Monthly Archives: August 2012



By: Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM 

PRAYER isn’t bending God’s arms in order to get things, or talking God into things. God is already totally given. Prayer is us learning how to receive, learning how to wait, listen, possess something. It’s not that we pray and God answers; our praying is already God answering. Your desire to pray is God in your heart. Your reaching out to enter into dialogue with the Lord is already the answer of God. It is grace that makes us desire grace. 

When you don’t even have that desire to pray, to want to listen to God, then perhaps your openness to the Spirit has come to a halt. If you’re not really wanting or choosing God anymore, what can you do? All you can do is ask for it again: “Lord, give me the desire to pray. Give me the desire to be in union with you.” Pray for the desire to desire. Prayer is unmarketable. Prayer gives you no immediate payoff. You get no immediate feedback or sense of success. True prayer, in that sense, probably is the most courageous and countercultural thing an American will ever do. [from: The Price of Peoplehood] 

Source: John Bookser Feister (Editor), RADICAL GRACE – DAILY MEDITATIONS BY RICHARD ROHR, 1993, page 172-173. 

Jakarta 22 August 2012

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 22, 2012 in TODAY'S THOUGHT 2012




THE WORLD is so full of people who are making an effort to fit God into their own ideas of what God should be, that “God-making” is an all too common practice. “What I would like God to be?” is the starting point of this folly; the end of it is the statement that “God is what I would like Him to be.” Not many begin their thinking about God with the inescapable fact that HE is absolute truth, absolute justice, absolute authority, perfect and intelligent love. 

All heresies, therefore, stem from man’s wanting to make God over in the image and likeness of man, rather than accepting himself as the image and likeness of God. If I want to be free from hard doctrines, difficult moral precepts, or specific obligations of worship, it is so easy to say that God is a vague reality (no hard doctrine there) or that God is unconcerned about laws (because I want to be unconcerned about laws) or that God is best worshipped in nature (because I do not want to worship God in church). 

Religion is essentially submission to God; nothing else deserves the name. 

Note: Taken from “A THOUGHT A DAY – LITTLE THOUGHTS FOR LITTLE PEOPLE TO HELP THEM BECOME GOD’S GREAT SAINTS” (Assembled by A Father of the Society of St. Paul). 

Jakarta, 21 August 2012 

A Christian Pilgrim

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 21, 2012 in TODAY'S THOUGHT 2012




By: Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM 

GOD’S BASIC BUILDING BLOCK for His self-communication is not the “saved” individual or the richly informed believer – or even personal careers in ministry. It is the journey and bonding process that God initiates in marriages, families, tribes, nations, peoples and Churches who are seeking to involve themselves in His love. 

The body of Christ, the spiritual family, is God’s strategy. It is both medium and message. It is both beginning and end: “May they all be one … so that  the world may believe it was You who sent Me … that they may be one as We are one, with Me in them and You in Me” (John 17:21-22, JB). 

Until Christ is someone happening between people, the Gospel remains largely an abstraction. Until He is passed on personally through faithfulness and forgiveness, through bonds of union, I doubt whether He is passed on at all. 

Source: John Bookser Feister (Editor), RADICAL GRACE – DAILY MEDITATIONS BY RICHARD ROHR, 1993, page 171. 

Jakarta 20 August 2012 

A Christian Pilgrim

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 20, 2012 in TODAY'S THOUGHT 2012




(A biblical refection on THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – August 19, 2012) 

First Reading: Prov 9:1-6; Psalms: Ps 34:2-3,10-15 ; Second Reading: Eph 5:15-20; Gospel Reading: Jn 6:51-58 

The world of advertising often appeals to our basic human needs for food and drink. Television commercials like Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” cater to our hunger for food. Magazine ads with slogans like Coca-Cola’s “It’s the real thing” claim that their drink will satisfy our thirst.

The whole express purpose of advertisers is to sell us the good life by promising that their products will satisfy our every desire. We might say that today’s readings make their own sales pitch for the good life, except that they speak about life in a higher sense.

