What do you know about Kolbe? If you’re like me, the answer is not very much. I mean, I knew that Kolbe was the guy that volunteered to die at Auschwitz in place of another prisoner, but not much beyond that.
I listened to an interview with one of Kolbe’s fellow prisoners recently. This prisoner and Kolbe were in the same block and, as I listened to him describe what happened that day, a few things struck me.
I guess I always imagined that immediately after the guards picked a prisoner to die, Kolbe volunteered to take his place. I figured it was a heart decision and that he probably made the decision on a whim out of pity for the man. I even thought to myself, “It must have been a relatively easy decision for him since he was such a holy man,”
Listening to the interview and hearing how the prisoners were made to line up in 10 rows changed my perspective. Kolbe was in row 5 and the man being interviewed was in row 4. The guard walked down each row slowly, methodically even, and picked one person to die from each row (as punishment for an escaped prisoner from their block).
The man picked in Kolbe’s row said “why me? I have a wife and young children” and then the guard went on slowly to pick 5 more people. He walked down row 6, row 7, row 8, row 9 and row 10. The secretary made note of the remaining prisoners and they were dismissed.
THEN Kolbe came forward and offered himself in place of the man.
Woah. He had time. He had time to really think and (here’s the kicker) to pray. He made that decision knowing he would’ve been safe that day had he said nothing. Maybe Kolbe took the time to check in with God, to ask Him what he wanted of him. I bet he a) heard God and b) answered His call.
It just really struck me: I wonder how many times God is asking me to do something and I miss it. I miss it because the world is loud or I forget to ask Him or I forget to listen after I ask.
God’s probably not asking me to literally die for someone today, but I bet he’s asking me to die to self in service of the little people in my family. He gives me tiny little opportunities to be faithful to that call daily. How often do I miss those opportunities? How often do I shove them away?
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.
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