Franciscan Father Maximilian Kolbe was born at Zdunska-Wola, near Lodz, Poland, and baptized Raymond.
Joining the Conventual Franciscans, he took the name Maximilian, pronouncing temporary vows in 1911. In 1917, one year before his ordination, he founded the Militia of Mary Immaculate in Rome to advance Marian devotion.
In 1941, Father Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo when the Germans invaded Poland, and he was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. On Aug. 14, 1941, he took the place of a married prisoner, who had a family and was one of 10 inmates selected to be executed in a retaliatory punishment in the camp.
It was the Nazis’ policy to kill 10 prisoners every time one inmate escaped. Father Kolbe volunteered to die in the place of the married prisoner. After long and terrible sufferings that he faced with such equanimity and concern for his fellow victims, he was give an injection of carbolic acid by the SS guards to end his tortures.
He was beatified in 1971 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982 and declared a martyr of charity. His feast day is Aug. 14, and he is the patron of drug addiction; drug addicts; families; imprisoned people; journalists; political prisoners; prisoners; pro-life movement.