Sunday, August 14, 2011










RADIO VATICANA: "We nourish our faith every day, with deep listening to the Word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer and charity towards our neighbor." These were some of the words of Pope Benedict XVI to the faithful gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo, for the Angelus prayer this Sunday. The Holy Father was commenting on the day’s Gospel reading, in which a Canaanite woman with faith asks Jesus to heal her daughter.

"Faith,” said Pope Benedict, “opens us to know and accept the true identity of Jesus, His novelty and uniqueness, His Word, as the source of life, to live a personal relationship with him.” After the Angelus, Pope Benedict had special greetings for a group of faithful from Cuba, led by the Cardinal Archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega, who for the first time were making a pilgrimage to Rome.

Saludo con afecto a los grupos de lengua española, en particular a los fieles llegados de Cuba, acompañados por el Señor Cardenal Jaime Ortega Alamino, que encabeza la primera peregrinación de cubanos a los sepulcros de los Santos Apóstoles, y renuevo mi cercanía y afecto a todos los hijos de ese amado País.

The Holy Father also greeted pilgrims in English, during which he renewed his request for prayers for the success of World Youth Day in Madrid this week from August 18 to 21.

I greet the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. Today, our thoughts turn to the young people now gathering in Madrid for World Youth Day. As I prepare to join them, I ask you to accompany us with your prayers for the spiritual fruitfulness of this important event. May God bless all of you abundantly!


CATHOLIC SCRIPTURE STUDY REPORT: A wonderful time was had by all last weekend (August 5-7) at the Renaissance Suites Hotel in Charlotte, NC. Over 200 people from 24 states and Canada assembled to hear inspiring talks by world-renown Catholic speakers at the Catholic Scripture Study International Bible Conference. One couple travelled almost 5,000 miles from Hawaii, just to attend this conference. Trudy Rawlins, from Kaneohe, Hawaii, has been a CSS Study Leader since 2007 and has been active in getting other CSS classes started in Hawaii.

CSS Regional Directors from around the country and Canada arrived in Charlotte a day early, on Thursday and that evening all the CSS staff and their spouses were treated to dinner at the hotel by Logos Bible Software, one of the vendors at the conference.

The conference officially began at 1pm on Friday with a talk by Sandra Fountain, National Field Director for CSS. During her talk "CSS: More Than a Bible Study", she introduced the six Regional Directors who in turn told a little about themselves, how they got involved with CSS and how their lives have been changed by CSS. Fr. Patrick Winslow spoke next on "Scriptural Analysis: How to Study Scripture on an Academic Level". His talk was followed by Mass and then Gail Buckley spoke on "Hidden Treasure: Typology in Scripture". After a break, there was a social hour followed by dinner. After dinner, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J., well-known host on Eternal Word Television and Radio shows and Bible scholar, gave a talk on "Sin in the Bible". Before his talk, however, he was surprised by Master of Ceremonies, Ken Davison, with a slice of pie with a lit candle and the crowd singing Happy Birthday to him as he had recently had a birthday. Marie Baker, Regional Director from Texas, presented Fr. Mitch with a new cowboy hat since it’s well known that Father Mitch loves cowboy hats and boots.

Following Fr. Mitch’s talk, he was joined by CSS Lecturers, Frs. Winslow & Kauth for a "Priests' Panel" where they answered questions from the audience. The evening ended with Night Prayer led by Fr. Matthew Kauth. Saturday Morning began with the Rosary, breakfast and a talk "Where is that in the Bible?" by best-selling author and well-known Apologist, Patrick Madrid. A presentation on Logos Bible software and a break for confessions and to visit vendor booths followed his talk.

Marcus Grodi was scheduled to speak next but two days before the conference, the Grodi's were told that there was a good chance that their first grandchild might be born any minute and that there could be complications due to the size of the baby so they decided they’d better stay close to home. Fortunately, Hector Molina, a dynamic speaker and evangelist was available to come. Hector's rousing talk "Spiritual Warfare in Scripture and Tradition" received a standing ovation and the CD recording of his talk sold out in minutes!

