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#lovewins - Lesser known facts about Rajmund Kolbe

It may be that this is the last day of your life.
Live it as if it were, indeed, the last day.
Tomorrow is uncertain, yesterday is no longer yours. Only the present belongs to you.
Every action you perform will remain forever.
— Maximilian Kolbe, age 24, few days before his ordination

Rajmund Kolbe had a vision of Mary at the age of 12 – she brought him two crowns, white-symbolizing purity and red-symbolizing martyrdom. He had voluntarily offered his life for an unknown man, Franciszek Gajowniczek, and died as the last convict in the hunger bunker. This is what most people know. But there are many other aspects of Kolbe's life that are not known. Here are some of them:

Rajmund's family was very patriotic family (Poland was under partitions for over 100 years when the boys were small) and talked a lot about Polish history. Brothers liked to run around and paint Polish eagles on fences as a sign of protest and desire for freedom. Patriotic feelings were running deep. 

Marianna Kolbe

His parents, who were educated only in elementary schools, belonged to the third order Franciscans, they home schooled during early years, helped the poor (not being well of themselves) and sick. Looking for jobs, they ended up in a big industrial city of Łódź, but soon after decided that because of the kids they need to move to the little village nearby. They ran a small store and gave away so may things to the poor that they lost the business; because of the political unrest they had to downsize their living quarters to a small one-room apartment and changed locations often. They both worked 12 hours daily, starting with 5:00am Mass, prayed together as a family, and taught their kids that only the following order of life is meaningful: work, study, and play only if you have time. They belonged to a rosary group and every Sunday attended Eucharistic adoration, which they themselves organized.

Before all else, prayer. Some Catholics, less well instructed in the task of perfecting souls, often seem to do the opposite. Work, action... according to them this is the fulcrum of apostolic action. But such is not the case.
Prayer, prayer especially, is the effective weapon to use in the struggle for the liberation and happiness of souls. Why?
Because only supernatural means can lead to a supernatural end.
— Fr. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, 30 year old

The boys were responsible for keeping the apartment clean, they cooked and brought food for their parents twice a day to the factory where they worked, made dinners daily and walked with their parents from the factory to spend time with them in the evening. Marianna helped as a doula after her factory work, and studied in the evenings to become better at helping poor women without medical help. Juliusz supported the local parochial library, made book covers and wrote articles for a local newspaper. He evangelized everyone around, trying to convert even a local Evangelical pastor, and Marianna, feeling inadequate to raise boys, constantly called upon Mary’s help. Her conversations had only one focus: God. She was very firm and expected nothing but the best from the boys. After having five sons (two of them died early on), Juliusz and Marianna decided to live in chastity.

You must be prepared for periods of darkness, anxiety, doubts, fears, of temptations that are sometimes very, very insistent, of sufferings of the body and, what is a hundredfold more painful, of the soul. For if there were nothing to bear, for what would you go to heaven? If there were no trials, there would be no struggle. Without a struggle, victory would be impossible, and without victory, there is no crown, no reward (1 Cor 9:25). So be prepared from now on for everything.
There is nothing to shrink from, however, for we can and must be victorious.
— Fr. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, 33 years old, on the occasion of the investiture of new brothers
maks i brat.jpg

At the age of 13, together with his brother, Maximilian sneaked through the Austrian/Russian border (Poland did not exist as a country for 124 years; Polish territories was under Russian, Austrian and Prussian partitions) and they joined a minor Franciscan seminary in Lwów. Their youngest brother, Joseph, joined them three years later. After a few years in seminary, they both decided that their service to God and their beloved suffering nation of Poland would make more sense if they join the underground Polish army which would free Poland from its occupants.

A surprising visit of their mother changed their plans. After her arrival she announced that she and their father decided to consecrate themselves to the service of God by joining different monasteries. Marianna decided to move and live in the house of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Felix and Juliusz wanted to help Franciscan monasteries.  In Marianna’s words: “I loved my sons and husband more than my life, but not more than God.” She survived all of her sons and husband, and died in 1946.

Rajmund became novice at 16, at 19 received in a degree in theology, at 21 received doctorate in philosophy from the Jesuit Gregorianum in Rome, at the age 24 became a priest, and at age 25 became a professor.

We can build many churches.
But if we will have no media of our own,
they will be empty.
— St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe

He was called "Crazy Max" , because he was always working on new ideas. At 21 (in 1912) he presented his patent for a spaceship called Etereoplan, he also prepared a plan for defending the Polish city Lwów in the East, and built a radio broadcasting station. 