In the first reading from Proverbs, Wisdom invites us to come to her table where we can eat her food and drink her wine. She calls us to forsake foolishness that we may live and advance in the way of understanding.

In the Gospel, Jesus says that He Himself gives life to the world. His flesh is real food and His blood is real drink. Anyone who eats His flesh and drinks His blood will live forever.

In his Pelican commentary on this text, John Marsh underlines the meaning of the adjective real in the phrases real food and real drink:

These are what satisfy those hungers and thirst from which men suffer in distinction from all other earthly creatures. Man’s genuine nourishment lies in them; without them the really “human” person dies, even though he continues to live in the flesh, but with them he lives the life that is really life both here in the course of history and in that which lies beyond history in the world to come.

We can better appreciate Marsh’s insight if we compare some of the extravagant claims of advertisers to satisfy our needs for this life with the claims of Christ to give us life in a higher sense.

Since we have a need for the pleasures of oral gratification, many of us want to have our “Winstons taste good like a cigarette should.” But there are also spiritual delights which today’s Psalm 34 addresses when it says: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

From time to time we have a need to escape from boredom and monotony. So to answer our need we have airline ads like United’s beckoning us to “Fly away in our friendly skies.”

Yet when we are weary, only the Lord can really refresh us in the fullest sense: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

We naturally seek security and protection for ourselves and our families. So insurance companies like Prudential propose to give us a “Piece of the Rock” of security.

Nonetheless, only Jesus can promise and guarantee us eternal life: “The man who feeds on this bread shall live forever.”

It seems that no matter what our basic needs are, advertisers claim they have the product or service to provide for them. Yet, contrary to their claims, what they offer is not the real thing at all, but only an illusion, a fantasy, a substitute. To verify this, for example, a male customer need only compare his car on a cold winter morning with the television model accompanied by a warm female.

Advertisers shout about the essentials of life, but offer things that are merely superficial. It is only Christ who can show us how to really live and to live more abundantly.

What Jesus gives in the Eucharist is not an illusion. It is real food and real drink. What Jesus gives is not something superficial. It is His own body and His own blood. What Jesus gives is not a temporary gratification. It is a life that will last forever.

Note: Taken from Albert Cylwicki CSB, His Word Resounds, Makati, Philippines: St. Paul Publications, 1991, pages 174-176.

Jakarta, 19 August 2012 

A Christian Pilgrim




(A biblical refection on THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – August 19, 2012) 

Gospel Reading: John 6:51-58 

First Reading: Prov 9:1-6; Psalms: Ps 34:2-3,10-15; Second Reading: Eph 5:15-20 

The Scripture Text

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”  (Jn 6:51-58 RSV) 

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (Jn 6:56)

It really sounds inviting to be able to “abide” in Christ! The Greek word for abide in this passage  has connotations of dwelling, remaining, and enduring, all of which point to Jesus’ desire to have a close relationship with us.

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus drew the apostles to Himself with words: “Come and see,” and John tells us: “They came and … stayed with Him that day (Jn 1:39). Throughout their time with Him, they learned about the Father’s enduring love and the life of faith He was calling them to. They experienced forgiveness of sins, healings, powerful miracles, and godly teaching with authority. Friendship with Jesus was like no other relationship they had ever known.

However, how could this close relationship continue after He returned to the Father? Jesus gave the answer – the Eucharist. In the gift of His body and blood, we hear Jesus saying: “Yes, come and stay with Me. I abide in you; come and abide in Me.”

By the power of the Spirit, God has prepared a special place in each of us where Jesus dwells. As we take time to rest with Him and learn from Him, we meet Jesus and we are refreshed. As we continue resting in Him, we are moved to surrender all to Him – our lives, our concerns, all of our circumstances – and we open our hearts to Him. In the intimacy of the moment, we may feel like God is holding us close like beloved children, writing His truths deep within us.

