Maximillian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest, is best known for his heroic death in a starvation bunker in Auschwitz. For many, this is why he’s a martyr. But it should really be for how he lived.
Because he was a Catholic priest confronting evil, the Nazis arrested him and sent him to the concentration camp. In July 1941, a man from Kolbe's barracks vanished, prompting the deputy camp commander to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in order to deter further escape attempts. One of the selected men cried out, "My wife, my children!" It was then that Kolbe volunteered to take his place. No greater love....
After three weeks, all the men in the starvation bunker had died except for Father Kolbe. Finally losing patience with the process, the guards gave him a lethal shot of carbolic acid to finish the job....as if death could silence such a life. Roughly 40 years later, at the canonization ceremony for St. Maximillian, the man Kolbe had volunteered to die for was present and spoke.
Maximillian Kolbe is an obvious example of what we would call a martyr. But as I began reflecting on what he'd say to us today, my serious hunch is that he'd want us to focus on what the word “martyr” means..."witness."
What does your life witness to? Let me put it a different way. Someday, at your funeral, when the nice speeches are finished, and the microphone is turned off, what will people say about your life? What will stand out? What will be remembered?
More than what you died for, martyrdom is about what you lived for.
Maximillian Kolbe is a hero you should know. And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.