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St Maximillian Kolbe

Maximilian was born in Poland in 1894. As a young child, Maximilian had a vision of Mary where she offered him two crowns: a white crown of purity and a red crown for martyrdom. He chose both crowns and dedicated the rest of his life to God and especially Mother Mary. His father was executed by the Russians for fighting for independence. Maximilian studied in Rome and was ordained as a priest in 1919, when he returned to Poland. He suffered from tuberculosis and many other illnesses throughout his life but saw it as a way of 'suffering for Mary' and never complained. Along with other priests, Kolbe published pamphlets, books and a daily newspaper spreading the good news of the Lord and devotion to Mary. Maximilian went to Japan in 1930 and spent six years spreading the word of God; he even founded a monastery near the city of Nagasaki. He returned to Poland just before the start of the Second World War, suffering from ill health. During the war, he helped hide, feed and clothe over 3,000 Polish refugees and criticised the Nazis in his newspaper. Kolbe was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in 1941. When ten prisoners were condemned to be starved to death by the officers, one of them cried out "My wife! My children!" Maximilian offered to take the man's place and sacrifice his own life so that the man might see his family again. As the men lay dying in the prison cells, Maximilian led them in prayer and survived two weeks of starvation. He was executed by lethal injection. He was canonised in 1982. He was the patron saint of journalists, prisoners, drug addicts and is an advocate for the pro-life movement.