Those who learn to remain in Jesus’ presence know the promise of eternal life (Jn 6:51,58). This promise can fill us with hope and trust in God as He gives us a taste of His joy and the strength to endure the trials that are a normal part of life in this world. Let us prepare ourselves for Jesus. He will remain in us as often as we receive Him.

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we receive You in the Eucharist today, help us to open our hearts to You. Teach us to abide in You, and show us how fully You abide in us. Thank You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Jakarta, 17 August 2012 

A Christian Pilgrim







By: Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM 

I WRITE, not because I know, but because I do not know. In like manner I pray, not because I know how pray, but because I don’t. This is not false humility but the truth. Those who wait until they know, will never write, and those who sit back and wait for the gift of prayer, for some grand inspiration, will pray very little. The pray-er is a searcher; he reaches out for God he loves, most of the time clumsily and without much satisfaction. 

And through all of this he is praying in the Spirit. The reason I make this last statement is that some falsely believe they are praying in the Spirit only when they are filled with joy and enthusiasm and when they tangibly experience the influx of the Spirit and break into spontaneous praise and thanksgiving. Nothing could be further from the truth. Life is not a continuous celebration. It is rather a rhythm of joys and sorrows, certitude and doubt, fullness and emptiness, intimacy and loneliness, turning inward and turning outward. And our prayer reflects this same rhythm as did the prayer of Jesus. 

Whenever I pray, no matter how I am feeling, the Spirit prays with me and within me with “unutterable groanings.” 

Taken from: Murray Bodo, SONG OF THE SPARROW – Meditations and Poems to Pray by, Cincinnati, Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1976, pages 125. 

Jakarta, 17 August 2012 

A Christian Pilgrim

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 17, 2012 in TODAY'S THOUGHT 2012






A train to Auschwitz 

It was the end of May. All of the prisoners at Pawiak were suddenly taken out of their cells. “Hurry! Hurry!” yelled the warders. A few hundred meters away there was a cattle train. When they had all been loaded into the trucks, a corporal snapped to the attention in front of a field-marshal and reported that there were 320 heads aboard and that all was ready.

The murderous journey took 24 hours; a scaring thirst tortured the 320 individuals locked inside the trucks. Then, on the night of May 28, the gates were noisily thrown wide open. “The darkness”, recorded a survivor, “echoed with strange order and with that barbarous barking of Germans which, when they issue commands, seems to give vent to centuries’ old anger.”

About ten S.S. men quickly appeared. They directed the group into two parties with a minimum of gestures and words. “They decided whether each of us could do some useful work for the Reich or not”, wrote one who lived to tell the tale, “then suddenly our wives, our parents, our children were moved off. We saw them for a short time in the dim light at the other end of the platform; we did not see them again.”

Those judged “fit to work” had to run the two kilometers separating them from the camp at Auschwitz; the terrified Poles knew the place by the name of Oswiecim. As they ran, fierce dogs, sooled on by the S.S., bit at their heels.

It should be noted that to staff their extermination camps (amongst which Auschwitz, Dachau, Belsen and Mauthausen were unfortunately well-known) the Nazi hierarchy did not choose normal soldiers, but criminals released from prison, men who had been condemned as abnormal sadists and felons. From May 28, 1941, these men were the “Superiors” of Father Kolbe and his unfortunate companions.

On the main gate of the camp was a brightly illuminated inscription: “ARBEIT MACHT FREI – Work makes one free”.

Inside the camp they were stripped and herded into a large hall to be disinfected. They waited for hours, their teeth  chattering.

“Suddenly” wrote a survivor, “hot water poured out from the showers. Five minutes of bliss. But shortly afterwards, four guards came in, shouting at us to move into the next room which was icy cold; here other shouting guards threw some clothes at us and gave each of us a pair of shoes with wood soles. Before we knew where we were, we found ourselves outside in the early morning cold and, barefooted and naked, with our whole outfit in our hands, we had to run to another hut, a hundred meters away. Only here we were allowed to get dressed.