Hector Molina

Hector’s talk was followed by Mass, then lunch, a break and then a talk by Fr. Mitch Pacwa entitled, "The Penitential Psalms". Then the audience got a surprise – live Gospel singing that shook the room! The Perpetual Hope Gospel Choir took the stage and brought everyone to their feet, clapping their hands and singing along. Some were brought to tears by their Spirit-filled music praising the Lord.

Perpetual Hope Gospel Choir

Up next was Fr. Patrick Winslow with a talk on Exorcism – "The Mystery of Evil: The Rite of Exorcism in the Church".

A drawing was held after Father’s talk for prize giveaways. This was done throughout the weekend and many prizes were given away.

Dr. William Thierfelder, President of Belmont Abbey College and a former Olympian, next spoke on "The Perfection of the Present Moment" (1 Pet. 4:11)

Dr. William Thierfelder

Following Dr. Thierfelder’s talk, there was a break and then everyone gathered in the Atrium for a cash bar, appetizers and social hour before dinner. After dinner, Hector Molina gave his second talk: "Temptation in the Bible: A Tale of Two Adams" after which he was joined on the stage by Patrick Madrid and Fr Mitch Pacwa for a "Speaker's Panel" whereby they took questions from the audience.

Sunday morning began at 8am with a beautiful Mass celebrated by the Bishop of Charlotte, Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis. The bishop was joined by 5 priests, 2 deacons, and 5 altar boys and singing by St. Ann's Women's Schola which added even more beauty and sacredness to the Most Holy Mass.

After Mass, there was a full breakfast buffet and Patrick Madrid gave the closing talk on "The Bible and the Catholic Church: A Marriage Made in Heaven". Following his talk, Gail Buckley drew names for raffle prizes before thanking the audience for coming and bringing this joyful event to a close.

The feedback has been phenomenal. Everyone loved the conference and we thank God for His blessings on this joyful event!

Next up: CSS Pilgrimage to Ireland in 2012!

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ASIA NEWS REPORT: Thanks to the Catholic missionary, who died in 2010, Deng and Mayen can study in South Korea Their goal is to become a doctor and a civil engineer, to return to their homeland and contribute to development. The passion and commitment of the Korean priest and doctor for the people South Sudan told in a documentary.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Two young South Sudanese celebrated their country's independence (July 9) in South Korea, the country in which they have lived and studied for two years thanks to the efforts of a Catholic missionary whom they met in their villages of origin. The man in question is Fr. John Lee Tae-suk. The priest and doctor spent nine years in Sudan dedicating his life to the poor, sick and needy. The missionary died in January 2010 at only 47 years of age from a tumour. Thanks to the meeting with the South Korean missionary, Deng and Mayen moved to the Asian country, where they will soon begin university with the goal – once they have completed the course - to return to their land of origin.

The story of John Mayen, 24, and Santino Deng, 26, was told by the South KoreanYonhap News Agency. It wanted to mark the independence of southern Sudan by recalling the figure of a great missionary, who lived in a country marked by a long war. The two young South Sudanese, in fact, are in South Korea thanks to a program started by Father Lee. Mayen and Deng arrived in 2009 and 2010, after completing initial studies at the Don Bosco school, built by the South Korean priest in the village of Tonj.

On 9 July, the two young men celebrated Southern Sudan independence after years of civil war "in a different way" with South Korean friends. But their thoughts went to the Korean priest, was able to offer them a chance to study abroad. The commitment of Fr Lee for the poor and sick of the area is told in a documentary released last year a few months before his death, which within a matter of weeks became an unexpected popular success (see AsiaNews 16/11/2010 In two months, 120,000 S Koreans won over by documentary about Fr Lee Tae-suk). Among those who took part in the documentary, titled "Don’t cry for me, Sudan," is the same Deng who promised "maximum commitment to his study."

And it is through education and their university career in South Korea that Deng and Mayen are seeking social redemption .- the first as a doctor in the footsteps of Fr Lee, and second as a civil engineer – to later return to their villages of origin and help in turn their people. Because, as pointed out, none of this would have been possible "without education". Mayen concludes by recalling the tragedy of his people, but adds, "if we remain united, if we put an end to violence and conflict, and we all work together" we can actually improve the reality on the ground.


Blood donation at St Theresa's parish, Essendon

ARCHDIOCESE OF PERTH REPORT: Br Mark O'Connor FMS reflects on the example of faith in action shown by the parish and school community of St Therese's, Essendon in recommencing their blood donor group, Club Red.

