Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Maximilian Kolbe (1894–1941)

Saint Maximilian Kolbe (1894–1941)

Patron saint of addicts and against drug addiction

Feast day: August 14

Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894 with the name Raimund Kolbe. He attended a Franciscan seminary as a teen, where he took the name Maximilian. Despite having tuberculosis, he was ordained a Franciscan priest and earned two doctoral degrees.

He began publishing a spiritual newsletter that served more than 200,000 people in Poland, preparing a nation to persevere during the coming trials of Nazi terror and communist occupation. After six years of missionary work in Japan, Father Kolbe returned to Poland in 1936. He continued his work as a theologian and newspaper editor and also entered radio ministry.

In 1939 the Nazis invaded Poland. After a brief arrest, Father Kolbe turned his monastery into a refuge for Polish refugees and 1,500 Jews. His papers took a Polish patriotic, anti-Nazi line. Within two years Father Kolbe was arrested for taking a stand against Nazi oppression. He was sent to the prison camp at Auschwitz.

Within the camp, he continued his priestly ministry by hearing confessions and saying Mass with smuggled bread and wine. After some prisoners tried to escape, the warden chose ten men at random to die by starvation. Father Kolbe offered his life for the life of another man who had a wife and children. His last days were spent in a starvation chamber before he was finally killed with a lethal injection.

Father Kolbe is a modern-day example of resisting evil with nonviolent love. (From The Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, Third Edition [Saint Mary’s Press]) 

(Image in public domain)