Relics of Auschwitz martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe were installed in a chapel in Poland’s parliament before Christmas.
The relics were introduced formally to both houses of the Polish parliament — the Sejm, or lower house, and the Senate — in the capital, Warsaw, at a ceremony attended by Elżbieta Witek, the Speaker of the Sejm, Senator Jerzy Chróścikowski, and Fr. Piotr Burgoński, chaplain of the Sejm chapel.
A Dec. 18 press release from the Polish parliament said that the relics were handed over following numerous requests from deputies and senators.
Kolbe was born in Zduńska Wola, central Poland, in 1894. As a child, he saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary holding two crowns. She offered him the crowns — one of which was white, symbolizing purity, and the other red, indicating martyrdom — and he accepted them.
Kolbe joined the Conventual Franciscans in 1910, taking the name Maximilian. While studying in Rome, he helped to found the Militia Immaculatae (Knights of the Immaculata), dedicated to promoting total consecration to Jesus through Mary.
Following the Nazi occupation of Poland, Kolbe was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. At a roll-call on July 29, 1941, guards selected 10 men to be starved to death as punishment after a prisoner escaped from the camp. When one of those chosen, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out in despair for his wife and children, Kolbe offered to take his place.
The 10 men were held in a bunker where they were deprived of food and water. According to witnesses, Kolbe led the condemned prisoners in prayer and hymn-singing. After two weeks, he was the only man still alive. He was killed by an injection of phenol on Aug. 14, 1941.
Recognized as a “martyr of charity,” Kolbe was beatified on Oct. 17, 1971, and canonized on Oct. 10, 1982.
© Reproduction is authorized provided the source is acknowledged.