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In the Eucharist, Christ gives us his very own body and blood. That is why the Catholic celebration of the Eucharist is the summit of our lives. It makes possible our recognition that God has given us everything we need.

The Eucharist then not only is the proclamation of abundance, but it is the enactment of abundance. In the Eucharist we discover that we cannot use Christ up. In the Eucharist we discover that the more the body and blood of Christ is shared, the more there is to be shared.
The Eucharist, therefore, is the way the Church learns to understand why generosity is at the heart of faith.

The parishioners and school community of St Therese's, Essendon take that call seriously. One remarkable example of their faith in action is their blood donor group, Club Red, which they recently recommenced. The group operated successfully for over 20 years but lapsed some time ago. On the weekend of 6 and 7 August the parish incorporated blood donor registration into their weekend Masses - a wonderful act of living out the Eucharist in daily life.

We can give ourselves away because of the sacrifice of Jesus. St Therese's parishioners show us all how to live for others like Jesus, who urged us to give ourselves so that others may live.

For further information, contact St Therese's parish office: 93792039


Over 3,000 British pilgrims set off for MadridBy MADELEINE TEAHAN on Friday, 12 August 2011

Young people from the dioceses of Plymouth and Clifton catch a plane to Madrid (Photo: Marcin Mazur)

CATHOLIC HERALD REPORT: About 3,200 young people in Britain are heading to Madrid to take part in Pope Benedict XVI’s celebration of World Youth Day.

Young pilgrims from the Diocese of East Anglia intended to complete a “three shrine challenge” over three days on their way to Madrid. Sixty pilgrims aged 16 to 40 began their challenge early on Wednesday morning with Mass at 6am at the National Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham, before boarding a coach to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The pilgrims hoped to reach the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain, today.

Ruth Waterson, 18, who is one of the pilgrims taking part, said she was looking forward to the challenge. “I haven’t heard of any other diocese doing this,” she said. “It will prepare us both mentally and spiritually for World Youth Day. I am hoping that it will deepen my faith even further and also help other people with their beliefs.”

In harmony with the central theme of World Youth Day, the group will be guided by the two youngest priests in England and Wales, Fr Luke Goymour, aged 27, and Fr Michael Collis, aged 26.

Despite the recession about 4,000 British pilgrims are due to make the long journey to welcome Pope Benedict in Madrid next week. Among the faithful are 80 seminarians, 51 religious and 20 bishops.

The Diocese of East Anglia is just one of many travelling abroad ahead of Pope Benedict’s arrival in Madrid. The prologue to World Youth Day is officially known as, “Days in the Diocese”, during which foreign dioceses host British pilgrims as they prepare for the Pontiff’s arrival.

Among the many dioceses participating in “Days in the Diocese” is Portsmouth, which has 127 pilgrims travelling to San Sebastian in the north of Spain.


CISA REPORT –The Consolata Missionaries are mourning the death of one of their own, Fr Anthony (Tony) Bellagamba, who died on Thursday August 11 in the Nairobi Hospital.

Fr Bellagamba, 84, died at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) while undergoing treatment.

He had been admitted since Sunday July 31 immediately after arriving from his holiday in Italy.

According to Fr Franco Cellana, Regional Superior of the Consolata Missionaries in Kenya, Fr Bellagamba died of heart failure and bronchial infection.

A requiem mass will be held at the Consolata Shrine on Wednesday, August 17, at 10.00am. Another mass will be held at Mathari in Nyeri at 2.00pm where the late priest will be buried.

Fr Cellana described Fr Bellagamba as a great personality in the Consolata congregation who started as a formator before rising to become a professor of theology, and later the Vice General Superior of the Consolata missionaries in Rome.

“He took the mission as something that was in his blood. And people were pleased every time to listen to him,” Fr Cellana said.

The Regional Vice-Superior of Consolata missionaries in Kenya, Fr Joya Hieronymus described the late Fr Bellagamba as an intelligent educationist who authored several books and commentaries among them Mission and Ministry in the Global Church and A commentary of Redemptoris Mission found in the encyclical of the late Pope John Paul II.

Until his death Fr Bellagamba was the postulator of the beatification process of the Servant of God Maurice Cardinal Otunga.

