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‘ Kolbe’s Gift.’ Valuable nuggets of Faith, shared centre-stage.


‘KOLBE’S GIFT’ is a play that is challenging and thought provoking. I booked thickets to see it way back in July, as I knew that the demand for tickets would be great.  I was not mistaken. The demand to see this production forced the provision of another showing .


Blessed Maximillian is one of my favourite saints and the play forced me to look at his life from a different perspective:  How did his gift of life to Franciszek Gajownicek  (his fellow prisoner in the concentration camp at Auschwitz) impact on the survivor’s lfe? And more importantly:- How is his gift of life to Franciszek Gajownicek impacting on my life?

imageHere is a summary of his story at Auschwitz as written at Courage.net

To discourage escapes, the Auschwitz had a rule that if a man escaped, ten prisoners would be killed in response. In July 1941, the Nazis thought a man from Kolbe’s bunker had escaped. (After this incident, the “escaped” prisoner was found drowned in the camp latrine.)

“The fugitive has not been found!” the commandant Karl Fritsch screamed. “So ten of you will die in his place in the starvation bunker.”  Ten men were selected, including Franciszek Gajowniczek, who had been imprisoned for helping the Polish Resistance.  When he was selected, Franciszek could not help but cry out, “My wife! My poor children! What will they do?”

Suddenly and silently, Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward. Astounded, the Nazi commandant asked,“What does this Polish pig want?”  Maximilian took off his cap, and stood before the Commandant and requested, “I am a Catholic Priest from Poland; I would like to take this man’s place because he has a wife and children.”

The Commandant remained silent for a moment, then accepted the request. The Nazis had more use for a young worker than for an old Priest. So Franciszek Gajowniczek was returned to the ranks, and Maximilian took his place.

Soon after Kolbe was thrown with 9 other men into the starvation bunker and left to die.  One by one, the men died of hunger and thirst.  After two weeks, only four were left alive.  But since the cell was needed for new prisoners, the camp executioner came in and injected a lethal dose of carbolic acid into the left arm of each of the four remaining men. And soon it was all over…

So Father Maximilian Kolbe was executed on August 14, 1941, at the age of forty-seven, a martyr of charity.  His body was removed to the crematorium, and without dignity or ceremony, disposed of.

An excellent portrait of the people surrounding Blessed Kolbe’s life at the concentration camp was meticulously painted, line by line, details that would come together as a unified whole as the meaning of the gift of his life, for Franciszek Gajownicek’s played out in front of us. My heart went out to Franciszek and his wife as they struggled with the doubt and derision of acquaintances as he told the story of  Fr. Maximillian’s sacrifice over and over again.

Franciszek Gajowniczek


Franciszek Gajowniczek lived a full life, dying on March 13, 1995, in Poland at the age of 95… 53 years after Kolbe had saved him from execution.  Franciszek never forgot the priest. After his release from Auschwitz, Gajowniczek spent the next five decades paying homage to Father Kolbe. Every year on August 14 he went back to Auschwitz and honoured the man who died on his behalf.

The nuggets which I took away with me: 

  • Stand up for what you know to be true, proudly and without faltering.
  • Live out your Faith. Even unto death.
  • You are either a Christian with convictions, or you are an empty vessel, worth little. Truth will endure.
  • The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Faith.
  • You have nothing to fear if you believe in Jesus.
  • I too have a job to do. I will play a part in a story that I do not know is unfolding, however small.
  • God will use me.

The story of Blessed Maximillian Kolbe can be bought from CTS publications. It is based upon his writings and first-hand testimonies from people who knew him., many of whom the author Fr. James E. McCurry, has known and interviewed.

The release of this play this week is not coincidental. This story marries beautifully with the readings of today.

(Readings taken from Universalis– emphasis mine)

Second reading 2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14 ©
I am reminding you to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God.
Keep as your pattern the sound teaching you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. You have been trusted to look after something precious; guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.


A favourite quote from a favourite Saint.

A favourite quote from a favourite Saint.

“The most deadly poison of our times is indifference.” – Maximillian Kolbe, martyred priest at Auschwitz

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I just got back from the annual service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which was held at our local Baptist church this year, and the theme for this year was prepared by the churches in Poland.

The Theme for 2012:

‘We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ’

(cf. 1 Cor 15:51-58)

It was a beautiful service!  Very moving and thought provoking, and I left feeling elated at the openness and acceptance I experienced from those who didn’t know me, but knew that in order for me to have attended, I must be a Christian. The evening included beautiful readings, uplifting music, poetry, prayer and an overall sense of belonging.

This year was more special than most, for me anyway, because our Bishop, Paul Hendricks, was the key-note speaker. His message was to the point and included anecdotes from his life at Oxford University as a student. He mentioned that he  enjoyed debating with fellow students about various topics on faith and religion and mentioned that he would always come away from these discussions invigorated and challenged by what had been explored. He also mentioned that he grew in faith from these experiences. A lot.   (I found this link http://www.harvardichthus.org/ which may go a long way in explaining what Bishop Paul’s debates may have been about. Fascinating!)

It was inspirational, to say the least, and I sat in my chair quietly proud of our strong and confident leader, preach in the spirit of Ecumenism.  He stood as  part of Christ’s flock , reaching  out in love to us all by suggesting that we play our part in uniting Christians, and challenging us to take ‘the first step’towards discovering another Christian denomination and what we may have in common with one another.

I have a long way to go down this unknown path called Ecumenism and I have much to learn, but I am spurred on by the experiences encountered at the services I have attended during the Week of Prayer for Christian unity over the past few years.

What about you?