Feast Day: August 14
Canonized: October 10, 1982
Beatified: October 17, 1971
Venerated: January 30, 1969
Raymund Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894. His family was very poor, but they were rich in spirit. In 1914, his father was captured and killed by the Russians for fighting for Polish independence.
In 1941, Maximilian was arrested by the Nazis, who soon sent him to Auschwitz concentration camp.
In July of that year, several prisoners escaped, and as punishment, the camp commander picked 10 men to be starved to death. Franciszek Gajowniczek, a husband and father, was one of these sentenced to death. Father Maximilian Kolbe offered his life in the man's place. Each day, he celebrated Mass for the other starving prisoners and prayed and sang with them. When he outlived many of the other men, he was killed by lethal injection.
On October 10, 1982, Pope John Paul II canonized Maximilian Kolbe as a “martyr of charity.” Present at the ceremony was Franciszek Gajowniczek, the Auschwitz prisoner whose place Maximilian had taken in giving his own life. Gajowniczek lived for 54 years after St. Maximilian Kolbe had taken his place in death.