A new man 16,670 

Everything was taken away from these men: clothes, shoes, hair. They even took away their names. Henceforth Father Kolbe would be known as 16,670. For the remainder of his life he was to have this number tattooed on his left arm.

At Auschwitz it was work, work with a devilish monotonous rhythm. Very early in the morning before dawn there was the call ‘Wstawac” – (“Get up”). Pandemonium followed. They had five minutes to get up, dress, and attend to their toilet because then grey pieces of “brot” (bread) were distributed. Anyone who arrived late missed out and suffered the pangs of hunger until mid-day.

They worked from dawn to dusk. They marched out briskly. Coming home they almost ran. It was a tragic farce to see those long columns of  men dressed in prison stripes returning at the double in strict formation whilst an absurd band made up of other men in prison garb played brisk marches in the large square of the camp.

Down below, beyond the barracks, the tall chimney of the crematorium ovens was always smoking. Any one who succumbed to fatigue, who did not fight for his rations, who was slow in running and fell by the wayside knew that he would finish up there. He would be thrown on to a minecart, dead or dying it did not matter. The cart would slip down the rails to the mouth of the oven. Colonel Fritsch, the camp commandant, would tell them, with a smile on his face: “The only way you’ll leave here is through that chimney”.

Father Kolbe was assigned to Block 17, reserved especially for priests whom Fritsch defined as “useless beings and the parasites of society”. Father Maximilian was chained to a cart with other Polish priests to pull very heavy loads of gravel for the construction of the boundary wall of the crematorium. At ten-meter distances along the route of the carts there was a gaoler armed with a stick to beat them; they had to run past to avoid being hit.

During the night a shadow over Block 17 

When the boundary wall had been completed, Krott, the blunt, cruel Nazi commander of Block 17 gave the prisoners another job. They had to pull down trees, tear off the branches, bundle them together and transport them, all by hand. Father Kolbe, often bleeding as a result of the blows of the guards, staggered along the uneven path under the weight of an increasingly heavy load. But, despite all this, there was peace in the depth of his soul. He knew that his Citadel had been destroyed, he knew that his Army had been scattered by the tremendous whirlwind of war, that all his work had been burnt in the bombing. But he knew that God is stronger than evil, that after the darkness the light would shine again. He clung strongly to this certainty even although it seemed a forlorn hope. It did not matter if he would no longer there. The Kingdom of God would reign on earth, in justice and peace. Others would walk before the face of the Lord, to prepare His way; others chosen by Him.

One day when the tree trunk loaded on to his shoulders was far too heavy, Father Kolbe fell to the ground, like Christ under the weight of the Cross. And Nazi Krott, imitating the cruelty of the Roman guards to perfection, punched and kicked him. “I’ll teach you to work, you priest of the devil!” He did not crucify him, but stretched him across the trunk and gave him fifty strokes of the lash. When Christ was scourged He received only 35 strokes from his gaolers, the maximum permitted by the law. The other priests passing by saw him lying motionless in a pool of blood and covered him with green branches. They thought he was dead.

But during the night, a shadow staggered and dragged itself into Block 17. It was he! He had managed to drag himself to his own palliasse in pitch darkness! Next morning he was swollen with bruises and running a high temperature. They took him to the sick bay, the waiting room of death.

In his delirium this prisoner did not curse, did not cry out in terror; he prayed, he spoke to God. And those who were waiting for death knew thereby that a priest had joined them.

Later his fever abated, but he could not move from his palliasse; however, human skeletons dragged themselves towards him seeking a word of hope, of faith. He reconciled to God many of these people without hope.

Doctor Sternler, a survivor who had learnt to hate everything and everybody in Auschwitz, spent a night with his hand in the hands of Father Kolbe, who whispered to him: “Hatred builds nothing. It is love which saves”.

Miraculously the fever left him, and his wounds closed up. Father Maximilian was transferred to Block 12, amongst the invalids. This Block was greatly feared: they were on half rations and there was no medication; even small cuts turned septic. Father Kolbe found words of comfort also for these unfortunate companions. He made bearable terrible sufferings.

