church and those recommended to you. Amen.”


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Auschwitz Memorial chronicles the sacrifice of St. Maximilian Kolbe

August 14, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Krakow, Poland, Aug 14, 2019 / 08:46 am (CNA).- On July 29, the Auschwitz Memorial published historical photos chronicling the sacrifice of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died in that Nazi concentration camp on August 14, 1941.

29 July 1941 | After an escape from #Auschwitz of a Polish prisoner Zygmunt Pilawski SS authorities selected 10 prisoners for starvation death. One of them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, begged for mercy. Father Maximilian #Kolbe sacrificed his life asking SS men to take him instead.

— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 29, 2019

On July 29, 1941, after a Polish prisoner, Zygmunt Pilawski tried to escape, the SS security forces selected 10 prisoners to starve to death, as a lesson for the entire camp.

One of the prisoners chosen to be starved was Franciszek Gajowniczek, who asked for mercy. He mentioned that he had a wife and children. Fr. Kolbe offered to die in his place.

“Fr. Kolbe told the commandant, ‘I want to go instead of the man who was selected. He has a wife and family. I am alone. I am a Catholic priest,'” Gajowniczek told the NY Times in 1995.

In a Twitter thread, the Auschwitz Memorial has published the photos of both Gajowniczek and Zygmunt Pilawski, the man whose escape attempt prompted SS punishment.

Camp photo of Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man saved by Father Maximilian Kolbe in #Auschwitz.

— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 29, 2019



Zygmunt Pilawski, after whose escape from #Auschwitz the selection for starvation took place, was later arrested and once again imprisoned in the camp on 25 June 1942. He was shot on 31 July 1942.

— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 29, 2019

The Auschwitz Memorial also published a photo of the starvation cell in which Kolbe died. He is reported to have led other prisoners in prayer as, one by one, they died. Though Kolbe was held without food or water for two weeks, he did not die of starvation. Instead, camp guards killed him with an injection of carbolic acid on Aug. 14, 1941.

Cell no. 18 in the basement of Block 11. The starvation cell into which on 29 July 1941 ten prisoners were locked to die. Maximilian Kolbe was among them

— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) July 29, 2019

He was canonized a saint on Oct. 10, 1982.


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St. Dominic, a dog, and Divine fire

August 8, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Bologna, Italy, Aug 8, 2019 / 10:03 am (CNA).- The first image to greet visitors to the basilica containing the tomb of St. Dominic in Bologna, Italy is a mosaic of the saint next to a dog carrying a flaming torch in its mouth.

This is not a depiction of a pyromaniacal game of fetch, but a reference to a dream which foretold the 13th-century preacher’s mission in the world — to be the bearer of Divine fire across Europe, illuminating the darkness of heresy and sin with truth and charity.

“When St. Dominic’s mother, Blessed Jane of Aza, was pregnant, she had a dream of a dog with a torch in its mouth, running around the world and setting everything on fire. She went to the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos and asked a monk what it meant. He replied that the child in her womb would be a great preacher, who would set the world ablaze with the fire of his words,” Dominican Fr. Ezra Sullivan, lecturer at the Angelicum University in Rome, told CNA.

“In fact, the word ‘Dominican’ is a play on the Latin, Domini canes, which means ‘dogs of the Lord,” Fr. Thomas Petri, dean of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington DC, explained.

Throughout history St. Dominic has been depicted in paintings and statues standing beside a canine companion.

“One source recounts that the dog Blessed Jane saw in her vision was a greyhound. That seems right to me,” Petri said. “St. Dominic should be associated with breeds that are fast and useful for herding.”

“Imitating Christ himself, St. Dominic is a hound nipping at your heels to bring you to God,” he added.

“In the early thirteenth century, the Church was experiencing increasing devotion among the lay faithful that was unmatched by the clergy. At a time when bishops, priests, and monks were living extravagantly and rarely preaching, St. Dominic came to see that the Church needed priests who lived in poverty but who were also preachers of grace and truth, especially in the face of heretical cults that were leaching the faithful away from the Church of Jesus Christ,” Petri explained.

St. Dominic Guzman was born in Caleruega, Spain on Aug. 8, 1170. Throughout his life, he is said to have converted some 100,000 people through his preaching missions. He spread the devotion to the rosary, and played a key role in doctrinal debates combating the Albigensian heresy, a revival of Manichaeism, which had taken hold in southern France.

Dominic founded the Order of Preachers – the Dominicans – in France in 1216, adapting the Rule of St. Augustine in obedience to the pope, with an emphasis on study and community life in poverty. He died in Bologna, Italy after several weeks of illness on Aug. 6, 1221.

Benedict XVI said in Feb. 2010 that St. Dominic “reminds us that in the heart of the Church, a missionary fire must always burn.”

“Saint Dominic was given the grace not only to have a fervent zeal and love for Jesus Christ, especially Christ crucified, but also the wisdom to preach the Gospel with force and conviction,” Petri said.

Fr. Sullivan noted: “It was also said that ‘he always spoke either about God or to God,’ and therefore his words were like fiery darts that always hit their targets.”

St. Catherine of Siena, a third order Dominican, is frequently quoted as saying, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

However, Fr. Petri explained that a more accurate translation of what St. Catherine wrote in a letter in her dying days is, “If you are what you ought to be, you will set fire to all Italy, and not only there.”

She wrote this to her follower Stefano Maconi because she was “concerned that he was tepid in his devotion and pleaded with him to go to Rome to light the fire of Divine charity there amid the turmoil of schism and infidelity the city was experiencing,” Petri said.

St. Catherine of Siena spoke of cultivating the ‘Divine fire’ as “cultivating the charity of God in one’s soul,” he explained.

“The way we cultivate charity is by committing ourselves to be with Christ in prayer, in study, at work, in the home, and at every other moment in our day,” he said.

“Most especially, however, such communion with Christ is nourished and strengthened by receiving the Sacrament of Charity—the Holy Eucharist—in which the One who is Charity itself comes into us and lights our souls aflame in love for him and for our neighbor.”