“Fr Tony was a great missionary and a dedicated servant of the Catholic Church. He is now one of our revered ancestors in Christ, one of our living dead. May he rest in peace. He now makes his final journey to God our Father to meet the Servant of God Cardinal Otunga” said Fr Joseph Healey the Chair of the Communications sub-committee on the beatification of Cardinal Otunga.

A former professor of pastoral theology at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), the late cleric will be greatly remembered for his missionary zeal.

He was born in central Italy in 1927 and ordained priest in 1952. Fr Bellagamba first worked in Kenya in 1958. He served as the Vice General Superior of the Consolata Missionaries in Rome from 1999 to 2005.


St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe


Feast: August 14


Feast Day:August 14

7 January 1894 at Zdunska Wola, Poland

Died:August 14, 1941, Auschwitz concentration camp, Poland
Canonized:10 October 1982, Rome, Italy by Pope John Paul II
Major Shrine:Basilica of the Immaculate Mediatrix of Grace, Niepokalanów, Poland
Patron of:20th century, Pro-Life Movement, drug addiction, drug addicts, families, amateur radio

His name wasn't always Maximilian. He was born the second son of a poor weaver on 8 January 1894 at Zdunska Wola near Lodz in Poland, and was given the baptismal name of Raymond. Both parents were devout Christians with a particular devotion to Mary. In his infancy Raymond seems to have been normally mischievous but we are told that one day, after his mother had scolded him for some mischief or other, her words took effect and brought about a radical change in the child's behaviour. Later he explained this change. 'That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. 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.' Thus early did the child believe and accept that he was destined for martyrdom. His belief in his dream coloured all his future actions.

In 1907 Raymond and his elder brother entered a junior Franciscan seminary in Lwow. Here he excelled in mathematics and physics and his teachers predicted a brilliant future for him in science. Others, seeing his passionate interest in all things military, saw in him a future strategist. For a time indeed his interest in military affairs together with his fiery patriotism made him lose interest in the idea of becoming a priest, The fulfilment of his dream would lie in saving Poland from her oppressors as a soldier. But before he could tell anyone about his decision his mother announced that, as all their children were now in seminaries, she and her husband intended to enter religious life. Raymond hadn't the heart to upset his parents' plans and so he abandoned his plans for joining the army. He was received as a novice in September 1910 and with the habit he took the new name of Maximilian. From 1912 to 1915 he was in Rome studying philosophy at the Gregorian College, and from 1915 to 1919 theology at the Collegio Serafico. He was ordained in Rome on 28 April 1918.

The love of fighting didn't leave him, but while he was in Rome he stopped seeing the struggle as a military one. He didn't like what he saw of the world, in fact he saw it as downright evil. The fight, he decided, was a spiritual one. The world was bigger than Poland and there were worse slaveries than earthly ones. The fight was still on, but he would not be waging it with the sword. At that time many Catholics in Europe regarded freemasonry as their chief enemy; and it was against the freemasons that Maximilian Kolbe began to wage war. On 16 October 1917, with six companions, he founded the Crusade of Mary Immaculate (), with the aim of 'converting sinners, heretics and schismatics, particularly freemasons, and bringing all men to love Mary Immaculate'.

As he entered what was to be the most creative period of his life, Fr Maximilian's health had already begun to deteriorate. He was by now in an advanced state of tuberculosis, and he felt himself overshadowed by death. His love for Mary Immaculate now became the devouring characteristic of his life. He regarded himself as no more than an instrument of her will, and the only time he was known to lose his temper was in defence of her honour. It was for her that he strove to develop all the good that was in him, and he wanted to encourage others to do the same.

When Maximilian returned to Poland in 1919 he rejoiced to see his country free once again, a liberation which he typically attributed to Mary Immaculate. Pius XI in response to a request from the Polish bishops had just promulgated the Feast of Our Lady Queen of Poland, and Fr Maximilian wrote: 'She must be the Queen of Poland and of every Polish heart. We must labour to win each and every heart for her.' He set himself to extend the influence of his Crusade, and formed cells and circles all over Poland. The doctors had by now pronounced him incurable; one lung had collapsed and the other was damaged. Yet it was now that he flung himself into a whirlwind of activity. In January 1922 he began to publish a monthly review, the , in Cracow. Its aim was 'to illuminate the truth and show the true way to happiness'. As funds were low, only 5,000 copies of the first issue were printed. In 1922 he removed to another friary in Grodno and acquired a small printing establishment; and from now on the review began to grow. In 1927 70,000 copies were being printed. The Grodno Friary became too small to house such a mammoth operation, so Fr Maximilian began to look for a site nearer to Warsaw. Prince Jan Drucko-Lubecki offered him some land at Teresin, west of Warsaw, Fr Maximilian promptly erected a statue of Mary Immaculate there, and the monks began the arduous work of construction.