A prisoner has escaped 

July 20. Number 16,670 was transferred to Block 14; agricultural work. It was harvest time. The men were taken a long way out to work in the fields. One of the prisoners in an act of desperation tried to escape by hiding in the crop.

That evening at roll call, one prisoner did not answer. All of those in Block 14 shuddered. One of the rules at Auschwitz, always carried out, was that: “For every escapee, ten prisoners would pay with their lives”.

The prisoners in Black 14 were kept standing rigidly to attention. The sun was setting in a darkened sky. Mess time came round and the orderlies brought in the scanty rations; the soldiers tipped them into the drains bordering the clearing. The prisoners would go hungry.

They remained at attention, immovable, despite their tiredness after a hard day in the fields. It became dark. The night wore on and finally they were permitted to go into their barracks.

When they were called next morning, the escapee had still not returned. All, without exception, were required to stand at attention from dawn until three in the afternoon under a burning July sun. Some fainted. They were taken away.

Rations were brought out at three o’clock. They were allowed half an hour to eat their meal. Then it was standing at attention again until evening.

It was about seven o’clock when Fritsch, the camp commandant, arrived with his usual train of hangers-on. He began to shout in German and his words were heard in deadly silence. “The escapee,” he ended angrily, “has not been found. Ten of you will pay for it with your lives”.

Deleted from the list of the living 

He walked down the line of prisoners. He lifted his arm and pointed with his finger: “This one, That one …”. An assistant followed him with a list of the prisoners and marked those to be deleted from the living. The tenth was a Polish sergeant – Francis Gajowniczek. Overcome with desperation he cried out: “My wife … my children …”.

At that very moment a man stepped out of the ranks of those who had been spared. It was an act that could cost him his life. The Germans instinctively reached for their revolvers. Fritsch took a step backwards and yelled: “What does this Polish pig want? Who is he?”

“I am a Catholic Priest,” answered Father Kolbe in perfect German, “and I ask permission to take the place of that prisoner”. He pointed to Sergeant Gajowniczek.

Fritsch hesitated for a split second. Then he turned to Gajowniczek and with a “Get back there” motioned to him to join the ranks of the living. Thunderstruck he scampered back. The assistant checked through the list for the number of Father Kolbe and crossed it off.

There was a sharp command: “Hand in your shoes”. One who was to die did not need them; the Germans, instead, wanted them for other prisoners. The next order addressed to the ten condemned men was: “Left turn”, and they were marched off to the “hunger bunker”. It was underground and those who were condemned to die were imprisoned there in darkness without food or water.

Four injections of phenic acid 

A guard pushed them inside and before he closed and locked the heavy door, he said laughingly: “You will wither away like so many tulips”.

Bruno Borgowiec was a Polish interpreter who had to go down every day with the German guards to check the state of the dying. He said later: “Previously those condemned men had always been in a state of despair; this time even the German warders were amazed by what they saw. The condemned men were gathered around Father Kolbe, and at intervals sang Polish hymns to the Madonna. More than once the guards had to tell them to be quiet because condemned people in other cells were joining ini”.

The voices became weaker day by day. As a man died he was carted away. Father Maximilian comforted them in their last moments, and closed their eyes in death. With an amazing show of will power, he remained either standing or on his knees. His face remained calm and his blue eyes amazingly serene. One of the warders was quite disturbed one day and yelled at him: “Don’t look at me like that, you priest of the devil”.

After two weeks Father Kolbe was still alive, along with three other prisoners. The cell was needed for other victims and Fritsch ordered that “they be finished off”.

It was August 14, the vigil of the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady. At mid-day Bock, a German nursing orderly, entered the cell. He went to the four prisoners in turn and into the arm of each he injected deadly phenic acid. Father Kolbe was leaning against the wall praying. As Bock approached he extended his arm.

