A Saint for our Times

“The most deadly poison of our time is indifference.”
-St. Maximilian Kolbe

In this beautiful creation, there is much to be grateful for – community, nature, and wonders of the world that we can contemplate. Amongst all the things we have to be thankful for, we must acknowledge the injustice and hurt that exists in our time. When we watch the news, we can’t help but be torn apart by the devastation we see, the disrespect of human dignity, and ultimately a message of hate. The news makes me so anxious – it makes me sad to ponder all of the hurt other brothers and sisters are experiencing – murder, genocide, persecution.

While I do not like to ponder these issues, I become part of the problem if I live under a rock and do not stand for what is right. How do we learn from history if we don’t know history? How do we know if individuals in our world need an advocate if we are not aware of the current persecution they are facing? Christ calls us to stand by our brothers and sisters. When I am unsure what to do, I think back to the acronym WWJD (What would Jesus do?) to guide my actions. If Christ saw individuals being tortured, persecuted and looked down upon what would He do? We can read throughout Scripture that Christ was not afraid to speak the truth, to stand up for the dignity of others.

Christ is love, and He loves the entire human race. His love has no bounds, all He asks is the conversion of heart and for all of us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Every human being is our neighbor – no matter their background, beliefs, sexual orientation, race, etc. We are called to love all, for love is what will conquer any evil in this world. As Catholics, we must be beacons of love amidst these times of dispute and trial; we must be united to stand for the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death. We must meet our neighbor where they are and teach the truth of Christ through our actions, through our love.

An essential saint of our times, whose feast day we celebrate today, has shown us exactly what this love of Christ looks like, in the love that he shared with a stranger. St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest that gave His life for a fellow prisoner in Auschwitz. A prisoner from his barracks had escaped, and so the SS Guards lined up the remaining men for selection to death by starvation. As Fr. Kolbe watched the selection, one of them began to cry because he was a father and husband. Fr. Kolbe knew that this was the time he had prepared for, the time that he would share the lasting impact and meaning of loving our neighbor. He stood up to the guards and said he would take the man’s place – without protest the guards let Fr. Kolbe replace the man in the line of people to die by starvation. It took weeks before St. Maximilian Kolbe passed away, and as he died he is said to have great love and joy upon his face, singing praises until his last moments before dying by lethal injection. Looking back to the early times of St. Maximilian Kolbe’s life he had a vision of Our Lady holding two crowns – one white (purity of the priesthood) and one red (martyrdom). When given a choice, he took both crowns and accepted his life’s mission, living the love of Christ in all he did and sharing this with everyone he encountered.

St. Maximilian Kolbe’s story of martyrdom may seem extreme to many in their daily lives today – how can we all live out this radical love? While we may not all be called to martyrdom for the faith, we can live with a love on fire like Fr. Kolbe by not being indifferent when we see injustices in our world. When it comes to global and national human rights issues in our world, we must not be lukewarm but stand for the love that the Church is built upon – love for every human life, no matter where they are in the spectrum of life or what background they come from. As we grow to love others, they will learn the true teachings of Christ, for Christ is the ultimate teacher and the ultimate lover. When this task seems daunting, we may ask for the intercession of our Blessed Mother, someone that St. Maximilian Kolbe had a great devotion to – she will hear our prayers and stand with us, alongside Christ, as we live out the lives of Catholic discipleship in Jesus Christ. God bless you as you face times of speaking out, as you face times of injustice in your own life, and may the Holy Spirit give you the wisdom you need as you stand for all human life.

“For Jesus Christ, I am prepared to suffer still more.”
-St. Maximilian Kolbe

Contact the author

Nathalie Shultz is a joyful convert to the Catholic faith and a competitive swimmer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  She loves to share her passion for Catholicism with others, including her conversion story and how God continues to work miracles in her life through her OCD. She is the Director of Religious Education for the North Allegan Catholic Collaborative of parishes. Nathalie is married to her best friend, Tommy Shultz. Her favorite saints include St. Peter the Apostle, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. John Paul II.  She is also a huge fan of C.S. Lewis. If you have any questions for Nathalie, or just want her to pray for you, you can email her at rodzinkaministry@gmail.com.