Despite tuberculosis, which he suffered for all his life, his entrepreneurial spirit for God had no boundaries, and he always used cutting edge technology to reach people. In 1939 the City of Immaculata had 13 priest, 18 seminarians in novitiate, 527 professed friars, 82 candidates for friars and 122 boys in minor seminary. Yearly about 1,800 boys and men wanted to enter Niepokalanów, but Fr. Kolbe would receive only 100, personally. During WWII, Fr. Kolbe received over 1,500 Jews and helped them.  "The Knight of the Immaculate" had been published in 221,000 copies, daily magazine reached 137,000, Sunday's magazine 225,000 and Missionary Bulletin 440,000. 

From His journal, a glimpse into St. Maximilian's personal Spiritual Life as a Young Man ("The Kolbe Reader" The Writings of St. Maximilian Kolbe; Commentator: Fr. Anselm W. Romb, OFM Conv.), here is an excerpt from his notes after a retreat in April 21-27, 1918, a strategy of how to do priestly ministry, written a day before he became a priest:

Follow very faithfully the timetable of each day, and you will be safe. 

This very day begin to serve God. It may be that this is the last day of your life. Live it as if it were, indeed, the last day. Tomorrow is uncertain, yesterday is no longer yours. Only the present belongs to you.
There is an ear which hears all, an eye that scrutinizes all the most secret movements of the heart, a hand which takes note of all. 
Not being punished is the most terrible chastisement of all. 
Every action you perform will remain forever. 
Make up by fervor for the time you have lost. 
Be a man, a Christian, a religious. 
Be a man: 
Don’t blush for your convictions. Do unto others what you would wish them to do to you. 
Have a sense of duty, fulfill it well, without being concerned whether anyone is watching you. Act instead with a noble ambition. 
Every action you do is noted down. Nothing will fail to be either rewarded or punished. 
You might die this very day!
Be recollected: whoever pours himself out on exterior things quickly loses the graces he has acquired. A full jewel box is always kept closed.

(this is not even half, get the book to read them all). 

We do not intend to attempt any industrial ventures, because that would not be in keeping with our monastic spirit in general, and especially the spirit of our Franciscan Order, which since its origin is founded on poverty and trust in divine providence.
The only aim of our work, including the publishing of the periodical, is to spread the cult of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, which in our estimation is an effective remedy, for the contagion of immorality, which today is spreading to a terrifying degree in both private and public life. Neither profit nor profit yielding enterprise ever was or will be our goal.
(...) We don’t even demand this low price at all times (for the “Knight of the Immaculate”). Because we would like to be of service to everyone, we send the magazine to everyone who wants it, regardless of whether they are able to pay or nt. To make up the deficit we accept voluntary donations. We ourselves live in wooden barracks, depend on alms for our livelihood and deny ourselves even the most primitive comforts. (...) We do not hire any laymen to do any part of the work, because we cannot afford it, nor do we accept any orders from outside, because we do not intend to run a printer’s establishment requiring a legal permit and having legal rights.
— Fr. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Letter to the Governor of the Warsaw Province

"The Last Letter of Kolbe to His Mother" composed by Paweł Łukaszewski:

The last letter of Fr. Kolbe to Him mother, May 28, 1941:

My dearest Mom,

Towards the end of the month of May I reached the concentration camp of Auschwitz (Oświęcim) by rail convoy. Everything is going well with me. Beloved Mom, don't worry about me or about my health, because the good God is everywhere, and with immense love he thinks about all of us and about everything. It would be best not to write to me until I send you another letter. I don't know how long I shall remain here. 

With heartfelt greetings and a kiss. 



homo viator - becoming real

But to love another as a person we must begin by granting him his own autonomy and identity as a person. We have to love him for what he is in himself, and not for what he is to us. We have to love him for his own good, not for the good we get out of him. And this is impossible unless we are capable of a love which ‘transforms’ us, so to speak, into the other person, making us able to see things as he sees them, love what he loves, experience the deeper realities of his own life as if they were our own. Without sacrifice, such a transformation is utterly impossible. But unless we are capable of this kind of transformation ‘into the other’ while remaining ourselves, we are not yet capable of a fully human existence.
— Thomas Merton

The roads we walked for almost 60 miles were definitely not flat, the tempo of walking was faster than my wimpy body could take, and the heat and humidity were killing every bit of joy I had tried to pre-imagine. On top of that the Polish yellers (staff who constantly tell you that you have to keep up, stay to the right, and fill the gaps) were driving me nuts and behaved like Soviet trainers of an Olympic team making us feel like we are going to a war, not for a spiritually rejuvenating exercise taken as voluntary penance. I just wanted to tell them: Chill. In a stoic and virtuous manner, of course. 