Maximilian Kolbe’s body was thrown into the furnace along with those of his companions. His ashes, mixed with those of three million other victims, were scattered over the countryside near Auschwitz. Every spring it is covered with white flowers and red flowers. [End]

Source: Fr. Teresio Bosco SDB, SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, Melbourne: A.C.T.S. PUBLICATIONS, 1982, pages 22-29.

Jakarta, August 16,  2012 

A Christian Pilgrim





“Poland has ceased to exist”

The wave of destruction and death hit the Citadel towards the middle of September; some buildings were destroyed by bombing; others were badly damaged. Then the Flying Squad of the Wehrmacht arrived at the gates, rifles at the level. On September 19 the remaining religious were herded into the yard, bundled into trucks, then into railway cattle-wagons and transported into the unknown.

They were taken to Amlitz in Germany. It was during the time when the “Lord of the War”, Adolf Hitler, announced to an astonished world that Poland as a nation had ceased to exist.

In November, the religious were unexpectedly returned to Polish territory. They were held for a time in an abandoned Salesian College at Ostrzesrow. Then in December there came the unforeseen permission for them to return to Niepokalanow.

In the meantime a Red Cross Hospital had been set up in the buildings of the Citadel. Father Kolbe and his companions made themselves available for any need. The wounded, invalids, fugitives and persecuted Jews came to the Citadel seeking assistance.

Some of Father Kolbe’s helpers, believing that the worst had passed, returned a few at a time to the Citadel to resume their work.

The Nazi invaders looked upon Niepokalanow with a certain amount of sympathy. They hoped that this rather enterprising “Father” would collaborate with them. During the twelve months of relative calm, Father Maximilian restored some of the machines to working order and asked permission to resume printing “The Knight”. They granted him approval for one issue “on trial”. Furthermore they offered him the privilege of becoming a German citizen (Kolbe is a German name, and indicates perhaps that his family was originally of German origin). Father Maximilian accepted the permission to go ahead with the printing, but courteously declined the “privilege”.

The issue “on trial” was a great disappointment to the invaders; it contained nothing which pleased them. Permission to print a second issue never came.

Two black automobiles at the front door 

1941. The lull ceased suddenly. Hitler was about to begin OPERATION BARBAROSSA, the invasion of Russia. For this great military operation, his armies needed to dispose completely of Poland and all its resources. “The Polish race,” Hitler stated cynically, “is one of slaves, destined by history to serve the great German race”.

The first move, in the reduction of Poland to slavery, was the elimination of the intellectual class, of all leaders and influential people who could persuade the people to offer resistance.

February 17, 1941. There was a cover of snow on the streets and on the dilapidated buildings at Niepokalanow, when two black automobiles braked sharply at the front door of the Citadel. Ivo Achtelick, the Franciscan brother in the porter’s office, knew the number plates quite well: it was the Gestapo, the notorious State Police Force to which Hitler had entrusted the elimination of enemies of the Reich. He snatched the telephone and called Father Maximilian: “It’s the Gestapo. They’re looking for you.” “I noted a quiver in his voice”, Ivo Achtelick said later, “as he replied: ‘What did you say?’ But he controlled himself straight away and said as calmly as ever: ‘I’ll be down immediately, brother’ ”.

Some minutes later, wearing his poor Franciscan habit, Father Kolbe got into one of the two automobiles. Five other Franciscans were taken away with him.

From February to May Father Maximilian was locked up in the prison at Pawiak, in cell 103. Pawiak was a clearing centre; from here prisoners were transferred to the various forced labor camps.

The Bishop protested at his arrest. The Gestapo Commander replied that it was a matter of conspiracy. Twenty Franciscans signed a petition to the German authorities, requesting that they take Father Kolbe’s place; it met with a blunt refusal.

The large rosary beads and the Nazi 

In cell 103, Father Kolbe had the company of a Jew and another Polish citizen. The cell was small. They took it in turns to exercise in its few square meters. The priest kept passing the large Franciscan rosary beads through his fingers. One day a Nazi officer came for inspection. He saw the habit and the cincture  from which hung the Rosary  beads and the  crucifix. He turned purple with anger. He seized the Crucifix and yelled: “Do you believe in this?” “Yes”, the priest calmly replied.

