During this week of the feast of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, let us reflect on Blessed John Paul II’s words at Brezezinka Concentration Camp:
"This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith" (1 Jn 5:4).
These words from the Letter of Saint John come to my mind and enter my heart as I find myself in this place in which a special victory was won through faith; through the faith that gives rise to love of God and of one's neighbor, the unique love, the supreme love that is ready to "lay down (one's) life for (one's) friends" (Jn 15:13; cf. 10:11). A victory, therefore, through love enlivened by faith to the extreme point of the final definitive witness.
This victory through faith and love was won in this place by a man whose first name is Maximilian Mary. Surname: Kolbe. Profession (as registered in the books of the concentration camp): Catholic priest. Vocation: a son of Saint Francis. Birth: a son of simple, hardworking devout parents, who were weavers near Lódz. By God's grace and the Church's judgment: Blessed.
The victory through faith and love was won by him in this place, which was built for the negation of faith—faith in God and faith in man—and to trample radically not only on love but on all signs of human dignity, of humanity. A place built on hatred and on contempt for man in the name of a crazed ideology. A place built on cruelty. On the entrance gate which still exists, is placed the inscription "Arbeit macht frei", which has a sardonic sound, since its meaning was radically contradicted by what took place within.
In this site of the terrible slaughter that brought death to four million people of different nations, Father Maximilian voluntarily offered himself for death in the starvation bunker for a brother, and so won a spiritual victory like that of Christ himself. This brother still lives today in the land of Poland.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, Pray for Us!