On 21 November 1927 the Franciscans moved from Grodno to Teresin and on 8 December the friary was consecrated and was given the name of Niepokalanow, the City of the Immaculate. 'Niepokalanow', said Fr Maximilian, 'is a place chosen by Mary Immaculate and is exclusively dedicated to spreading her cult. All that is and will be at Niepokalanow will belong to her. The monastic spirit will flourish here; we shall practise obedience and we shall be poor, in the spirit of St Francis.'

At first Niepokalanow consisted of no more than a few shacks with tar-paper roofs, but it soon flourished. To cope with the flood of vocations all over Poland, a junior seminary was built at Niepokalanow 'to prepare priests for the missions capable of every task in the name of the Immaculate and with her help'. A few years later there were more than a hundred seminarians and the numbers were still growing. Before long Niepokalanow had become one of the largest (some say largest) friaries in the world. In 1939 it housed 762 inhabitants: 13 priests, 18 novices, 527 brothers, 122 boys in the junior seminary and 82 candidates for the priesthood. No matter how many labourers were in the vineyard there was always work for more. Among the inhabitants of Niepokalanow there were doctors, dentists, farmers, mechanics, tailors, builders, printers, gardeners, shoemakers, cooks. The place was entirely self-supporting.

Not only the friary but the printing house had been expanding. More modern machinery had been installed, including three machines which could produce 16,000 copies of the review in an hour. New techniques of type, photogravure and binding were adopted. The new machinery and techniques made it possible to meet the growing demand for —which had now reached the incredible circulation figure of 750,000 per month—and to produce other publications as well. In 1935 they began to produce a daily Catholic newspaper, , of which 137,000 copies were printed on weekdays and 225,000 on Sundays and holydays.

Maximilian did not rest content with mere journalistic activity. His sights were set even further. On 8 December 1938 a radio station was installed at Niepokalanow with the signature tune (played by the brothers' own orchestra) of the Lourdes hymn. And now that there was so much valuable equipment around, Niepokalanow acquired its own fire brigade to protect it against its enemies. Some of the brothers were now trained as firemen.

There was no doubt that Niepokalanow was going from strength to strength, a unique institution within Poland. The results of the work done there were becoming apparent. Priests in parishes all over the country reported a tremendous upsurge of faith, which they attributed to the literature emerging from Niepokalanow. A campaign against abortion in the columns of the (1938) seemed to awaken the conscience of the nation: more than a million people of all classes and professions ranged themselves behind the standard of Mary Immaculate. Years later, after the war, the Polish bishops sent an official letter to the Holy See claiming that Fr Kolbe's magazine had prepared the Polish nation to endure and survive the horrors of the war that was soon to follow.

Fr Maximilian was a restless spirit, and his activities could not be confined to Poland. His junior seminary had been started in 1929 but he didn't intend to wait for its first priest to be trained before he himself set out for the mission lands. To those who pointed out that Niepokalanow wasn't yet up to undertaking foreign apostolic work, he quoted the example of St Francis, who had risked himself on the mission fields when the other Orders had remained uninvolved. With the blessing of his Father General, Maximilian prepared his expedition. Asked whether he had money to finance it, he replied: 'Money? It will turn up somehow or other. Mary will see to it. It's her business and her Son's.'

On 26 February 1930 Fr Maximilian left Poland with four brothers from Niepokalanow on a journey to the Far East. They travelled by way of Port Said, Saigon and Shanghai, and on 24 April they landed at Nagasaki in Japan. Here they were given episcopal permission to stay. In fact Archbishop Hayasaka received them very warmly when he learned that Fr Maximilian had two doctorates and would be able to take the vacant chair of philosophy in the diocesan seminary in exchange for a licence to print his review.

