Neither Bang Nor Whimper: the Death of St Maximilian Kolbe

The earth did not move from its foundations when St Maximilian Kolbe died. Everyone else in the bunker had already died, so it only remained for the guards to inject him with carbolic acid, wait for him to die, then remove his body and burn it. End of story. Just one more death at Auschwitz, one more inconvenient opponent of the Nazi regime disposed of. With time, one might expect all the singularities of this man to be forgotten along with the manner of his death; but it proved not to be so. Today we recall his devotion to Our Lady, his championing of the latest and best technology in promoting his religious ideals, and, above all, his volunteering to die in the place of a stranger. In other words, that apparently hidden death is not forgotten, is not meaningless.

Many people struggle with the idea of death, with the sense of loss, especially if the death is of someone young or someone we love. Glib words about uniting our own death with the death of Jesus on the Cross tend to remain just that — glib words — unless or until we are given grace to see the love that lies behind the loss. In the case of St Maximilian, we tend to focus on his extraordinary power of love and self-sacrifice, but perhaps we should look at the love that drew him, the love of the Lord for him that enabled him to do what he did. His death was not an act of bravado, at its deepest level perhaps not even a response to God as we commonly understand that term, but acceptance of God’s invitation to be fashioned into an icon of his beloved Son. The initiative remains God’s always, and neither bang nor whimper quite fit; nor can death, with its promise of being united eternally with One who has loved us from the beginning, ever be meaningless. 

Thank You
Thank you for your prayers and good wishes. I am getting over the latest chemotherapy and can now see with both eyes, though it will take a few days longer for them to co-ordinate properly.


9 thoughts on “Neither Bang Nor Whimper: the Death of St Maximilian Kolbe”

  1. Thank you for your post today. As always you give us stuff to ponder on throughout the day (and hopefully to make time to bring into prayer).
    May your sight improve and your body recover from the latest chemo onslaught. God bless you and your Community.

  2. So pleased you are getting better . Great post as always. Am reading a book about Auschwitz at the moment called The Volunteer written by Jack Fairweather another remarkable person just like St. Maximilian Kolbe.

  3. Thank you for this timely reminder of self sacrifice. Maximillian Kolbe gave everything for a fellow human. May the Lord bless and care for him and for you, dear Sister Catherine. Peace and love be with you xx

  4. What a death, what people. I agree with my fellow commenter *Marie* about a week remembering Edith Stein, Sr Benedicta of the Cross too. My understanding of her intention of her journey to Auschwitz was to try and offer herself as selfless penance to try and protect her people.

    Such courage, such sureness of God.

  5. I don’t find it at all ‘glib’ myself to unite the medical physical sufferings I am going through to the suffering of Christ in His Passion. Truthfully offering my own agonies to and with Christ for sin and sinners / the salvation of souls – mine included – is about the only way I can cope or understand a purpose of what I have to endure daily.

    Presuming however that you refer to people telling others to just offer it up in this way with no apparent personal compassion or empathy to the suffering person – that would indeed be a tooth grinding moment.

    Lets keep soldiering on offering it up BUT also begging our Dear Lord and His Mother for healing as suffering of this sort is not fun !

    Love and prayers 🙂

  6. I reread the above and now clearly see where you do make the distinction between when it would be glib or not – finding it hard to concentrate with my mind fuzzy from pain.

    Love and prayers 🙂

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