Today the Church celebrates St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv., Missionary and Martyr. Born on January 8, 1894, he was born Raymund Kolbe in part of the Russian Empire at that time. His father was German and mother Polish, and was the second of five children. His father was later hanged by the Russians for fighting for independence for Poland.
While a child, St. Maximilian had a vision of Our Lady that he described later in his life:
"That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me, a Child of Faith. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me 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."
In 1907, He and his brother Francis joined the Conventual Franciscans, and took final vows in 1914, adopting the name Maximilian Mary. He organized the Militia Immaculata, or Army of Mary, to help stop the enemies of the church through the Blessed Mother. He even had his own radio license, using it to condemn the Nazi regime (Is it a coincidence that he and St. Teresa Benedicta's feast days are only five days apart? I think not).
He became a priest in 1918 and returned to the newly independent Poland and supervised a monastery there, and later founded one in 1927. During the Jewish persecution in Europe under the Nazi party, it is said that St. Maximilian sheltered Jewish refugees from Germany. In 1930 - 1936 he traveled to Japan to teach the faith and founded a monastery there. He returned to Poland and helped hide Jews after the Nazi occupation. In February he was arrested and sent to a concentration camp, later transferred to the notorious Auschwitz (The same camp as St. Teresa Benedicta...).
In the starvation cell, he celebrated Mass each day and sang hymns with the prisoners.
He led the other condemned men in song and prayer and encouraged them by telling them they would soon be with Mary in Heaven. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied and they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Some who were present at the injection say that he raised his left arm and calmly waited for the injection. His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast of the Assumption."
He was canonized on October 10, 1982, by Pope John Paul II as a martyr to the faith.