SAINTS OF AUSCHWITZ
Maximilian Kolbe (Feast-day: 14th August)
He was born on 8 January 1894 in Poland: he became a Franciscan in Lwów in 1910, and was ordained eight years later. He believed that the world was passing through a time of intense spiritual crisis, and that Christians must fight for the world’s salvation with all the means of modern communication.
In 1930 he went to Japan, studied Buddhism and Shintoism, and through the Japanese edition of his newspaper spread the Christian message in a way that was in harmony with Japanese culture.
In Nagasaki, he set up a “Garden of the Immaculate” (which survived the atomic bomb). He travelled to Malabar and to Moscow, but was recalled to Poland in 1936 for reasons of health. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, the community at Teresin (of which he was a part) sheltered thousands of refugees, most of them Jews.
In 1941 he was arrested, and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, where he helped and succoured the inmates. In August of that year a prisoner escaped, and in reprisal the authorities chose ten people to be put to death by starvation. One of the men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, had a family, and Maximilian Kolbe offered to take his place. The offer was accepted, and he spent his last days comforting his fellow prisoners. He died on 14th August 1941.
The man he saved was present at his canonisation on 10 October 1982 by Pope John Paul II who declared him a martyr of charity.
Graciously grant, through the intercession of Saint Maximillian Kolbe,
that, striving for your glory by eagerly serving others,
we may be conformed, even until death, to your Son.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein (1891-1942): Feast -day 9th August
Born to a Jewish family in Germany, Edith Stein was the youngest of her eleven siblings. By the time she was thirteen she had lost interest and faith in Judaism.
She was a natural academic, studying German and history at the university level.
She became fascinated with phenomenology, receiving her PhD in philosophy from the University of Freiburg under Edmund Husserl.
Although she had fallen away from her faith, Stein actively sought something else and found it in the Catholic Church. Stein was baptized in 1922 after reading and being profoundly moved by the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. Twelve years later, she received approval to enter the cloistered community at Cologne-Lindenthal as a Carmelite nun. She made her Profession of Vows on April 21, 1935 and became “Teresia Benedicta a Cruce” (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross).
Teresa realized she brought a potential threat to her community as anti-Semitic tension grew in Germany. The prioress of the Cologne Carmel had Teresa smuggled across the border into the Netherlands in December 1938 where she was received by the Carmel of Echt.
The Netherlands was no longer a safe haven. Provoked by the Dutch Bishops’ Conference, which bravely forced the reading of a public statement condemning Nazi racism in all of the country’s churches on July 20th, 1942, the Reichskomissar of the Netherlands ordered the immediate arrest of all Jewish converts who had been safe to that point. Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on August 2, 1940 while in the chapel with her sister Rosa, also a convert. Her last words in Echt were to her sister: “Come, we are going to our people.” Through a number of transit camps with hundreds of other Jews, the two sisters arrived in Auschwitz where they were quickly sent to the gas chambers on August 9, 1942. Edith was 50 years old.
The writings of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross fill 17 volumes, including translations of Cardinal Newman’s diaries and letters as well as Thomas Aquinas’ Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was beatified in 1987 and canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1998. She is honoured as a “daughter of Israel who, as a Catholic during the Nazi persecution, remained faithful to the Crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness.”
Dear Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Child of the Day of Atonement , Daughter of Abraham, Bride of Christ, Seeker of truth, Scholar of the Church, Handmaid of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Servant of the Suffering Servant, Presence of mercy, Victim of victimizer, Embracer of the Cross of Christ-like love, Martyr of Auschwitz, Imitator of Jesus, Conqueror of evil, Friend of God,
Edith, pray for us. Teresa Benedicta, pray for those for whom I pray..... Saint Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Pray for us.