The going was hard. The Poles' only shelter was a wretched hut whose walls and roof were caving in. They slept on what straw they could find and their tables were planks of wood. But despite such hardships, and the fact that they knew no word of the Japanese language, and had no money, on 24 April 1930, exactly a month after their arrival, a telegram was despatched to Niepokalanow: 'Today distributing Japanese . Have printing press. Praise to Mary Immaculate.' After that, it was scarcely surprising that a year later the Japanese Niepokalanow was inaugurated, Mugenzai no Sono (the Garden of the Immaculate), built on the slopes of Mount Hikosan. The choice of this site in the suburbs had been dictated by poverty, but it proved a lucky one. People thought Fr Maximilian was crazy to be building on steep ground sloping away from the town; but in 1945, when the atomic bomb all but levelled Nagasaki, Mugenzai no Sono sustained no more damage than a few broken panes of stained glass. Today it forms the centre of a Franciscan province.

Despite his passionate zeal in the cause of Mary, Fr Maximilian proved to be a wise missionary. He did not attempt to impose Western ideas on the Japanese. He respected their national customs and looked for what was good in Buddhism and Shintoism. He entered into dialogue with Buddhist priests and some of them became his friends. In 1931 he founded a noviciate and in 1936 a junior seminary. And of course he continued to publish his beloved magazine. , the Japanese , had a circulation six times that of its nearest Japanese Catholic rival. This was because it was aimed at the whole community, not just Catholics. The first 10,000 copies had swollen to 65,000 by 1936.

Father Maximilian's health was rapidly deteriorating, but he didn't allow this fact to diminish his zeal or his restless energy. Although he often complained of the lack of manpower and machines needed to serve the people of Japan, in 1932 he was already seeking fresh pastures. On 31 May he left Japan and sailed to Malabar where, after a few initial difficulties, he founded a third Niepokalanow. But his superiors requested him to return to Japan, and as no priests could be spared for Malabar that idea had to be given up. On another of his journeys he travelled through Siberia and spent some time in Moscow. Even here he dreamed of publishing his magazine-in Russian. He had studied the language and had a fair acquaintance with Marxist literature. Like Pope John XXIII he looked for the good elements even in systems which he believed to be evil; and he tried to teach his friars to do likewise.

In 1936 he was recalled to Poland, and left Japan for the last time. He had thought that he would find martyrdom there; and indeed he had found martyrdom of a kind. He was racked by violent headaches and covered with abscesses brought on by the food to which he could not grow accustomed. But these things were only pinpricks: the real martyrdom awaited him elsewhere.

Just before the Second World War broke out Fr Maximilian spoke to his friars about suffering. They must not be afraid, he said, for suffering accepted with love would bring them closer to Mary. All his life he had dreamed of a martyr's crown, and the time was nearly at hand.

By 13 September 1939 Niepokalanow had been occupied by the invading Germans and most of its inhabitants had been deported to Germany. Among them was Fr Maximilian. But that exile did not last long and on 8 December the prisoners were set free. From the moment that he returned to Niepokalanow Fr Maximilian was galvanized into a new kind of activity. He began to organize a shelter for 3,000 Polish refugees, among whom were 2,000 Jews. 'We must do everything in our power to help these unfortunate people who have been driven from their homes and deprived of even the most basic necessities. Our mission is among them in the days that lie ahead.' The friars shared everything they had with the refugees. They housed, fed and clothed them, and brought all their machinery into use in their service.

Inevitably the community came under suspicion and was closely watched. Early in 1941, in the only edition of which he was allowed to publish, Fr Maximilian set pen to paper and thus provoked his own arrest. 'No one in the world can change Truth', he wrote. 'What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is an inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?'

He would never know that kind of defeat; but a more obvious defeat was near. On 17 February 1941 he was arrested and sent to the infamous Pawiak prison in Warsaw. Here he was singled out for special ill-treatment. A witness tells us that in March of that year an S. S. guard, seeing this man in his habit girdled with a rosary, asked if he believed in Christ. When the priest calmly replied 'I do', the guard struck him. The S. S. man repeated his question several times and receiving always the same answer went on beating him mercilessly. Shortly afterwards the Franciscan habit was taken away and a prisoner's garment was substituted.

