In the Midst of Suffering
Do you know the story of St. Maximilian Kolbe?
I'm sure many of you do.
He's a favorite around the Ark. He's a fairly contemporary saint, which makes him very accessible to the children. They know that even Grandma and Grandpa were around when he was alive.
His story gets me every time. His great act of sacrifice for his fellow man as well as his ability to persevere in leading others to Jesus right up until his final days.
Arrested in 1941, and sent to Auschwitz, where he spent three months berated and beaten down by the camp's soldiers. At one point, a prisoner escaped and the guards demanded the lives of 10 men in his place. When Maximilian Kolbe saw that one of the chosen ten was a husband and father, he made the bold move of stepping off the line and offering his life in exchange for the other man. The guard, when discovering he was a priest, was happy to oblige. Fr. Kolbe joined the other nine men in the "block of death", where they were left to starve. In the darkness, in the midst of the sorrow, Fr. Kolbe encouraged the men. They sang and they prayed. The day before the Assumption, there were only four men still alive. Their captors took their lives that night.
Every time I think of St. Maximilian Kolbe it makes me pause and consider my own actions. Suffering is universal. To one extent or another, we all have some form of it in our lives. Some sufferings are more visible, more lengthy or more talked about than others. Many suffer in silence. What is remarkable about St. Maximilian Kolbe is not simply his selfless act of placing his life before another, but that he did so in the midst of what must have been his own terrible suffering. And then, when confronted with perhaps the worst evil mankind has ever seen, rather than give in...he gave hope to those around him.
How many of those nine other man knew Jesus before they entered that room? Perhaps all did. But perhaps not a one. If so, it is certain that they knew Him when they left.
Today, as I go about my business, when my own crosses seem to much to bear, will I allow them to consume me? Or will I, like St. Maximilian Kolbe, look beyond myself--eyes focused on the task at hand--ready to do the work that God has set before me?
“Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes” (Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested).
Read more about St. Maximilian Kolbe here and here.