Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe
I write these few thoughts on today’s feast from our family home in St. Louis where I am visiting on vacation. Were my father, James Aloysius, still alive today we would be celebrating his 110th birthday. Alas, or in truth joyfully, he celebrates this milestone not with us but with the rest of our family in his Heavenly home. So, naturally, on this special day as we remember a great contemporary martyr named Maximilian, my thoughts also drift to the life of another great one whose faith touched my own life, the guy we all called “Dad.” Now I don’t believe that Dad was as great and holy a man as was Maximilian, but, in his own way, I have no doubt that he lived his faith in a heroic manner. St. Maximilian witnessed his faith most fully by gladly offering his life in exchange for a fellow Auschwitz prisoner, Sgt. Francis Gajowniczek. What a heroic moment that must have been when St. Maximilian stepped forward and, when asked by the commandant who he was, replied with the brief but powerful words: “I am a priest.” My father once lost a very, very good job working with a local and powerful company by the name of National Lead by standing up for the men working under him. These sales men counted on commissions that were being denied them for the sake of making the administration and the books look better to the head office out of state. My father protested unceasingly about this unjust and unethical treatment until the higher-ups came to town and told him that if he did not desist he would be fired. My father spoke some mighty heroic words himself: “Why you can’t fire me. I quit!” He was over 50 years old at the time but had a great reputation in the business. The next day another company hired him! Still, he stood up to injustice and refused to be a part of something immoral. I will never forget Dad’s action and the way he lived out his faith.
Summer is drawing to a close very quickly. Let’s remember on today’s feast the heroic action of St. Maximilian Kolbe and all the other great ones that the Lord chooses to place in our life. Let’s never forget how great and generous is our loving God!
Fr. Pat Brennan, C.P., is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center, Detroit, Michigan.