“The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers.”
Saint Maximilian Kolbe (January 8, 1894 – August 14, 1941) was a Polish Conventual Franciscan Friar who volunteered to die in place of another a stranger at the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz. Following a vision of the Virgin Mary at age 12, Kolbe dedicated his life to the veneration of Mary, and he accordingly founded the Militia Immaculatae (Army of the Immaculate One) whose goal was to work for the conversion of enemies of the church.
As a friar in Poland, Kolbe remained in his monastery during World War II where he operated a temporary hospital. He was arrested by the Nazis for his refusal to pledge his allegiance to the party. He was transferred to Auschwitz where Nazi guards chose ten men to be starved to death in an undeground bunker. When one of the chosen men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out about his wife and children, Kolbe volunteered to take his place. While in the bunker, Kolbe led the men in prayer as they passed on one by one. At the end of two weeks Kolbe was the only remaining man alive, and he was executed on August 14, 1941. St. Kolbe was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982. The crowns on the Kolbe crest represent his vision of the Virgin Mary at age 12, and the miraculous medal shows his dedication to her from that moment through the end of his life. The prisoner patch and stripes represent Kolbe’s time in Auschwitz, accompanied by his prisoner number. The motto Memento Mori — remember you must die — is indicative of the way Kolbe lived his life without fear of death, knowing what was coming in the next life because of his faith in Christ.