On 28 May Fr Maximilian was with over 300 others who were deported from Pawiak to Auschwitz. There he received his striped convict's garments and was branded with the number 16670. He was put to work immediately carrying blocks of stone for the construction of a crematorium wall. On the last day of May he was assigned with other priests to the Babice section which was under the direction of 'Bloody' Krott, an ex-criminal. 'These men are lay-abouts and parasites', said the Commandant to Krott, 'get them working.' Krott forced the priests to cut and carry huge tree-trunks. The work went on all day without a stop and had to be done running—with the aid of vicious blows from the guards. Despite his one lung, Father Maximilian accepted the work and the blows with surprising calm. Krott conceived a relentless hatred against the Franciscan and gave him heavier tasks than the others. Sometimes his colleagues would try to come to his aid but he would not expose them to danger. Always he replied, 'Mary gives me strength. All will be well.' At this time he wrote to his mother, 'Do not worry about me or my health, for the good Lord is everywhere and holds every one of us in his great love.'

One day Krott found some of the heaviest planks he could lay hold of and personally loaded them on the Franciscan's back, ordering him to run. When he collapsed, Krott kicked him in the stomach and face and had his men give him fifty lashes. When the priest lost consciousness Krott threw him in the mud and left him for dead. But his companions managed to smuggle him to the Revier, the camp hospital. Although he was suffering greatly, he secretly heard confessions in the hospital and spoke to the other inmates of the love of God. In Auschwitz, where hunger and hatred reigned and faith evaporated, this man opened his heart to others and spoke of God's infinite love. He seemed never to think of himself. When food was brought in and everyone struggled to get his place in the queue so as to be sure of a share, Fr Maximilian stood aside, so that frequently there was none left for him. At other times he shared his meagre ration of soup or bread with others. He was once asked whether such self-abnegation made sense in a place where every man was engaged in a struggle for survival, and he answered: 'Every man has an aim in life. For most men it is to return home to their wives and families, or to their mothers. For my part, I give my life for the good of all men.'

Men gathered in secret to hear his words of love and encouragement, but it was his example which counted for most. Fr Zygmunt Rusczak remembers: 'Each time I saw Father Kolbe in the courtyard I felt within myself an extraordinary effusion of his goodness. Although he wore the same ragged clothes as the rest of us, with the same tin can hanging from his belt, one forgot this wretched exterior and was conscious only of the charm of his inspired countenance and of his radiant holiness.'

There remained only the last act in the drama. The events are recorded in the sworn testimonials of former inmates of the camp, collected as part of the beatification proceedings. They are as follows:

Tadeusz Joachimowski, clerk of Block 14A: 'In the summer of 1941, most probably on the last day of July, the camp siren announced that there had been an escape. At the evening roll-call of the same day we, i.e. Block 14A, were formed up in the street between the buildings of Blocks 14 and 17. After some delay we were joined by a group of the Landwirtschafts-Kommando. During the count it was found that three prisoners from this Kommando had escaped: one from our Block and the two others from other Blocks. Lagerfuhrer Fritzsch announced that on account of the escape of the three prisoners, ten prisoners would be picked in reprisal from the blocks in which the fugitives had lived and would be assigned to the Bunker (the underground starvation cell).' Jan Jakub Szegidewicz takes up the story from there: 'After the group of doomed men had already been selected, a prisoner stepped out from the ranks of one of the Blocks. I recognized Father Kolbe. Owing to my poor knowledge of German I did not understand what they talked about, nor do I remember whether Fr Kolbe spoke directly to Fritzsch. When making his request, Fr Kolbe stood at attention and pointed at a former non-commissioned officer known to me from the camp. It could be inferred from the expression on Fritzsch's face that he was surprised at Fr Kolbe's action. As the sign was given, Fr Kolbe joined the ranks of the doomed and the non-commissioned officer left the ranks of the doomed and resumed his place in his Block; which meant that Fritzsch had consented to the exchange. A little later the doomed men were marched off in the direction of Block 13, the death Block.'

The non-commissioned officer was Franciszek Gajowniczek. When the sentence of doom had been pronounced, Gajowniczek had cried out in despair, 'O my poor wife, my poor children. I shall never see them again.' It was then that the unexpected had happened, and that from among the ranks of those temporarily reprieved, prisoner 16670 had stepped forward and offered himself in the other man's place. Then the ten condemned men were led off to the dreaded Bunker, to the airless underground cells where men died slowly without food or water.

