CP&S re-blog from 2010:
I could never have anticipated the powerful mix of emotion and awe that gripped me as I stood in the doorway of the Auschwitz cell – that hallowed place of martyrdom in which Saint Maximilian Kolbe gave his life for another and, according to records, the place of death by starvation of my paternal grandfather some six months later.
The journey to Oswiecim/Auschwitz was for me in part a pilgrimage to the shrine of the holy Franciscan priest who, having embraced the two crowns of virginity and martyrdom his beloved heavenly Mother offered him, went on to live out fully the demands of such a gift. As priest and missionary both in his native Poland and abroad, he used all the means available to him to proclaim God’s kingdom on earth. He lived and died for his Master, for his Church and, in a most literal way in the sacrifice of his life, for his neighbour.
As the children of a man scarred by the terror and sorrow of his own father’s brutal deportation, internment and death in the concentration camp, we were often told the story of Maximilian Kolbe. We also heard anecdotes about our grandfather, whose weeks in the starvation bunker were said to have been blessed by a fellow prisoner, a dying priest, weak and sick with hunger yet spiritually strong enough to drag himself from one victim to another hearing confessions, blessing and absolving, preparing souls for their journey to eternity. Gazing into the cell, I remembered and I thanked God for shining His light so brightly into the darkness of Auschwitz, and for the redemptive power of the cross.
(Maximilian Maria Kolbe – b. 8 January 1894; d. 14 August 1941)