The officer gave him a violent back-hander. Three times he repeated the question, and receiving the same answer, three times he struck the priest. Then, in typical Nazi fashion, he assaulted the priest with punches and kicks, until Father Maximilian fell to the floor. Only then did the officer go away.

The Jew and the Pole helped the priest who was bleeding profusely and whose face was swollen. He made a gesture that it was nothing and forced a smile. A guard who had witnessed the brutality and who feared other inspections, hurried to get some prison garb and asked him to take off the habit. Father Kolbe hesitated. He did not want to discard the religious dress he had worn for so many years. He then decided that it was better to do so and put on the stripped jacket. He was never again to wear the habit of St. Francis.

The cell was very damp. Father Maximilian had delicate lungs and soon began to cough and to shiver with fever. They took him to the infirmary in the gaol. The infirmarians treated him with every care. When he recovered they arranged for him to be kept in the sick bay, where he was relatively well looked after. But one day the order came for Father Kolbe to be taken back to his cell in preparation for his departure.

Source: Fr. Teresio Bosco SDB, SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, Melbourne: A.C.T.S. PUBLICATIONS, 1982, pages 19-22.

Jakarta, August 15,  2012 

A Christian Pilgrim




Foreword: Father Maximilian Kolbe [1894-1941], a Conventual Franciscan Priest, died at the age of 47 in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, Poland, offering his life in place of a condemned prisoner, the father of a large family. 

He was declared Blessed in October 1971. Now, less than 90 years after his birth, the addition of his name in October 1982 to the list of canonized Saints gives to the Church of our times a model of fearless faith in Christ, of dedication to Mary the Mother of God and a love capable of bringing about true peace with God and among men. 


FATHER KOLBE had another gigantic dream. He courageously explained it to his Superiors: “We have created a ‘City of Mary Immaculate’ where we work for the Kingdom of God. I think that we should do something similar in every country. Modern inventions should serve commerce, industry and sport but, first and foremost, the Kingdom of God”.

His Superiors thought the matter over. It seemed to be a project which was more fanciful than real; at the least it was very ambitious, but they replied: “If you think you can do it, go ahead!”

Four set foot in Japan 

May 1930. Father Kolbe has left Niepokalanow in good hands and has arrived in Japan. Mary’s statue and the Bishop, Msgr. Hayasaka, welcomed him on the steps of the Cathedral in Nagasaki.

Before leaving for the Far East, he visited Rome and Assisi. He knelt beside the graves of two of his former fellow students with whom he had founded the “Army of Mary Immaculate”. God had called them first. Then he visited Lourdes to meet Our Lady where she had appeared to a very poor girl of the Pyrenees. He went to Turin and stopped to pray in the very places hallowed by Don Bosco, a giant of charity, who had begun a world-wide work on behalf of youth and who had worn himself out in ceaseless activity. He also went to Lisieux, too the Silent Convent where a young girl, Thérèse on fire with the love of God, had been a missionary; she helped her brothers not with words and actions but by living out every day the three difficult words in her programme: love, suffer, smile. These were all people who had advanced the Kingdom of God in different ways and in different circumstances.

When he landed in Japan, Father Kolbe had in his pocket a letter from the Superior General of his Order. It contained both a permission and a prohibition – these were to be the parameters of his work. He had permission to begin a new Citadel wherever he thought fit, possibly wherever there was a nucleus of Christians. He was prohibited from seeking money within the Order. He had to do the best he could with money collected on the spot. Father Kolbe did do his best. That very month of May a rich Catholic gave him a small modern press for printing in Japanese characters. Father Maximilian wrote his articles in Latin, a cleric and a seminary professor  translated them into Japanese. On May 25 the first number of “The Knight” appeared; its Japanese name was “Mugenzia No Seibo Na Kiski”. 10,000 copies were printed.

