Fr Paul reads from Matthew’s Gospel (19:13-15) in which Jesus says, ‘Let the little children alone and do not stop them coming to me’. After reading the Gospel, Fr Paul shares a little about the life of St Maximilian Kolbe who memorial we celebrate today.
Fr Paul says, Maximilian was born in January 1894 in occupied Poland. In 1910, he joined the Franciscans and eight years later, he was ordained, just as his country, Poland, became free and independent for the first time in over 120 years. He founded a newspaper and, then, in 1927 he founded a community at Terezin. This attracted many lay people. It was self-supporting. They published periodicals and had their own radio station. In 1930, Maximilian went to Japan to study and to spread the Christian message through a Japanese edition of his newspaper. Then for health reasons, in 1936, he returned to Poland.
When Germany invaded in 1939, his community at Terezin had sheltered thousands of refugees. Many of them were Jews and so Maximilian was sent to Auschwitz where he began to help those around him. A man with a family was sentenced to death and Maximilian offered to take his place and that offer was accepted by the Germans at the time and so Maximilian starved to death.
It is beautiful to note that the man, who Maximilian took the place of, was present at his canonisation in Rome.
Today, Fr Paul says, we ask St Maximilian Kolbe to pray for us.