Very shortly, after you start walking, literally after the first hour or so, you realize that everyone has to suck it up more than they expected, stop explaining themselves, start to go with the flow and forget your premeditated idea that you will have such deep conversations with fellow pilgrims, because a lot of times you will just try to breathe so you don't faint. Within the next few hours you realize that a bottle of water is enough for a shower, that one sandwich with butter and ham is better than Fogo De Chao on any super special day, that people in your tent now know what ticks you off on a daily basis, and that, generally, people are screwed up but immensely interesting and good indeed. Sooner or later, all realize that all is chaff and we are pilgrims. The tempo of this revelation is as speedy as the tempo of being exhausted after climbing hills for 30 minutes or so. 

Homo viator is a concept of a pilgrim man. Plenty of literature (starting with Odyssey) and movies (the so called movies of the road) exist to illuminate the idea of progressive, redemptive, and surely adventurous journeys where the reached goal makes only sense because of the trip taken. The themes of heroic overcomings and becomings are perpetually served all around us in order to cheer us up or to awaken us from our comfortable slumber but the actual physical undertaking of walking with other unknown human beings for four days rip out all of the sentimentalism and take you from the imaginary lands of mists and dragons to the hot asphalted boring surfaces surrounded with landscapes infested with poison ivy and monstrous cicadas where sweat and short tempers as well as kindness and survival mode meet frequently, giving you that eschatological hope for the next stop where you drop your theologically understood body, take your shoes off, cut your blisters with a surgical knife, send someone to take a photo of whoever is around you and post the update on Facebook with the #humansofthepilgrimage, hoping that people will not de-friend you just because they are upset that you are trying to be holier than they are by posting uber-penitential reminders while they go on their 'Cruises for Jesus' or swimming with dolphins (this sentence was too long but I can't help it). 

Authenticity is reality without sham.
Authenticity coincides with sanctity.
— Fr. Dubay

The existential immediate needs during the walking pilgrimage make you a simpler human being, and sooner (for those 40+) or later (for those under 30) you will have to fight to constrain yourself (if you are already a saint) or make a choice of laying it all down, leaving yourself bare and unaided, mainly authentic (Gr. authentikos - primary, original), which scares the heck out of many, especially people already established, with reputations or high positions, and afraid that their coping mechanisms, if they developed any, might be discovered. And once you cause a havoc for no reason other then you've had enough, you really wonder if others will still take you in, after seeing the huge, obnoxious, ugly, painful, repulsive, and boring you. Will they stay or will they move on to seek the new and edgy, interesting and captivating, shiny and mechanical. Will they be shocked and whisper behind you, or calmly look at your idiotic miscalculated reaction as a normal part of your becoming, knowing that Real can't be ugly

Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

’Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

’Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

’Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

’It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.
— Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Once you come close to the field of the real you, and there is no place to escape to your own opinionated, cushioned, individualized, and custom-made image that you have worked so hard on, you know that this is the communal moment. Ignoring your authentic and not yet holy you will not be enough, tolerating it will not be enough, accepting it will not be enough, only mad, boundless love poured out in various forms, will do. And that's what you cry out for anyway, so at the end of the day you can sit (while walking) offended and pout playing out a victim of other people's rudeness and insensitivity or you can deal with it. And that opens up rooms in your callous self that you hoped to forget about. Icebergs are being flipped upside down and the unknown is surfacing and melting in the merciless August sun.  

To put oneself in a state of vulnerability is risky but necessary if we want to live in a community as the first Christians did. A walking pilgrimage is a perfect test of our readiness. 

People know they have limits but that others accept them anyway. There are no masks; nobody’s pretending to be better than the others’; nobody wants more recognition than the others; nobody is pretending to be other than they are. They are themselves with their poverty and their riches that God has given them. They love each other.

When a person realizes that he or she can’t keep his or her barriers because he or she is in a group where there are no barriers, then his or her barriers drop quickly. If people have no barriers in their being but are open with their limits and their poverty, then others begin doing the same thing and people become themselves. They don’t have to pretend to be. They can just be.

Then comes the discovery that the community is not just a group of people living, working, and learning together, but that here you are my brother or sister in Jesus. Whatever happens to you concerns me. We are precious to each other.
— Jean Vanier




After years of ministry and living life we decided to put all of our strengths and experience into a non-profit which will focus on metanoia, missions, and media. Our focus will shift from an only local and somewhat temporary engagement, into formulating ideas that can help others in establishing their ministries and apostolates, in using their gifts according to God's purpose and calling. We are opening up to others our experience in media, missions, evangelization, community building, and leadership development. We don't specialize, we live. 

Look around and drop us a note about the content, vision, ministry or anything else you wish. Thanks for visiting.