With the approval of Msgr. Hayasaka, Father Kolbe climbed the hills overlooking the city in which in search of 5 hectares of vacant land. He found them, he bought them and he began building a new Citadel. A year later the essential buildings of the Citadel had been completed. It was inaugurated during the feast of the cherry blossoms; those amazing Japanese cherries which flower splendidly for only one week and produce rare small fruit.

Kimonos and guns 

The Japan of those years was a mixture of delicate and rustling kimonos and of threatening guns. The military had a very strong hold on the country and aspired to establish a large Japanese Empire in Asia. They strove to inculcate a proud nationalistic spirit amongst all including the children.

This Japan, which looked upon every foreigner with mistrust, was quite favorable to the work of Father Kolbe and his magazine. In a short time it became the most widely circulated Catholic publication in Japan.

Volunteers began to come to the Citadel which, as at Niepokalanow had a chapel, a printing room, an electricity generator and a large meeting room. They were mainly Christians, but there were also some pagans. They were prepared to undertake laboring tasks, to help with the distribution of the review and also with the translations. Some asked for instruction in the faith, and later for baptism. Some were soon to ask to receive the habit of St. Francis.

Father Kolbe studied Japanese assiduously, and began first to speak the language and then to write it. The friars and his friends distributed the review on trams, in shops, in hospitals, in schools. Even the bonzes read it with interest. The circulation went up and up: twenty, thirty, fifty thousand copies.

But Father Kolbe’s health again began to decline in a rather frightening manner. He had to give up all work.

Two or three months to live 

A high fever and spitting of blood once more. The old sickness had returned. The Japanese doctors feared for his life. They advised that he return to Europe and undergo long and drastic treatment. Father Kolbe departed.

The doctors at Zakopane shook their heads when they saw him. They told him quite emphatically that he had only three months to live. Father Maximilian went to stay with his mother and in the calm atmosphere of her house he slowly recovered. Three months passed, thirty months. His health returned. “The doctors know everything”, smiled Father Kolbe, “but someone up there knows much more”.

He recommended work at Niepokalanow. His native air did him good. The reappointed him director of the Citadel, and he succeeded in raising the circulation of “The Knight” to a million copies. Then he had another grand idea – an apostolate by correspondence. He invited anyone with problems, difficulties or doubts to write to him. Soon he was getting 2,000 letters a day. In the first year there were more than a half a million. The all received an answer.

The sad period of Nazism 

Meanwhile the Brown Shirts had been on the march for many years in Germany. The sad period of Nazism had begun. A frenzied man spoke into the microphones at German Radio stations: his name was Adolf Hitler. He looked at Poland with the practiced eye of a violent thief and proclaimed to the world that this territory was vitally needed for the expansion which destiny had decreed for the “privileged race”, the German race.

In Poland they said that he was only bluffing. But on August 23, 1939, Stalin of Russia and Hitler of Germany signed a non-aggression pact. There was a secret clause in that pact: Poland would be divided between Russia and Germany by a line drawn down the middle from north to south.

September 1, 1939. German armored divisions under the command of General Guderian penetrated deep into the heart of Poland. Two thousand aircraft of the Luftwaffe bombed Warsaw and railway junctions, practically paralyzing the life of the nation. France and England, which had both signed a pact of mutual assistance with Poland, declared war within the space of 48 hours. But they could do nothing against Hitler’s well oiled war machine. Poland was brought to its knees in four weeks.

At the start of the tragedy, Father Kolbe summoned together the thousand inhabitants of Niepokalanow and told them: “This is the moment of trial. We must disperse. Those who can should return to their families. The others will leave this very day for the monasteries in the east; they will be much safer there”.

He remained, with fifty of his brother Franciscans. [To be continued]

Source: Fr. Teresio Bosco SDB, SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, Melbourne: A.C.T.S. PUBLICATIONS, 1982, pages 16-19.

Jakarta, August 14,  2012 

A Christian Pilgrim


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 87 other followers