Joe. 20. Studying History, Theology and Classics at Providence College. "My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning" Psalm 130:6Ask me anything Submit
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." -John 15:13
In July 1941 a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz concentration camp. To punish the remaining prisoners, the Nazi commandant selected ten men to be executed by starvation. One Polish prisoner, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out in anguish: “My poor wife! My poor children! What will they do?” When he uttered this cry of dismay, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest, stepped silently forward, took off his cap, stood before the commandant and said, “I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.”
Gajowniczek remembers this moment:
"I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me - a stranger. Is this some dream?
I was put back into my place without having had time to say anything to Maximilian Kolbe. I was saved. And I owe to him the fact that I could tell you all this. The news quickly spread all round the camp. It was the first and the last time that such an incident happened in the whole history of Auschwitz.
For a long time I felt remorse when I thought of Maximilian. By allowing myself to be saved, I had signed his death warrant. But now, on reflection, I understood that a man like him could not have done otherwise. Perhaps he thought that as a priest his place was beside the condemned men to help them keep hope. In fact he was with them to the last.”
The lives of the saints reflect that of Christ, providing powerful testimony to the love and salvation of God. The sacrifice of St. Maximillian Kolbe demonstrates the power of God to sanctify men and make them life Him. This configuration to Christ also witnesses to God’s salvific love.
Gajowniczek’s account echoes the cry of wonder all Christians should utter before the great and scandalous sacrifice of the Lord of the Universe. The immensity of it: the ineffable, unchangeable, eternal, all powerful, all knowing, perfectly good and holy One came to die willingly, voluntarily for those who had forsaken him, who were condemned by sin, for those who were estranged from him. “Is this some dream,” we might also ask.
"But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us"-Romans 5:8
The sacrifice of St. Maximilian Kolbe mirrors, points to and pours from the sacrifice of Christ. Because Christ died for us, God has made it possible for men to willingly, selflessly, without calculations, without pride or self righteousness, but for love of God and neighbor lay down their lives for another. No great love hath man than this, because this is truly the love of God, the “Love which moves the Sun and the other stars,” the Love that made us, the Love that became flesh, that dwelt among us, carried our burdens, shared our suffering, took our transgressions, bore our offenses, the Love that embraced a sinful world with arms stretched open upon the cross of our salvation.