This is a recycled post from 2014. Maximillian Kolbe’s memorial is on the fourteenth of August.
Whenever Maximillian Kolbe’s day comes around, any comments seem like they can wait. That day becomes a moment of silence. Max was that friar at Auschwitz who volunteered his life for the sake of another prisoner who had a family. When I was reading that first mass reading from Ezekiel, God instructs that prophet to dig a hole in the city wall and exit through it as if he was in exile. Since Max’s sacrifice was so great, any readings had to be taken in context with his story.
What could crawling through a hole have to do with Max Kolbe? All of Ezekiel’s action throughout that story serve to pronounce the sins of these people, and bring them to repentance. The thought that constantly returned was both Ezekiel’s and Maximillian Kolbe’s actions in response to another’s sins. As a common saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Many times people are called to action. In thinking about Max Kolbe though, one cannot put aside yesterday’s news to focus on an event that occurred a half century ago. That event should serve as a model on similar events of today.
When thinking of Max Kolbe’s actions, my mind of course is drawn to that WW2 prison, and that horrible act towards Europe’s Jews. The contemporary event follows that movement of those people into modern Israel, and the resultant conflicts that are occurring throughout the mid-east. Again focusing on Max Kolbe’s actions for the protection of another, my eyes ae drawn towards the current persecution of religious minorities in Iraq. By viewing that conflict through the imagery of Ezekiel and Kolbe, what does one learn? For one, can one overlook the obvious? Both were well aware of the events around them. While they both were active participants in those events, is it necessary to participate in an event to observe it?
I can read news accounts of the Iraq atrocities without being there. How important is that vigilance and observation? Max Kolbe and Ezekiel might remind us to be well aware of our surroundings. There stories though highlight the need for actions to current events, and what defines an action? Is it necessary to stand in front of a bullet? Is it necessary to be the town crier? What actions can an ordinary citizen take towards injustice, and persecution, and suffering? Many have and can write elected officials. Many can and have written commentaries bringing an issue to people’s attention. Both are important ways to at least bring about a dialogue on behalf of others. Many can and should offer prayer on the refugee’s behalf. Their plight should not be slighted or forgotten. Many can and should offer material assistance to those in need. Meeting a person’s material needs is a concrete action to meet very real needs of a person’s suffering. Food, shelter, clothing, medicine, water. They are all as effective to saving another’s life as was Max Kolbe’s. Perhaps one way to honor Max Kolbe for his efforts on another’s behalf is to intervene for another? Perhaps offering some material support for the persecuted religious minorities of Iraq might be a good start?