Bruno Borgowiec was an eye-witness of those last terrible days, for he was an assistant to the janitor and an interpreter in the underground Bunkers. He tells us what happened: 'In the cell of the poor wretches there were daily loud prayers, the rosary and singing, in which prisoners from neighbouring cells also joined. When no S. S. men were in the Block I went to the Bunker to talk to the men and comfort them. Fervent prayers and songs to the Holy Mother resounded in all the corridors of the Bunker. I had the impression I was in a church. Fr Kolbe was leading and the prisoners responded in unison. They were often so deep in prayer that they did not even hear that inspecting S. S. men had descended to the Bunker; and the voices fell silent only at the loud yelling of their visitors. When the cells were opened the poor wretches cried loudly and begged for a piece of bread and for water, which they did not receive, however. If any of the stronger ones approached the door he was immediately kicked in the stomach by the S. S. men, so that falling backwards on the cement floor he was instantly killed; or he was shot to death ... Fr Kolbe bore up bravely, he did not beg and did not complain but raised the spirits of the others.... Since they had grown very weak, prayers were now only whispered. At every inspection, when almost all the others were now lying on the floor, Fr Kolbe was seen kneeling or standing in the centre as he looked cheerfully in the face of the S. S. men. Two weeks passed in this way. Meanwhile one after another they died, until only Fr Kolbe was left. This the authorities felt was too long; the cell was needed for new victims. So one day they brought in the head of the sick-quarters, a German, a common criminal named Bock, who gave Fr Kolbe an injection of carbolic acid in the vein of his left arm. Fr Kolbe, with a prayer on his lips, himself gave his arm to the executioner. Unable to watch this I left under the pretext of work to be done. Immediately after the S. S. men with the executioner had left I returned to the cell, where I found Fr Kolbe leaning in a sitting position against the back wall with his eyes open and his head drooping sideways. His face was calm and radiant.'

The heroism of Father Kolbe went echoing through Auschwitz. In that desert of hatred he had sown love. Mr Jozef Stemler, former director of an important cultural institute in Poland, comments: 'In those conditions ... in the midst of a brutalization of thought and feeling and words such as had never before been known, man indeed became a ravening wolf in his relations with other men. And into this state of affairs came the heroic self-sacrifice of Fr Maximilian. The atmosphere grew lighter, as this thunderbolt provoked its profound and salutary shock.' Jerzy Bielecki declared that Fr Kolbe's death was 'a shock filled with hope, bringing new life and strength.... It was like a powerful shaft of light in the darkness of the camp.'

His reputation spread far and wide, through the Nazi camps and beyond. After the war newspapers all over the world were deluged with articles about this 'saint for our times', 'saint of progress', 'giant of holiness'. Biographies were written, and everywhere there were claims of cures being brought about through his intercession. 'The life and death of this one man alone', wrote the Polish bishops, 'can be proof and witness of the fact that the love of God can overcome the greatest hatred, the greatest injustice, even death itself.' The demands for his beatification became insistent, and at last on 12 August 1947 proceedings started. Seventy-five witnesses were questioned. His cause was introduced on 16 March 1960. When all the usual objections had been overcome, the promoter spoke of 'the charm of this magnificent fool'. On 17 October 1971 Maximilian Kolbe was beatified. Like his master Jesus Christ he had loved his fellow-men to the point of sacrificing his life for them. 'Greater love hath no man than this ... and these were the opening words of the papal decree introducing the process of beatification.

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Isaiah 56: 1, 6 - 7
1Thus says the LORD: "Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.
6"And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant --
7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Psalms 67: 2 - 3, 5 - 6, 8
2that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving power among all nations.3Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee!5Let the peoples praise thee, O God; let all the peoples praise thee!6The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.
Romans 11: 13 - 15, 29 - 32
13Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry
14in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.
15For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?
29For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
30Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience,
31so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy.
32For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.
Matthew 15: 21 - 28
21And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
22And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon."
23But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, "Send her away, for she is crying after us."
24He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
25But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me."
26And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."
27She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
28Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
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