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Mystic and Martyr

On September 1, 1939, Germany declared war on Poland and the troops advanced toward Warsaw. The German troops arrived at Niepokalanów, shut down the printing press, and arrested Fr. Kolbe, Fr. Pio Bartosik, and 35 brothers.
 
Fray Juvenyn remembers:
"Fr. Kolbe, as a caring father, had been preparing us for a long time to be able to accept these hard times. On August 28, he talked to us about the 3 stages of life. The first stage is the preparation to work, the second is the actual work and the third one is suffering."
 
He used to say:“The third stage of life, the stage of suffering, I think will be the shortest that I should live.  But who, where, how, and under what circumstances suffering will arrive, that I don’t know.  However, I wish to suffer and die as a knight until I pour the last drop of blood to accelerate the day of the conquest of the world in God’s name, through the Immaculate.   I wish this for me, as I wish this for you…What more noble wish could I wish for you, my dear children? If I knew something better, I would wish it for you, but I don’t.  Saint John tells us that Christ said: 'There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for friends.'"
To the brothers living outside Niepokalanów he wrote:
“Even though countries, oceans, seas may separate us, our hearts and our souls would be equally united for our common goal of each man,  the ideal and the objectives of the Militia Immaculata… Only now do I see and feel in my heart that this is the Reign of the Immaculate.  And from there her kind protection fills my soul with peace...
You might ask, 'Who, then, can comeback?'He who is ready for all for the Immaculate, even to offer Her your own life as a sacrifice, because in Europe blood is still running and it is difficult to know what can happen.” 

He exhorted his brothers this way:
"Let us pray, let us suffer the little crosses, let us love much the souls of all the people around us, without exception, friends as well as enemies, and let us trust; let’s do all this with the only goal that She become as soon as possible and over all the earth, the Queen of all and each in particular”.The wish to give his own life for the Immaculate and for the beginnings of evangelical charity was in his intent always and was renewed, in clear terms, March 16, 1940 in a letter to an official of the German district:
“At last, I would like to emphasize that I don’t have anyone on this earth. The essence of my ideal is found in the publications. What can be deduced from them is mine: for this ideal I wish to work always, to suffer and even to offer my life as a sacrifice; while anything that is contrary to this ideal is not mine, only it proceeds from outside and for this reason, according to my possibilities, I have fought, I fight, and I will always fight.”

From Pawiak jail, he wrote this:
“Let us be driven more and more perfectly by the Immaculate, to where she wishes to take us and however she wishes so that with the fulfillment of our duties, we contribute so all souls be conquered by her love.”May 28, 1941 he arrived in Auschwitz and from there he wrote only one letter to his mother; it too was imbued with peace and serenity:
“My beloved mama, at the end of May I arrived at the concentration camp of Auschwitz in a railway convoy. Everything fine here. Beloved mama, stay calm about me and my health, because the good God is everywhere and with great love thinks about everybody and about all.” He repeated this truth to the prisoners:
“Hate is not a creative power; only love creates…These sufferings don’t destroy us, but help us to become stronger. These are necessary, together with the sufferings of others, so that the ones who come after us can be happy.”

Given these premises, it was spontaneous and natural for him to take the place of the unknown father of a family from the bunker of the dead. Christian charity asked him to bring backthe spouse’s and children’s affection to a poor father and to accompany with his priestly actions the nine unfortunate mates to the Celestial Father’s embrace.  His action surprised the guards as well:
“This priest is a good man.  Until now we haven’t seen anything like it.”

George Bielecki spoke in the name of all:
“The action had a tremendous impact in all the camp. All of a sudden, we were aware that someone among us, in that spiritual dark night for the soul, raised the banner of love to heaven. To say that Fr. Kolbe died for one of us or for the family of that person is too simplified. His death meant the salvation of thousands.  In this, I can say, resides the greatness of that death. This is the way we felt about it. And while we still live, the ones who were in Auschwitz bow our heads in his memory."