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Thanksgiving – Sacrifice

As an exercise in almsgiving over the next 40 days, this webpage will joyfully give up its praise and thanks for one aspect of life, and not always necessarily a religious one.

John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

The twitter size history of Saint Maximilian Kolbe – that he exchanged places with a condemned prisoner in Auschwitz and died in his place – seriously short changes a man whom St John Paul II called the “patron saint of our difficult (20th) century”. This is because Kolbe’s life was one of exceptional service and sacrifice well before the outbreak of the second world war.

St Maximilian Kolbe

By turns he was a successful pioneer of religious publishing and radio broadcast ventures in his native Poland; held doctorates in philosophy and theology from the Pontifical universities in Rome; played an instrumental role in the founding of three monasteries in Poland, India and Japan (and amazingly one of the few buildings to withstand the Nagasaki bombing); a survivor of tuberculosis and, finally, a resistance agent providing safe haven to around 3000 refugees, many of them Jewish.

Due to Kolbe’s death taking place at Auschwitz it is understandably presumed he died in the gas chambers however this wasn’t the case. To punish the prisoners after an escape, 10 fellow inmates from the same barracks were chosen to die through starvation. One of the condemned, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out in sorrow for the sake of his wife and family. When Kolbe volunteered to take his place instead the offer was accepted. Throughout the time of detention he ministered by leading the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, Kolbe and three others still remained as an ongoing thorn in the side of the camp commanders. He was finally murdered by lethal injection.

In death, Kolbe was denied all dignity and recorded only as a number – prisoner 16770. Fortunately those few prisoners that survived gave him back his name and bore witness to his selfless act for the world. It’s hard to know who of us would stand in his shoes pressed with the same predicament. The circumstances are such a 50-50 call they could make one either a hero or a coward for life. In St Maximilian Kolbe’s case, however, the habit of sacrifice and the moulding of his character had been building to this moment such that there could only ever be one option.

For this pure act of sacrifice, which the world can still draw strength from and take as an example, we say thank you.

The Brisbane Archdiocese is blessed to have a church named in his honour (Kingston-Marsden parish).

Previous thanksgiving article: Inventiveness

The season of Lent asks of us for sacrifice and the foregoing of many things, but an attitude of joy and gratitude should not be amongst them.

As an exercise in almsgiving over the next 40 days, this webpage will joyfully give up its praise and thanks for one aspect of life, and not always necessarily a religious one.

At the outset it should be made clear the viewpoints expressed here are a matter of individual opinion. If any one item doesn’t coincide with your own personal tastes then why not seek to better it with some thanksgiving of your own rather than a critique? You are always welcome to do so at the Archdiocesan website feedback mechanism.

So we invite you to come, walk with us awhile, and be thankful as we journey together to Calvary and beyond to Easter.

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