Starved and Poisoned
The Nazis attempted to starve Maximilian and the nine other prisoners to death. He lasted over two weeks without food. Finally, the guards injected him with a poison and he died. This is why he is the patron of drug addicts. He is also the patron of new ministries; the founders of Joe Catholic prayed the chaplet of St. Maximilian when they were discerning the creation of the group.
To combat evil according to the spirit of the Marian Militia is to fight with love for all men, including those who are less good. It is to put good in relief, so as to make it more attractive rather than to propagate evil by describing it. When the occasion presents itself to call to the attention of society, or of authority, to some evil, it must be done with love for the person to blame, and with delicacy. Do not exaggerate; do not go into detail about the evil any more than is necessary to remedy it.
—Saint Maximilian Kolbe; From the book “Forget Not Love: The Passion of Maximilian Kolbe” available at Ignatius Press.
Blessed John Paul II canonized Kolbe in 1982. This is what he had to say as he concluded his homily during the canonization Mass:
In Their Minds It Was Not "Death"Men saw what happened in the camp at Auschwitz. And even if to their eyes it must have seemed that a companion of their torment "dies," even if humanly speaking they could consider "his departure" as "a disaster," nevertheless in their minds this was not simply "death." Maximilian did not die but "gave his life...for his brother." In that death, terrible from the human point of view, there was the whole definitive greatness of the human act and of the human choice. He spontaneously offered himself up to death out of love.
And in this human death of his there was the clear witness borne to Christ: the witness borne in Christ to the dignity of man, to the sanctity of his life, and to the saving power of death in which the power of love is made manifest.
Maximilian's Death a Sign of VictoryPrecisely for this reason the death of Maximilian Kolbe became a sign of victory. This was victory won over all systematic contempt and hate for man and for what is divine in man-a victory like that won by our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary.
"You are my friends if you do what I command you" (John 15:14). The Church accepts this sign of victory-won through the power of Christ's redemption-with reverence and gratitude. She seeks to discern its eloquence with all humility and love.
Before the eloquence of the life and death of blessed Maximilian, it is impossible not to recognize what seems to constitute the main and essential element of the sign given by God to the Church and the world in his death.
Does not this death-faced spontaneously, for love of man-constitute a particular fulfillment of the words of Christ? Does not this death make Maximilian particularly like unto Christ-the Model of all Martyrs-who gives his own life on the Cross for his brethren? Does not this death possess a particular and penetrating eloquence for our age? Does not this death constitute a particularly authentic witness of the Church in the modern world?
And so, in virtue of my apostolic authority, I have decreed that Maximilian Maria Kolbe-who after his Beatification was venerated as a Confessor-shall henceforeward be venerated also as a Martyr!
"Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones!" Amen