Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deacon F.K. Bartels

8/14/2015 (2 weeks ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

St. Maximilian Kolbe provides us with a portrait of the theological virtue of hope

Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894, became a Franciscan friar as a teenager, and was later ordained as a priest who served a small parish community. But when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, tragic events of human suffering where set into motion in which Kolbe's destiny would be sealed and his holiness revealed. It was hope in the love of Christ that compelled St. Maximilian Kolbe to confidently step forward and say, "I wish to die for that man."

Father Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894, became a Franciscan friar as a teenager, and was later ordained as a priest who served a small parish community. But when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, tragic events of human suffering where set into motion in which Kolbe's destiny would be sealed and his holiness revealed.

Father Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894, became a Franciscan friar as a teenager, and was later ordained as a priest who served a small parish community. But when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, tragic events of human suffering where set into motion in which Kolbe's destiny would be sealed and his holiness revealed.

Highlights

By Deacon F.K. Bartels

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/14/2015 (2 weeks ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: St. Maximilian Kolbe, holiness, mercy, sacrifice, prayer, spirituality, hope, theological virtues, Saints, F.K. Bartels, Deacon Fred Bartels


GLADE PARK, CO (Catholic Online) - (From Deacon Keith Fournier: Deacon F.K. Bartels has been a contributing writer for Catholic Online for a long time. His beautiful insights on the Catholic faith have inspired many readers. His intimate communion with the Lord comes through so clearly in his writing. His hagiography ranks among the best I have read. It has been an honor for me to come to know him as we have shared prayer, encouragement, and insights together. On this day when we remember the heroic life and death of Fr Maximilian Kolbe, we again present this fine example of the gifts of Deacon Fred Bartels. Hagiography is the term used to describe the stories of the great heroes of the faith. In this age of increasing evil, we need new hagiographers to tell us the stories of the great men and women who are to be our example. Deacon Bartels is a modern hagiographer. )
 
*****Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1894, became a Franciscan friar as a teenager, and was later ordained as a priest who served a small parish community. But when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, tragic events of human suffering where set into motion in which Kolbe's destiny would be sealed and his holiness revealed.

The story is well known. In his labors to protect many Jewish refugees, Kolbe found himself a Nazi target, was arrested, and sent off to Auschwitz in 1941. There, in the midst of the death camp's unimaginable daily horrors, he worked to encourage his fellow prisoners by setting an example of faith and hope.

One day a prisoner escaped, and, in order to bring an end to any future plans of the same, the guards decided to punish 10 inmates of cellblock 14 by condemning them to death by starvation in an underground bunker. One of the ten was Franciszek Gajowniczek, who began to weep and cried out, "My poor wife and children! I will never see them again!" At that moment, Fr. Kolbe calmly and purposefully stepped forward.

"I wish to die for that man. I am old; he has a wife and children." Such an unusual offer surprised the deputy commandant, who asked Kolbe to identify himself. His response was simple and direct: "I am a Catholic priest." Those words said far more about the saint than any name possibly could. The commandant agreed to grant the request.

Thrown into the dank, crowded underground bunker with the other men, Maximilian Kolbe continued to set an example of faith and hope, leading them in prayers of praise and adoration to God, singing hymns, and encouraging them to focus on the certain and irrevocable promises of Christ. Looking back on those events, we see that Fr. Kolbe's food, in imitation of the Savior, was to do the Father's will (see Jn 4:34), for weeks later it became necessary to kill him by lethal injection.

Maximilian Kolbe, a martyr for charity, was canonized by Pope John Paul II on 10 October 1982, with the surviving Franciszek Gajowniczek present. As is normally the case, we begin to glimpse the sublime mystery of God's loving providence by looking into history, whether it is our own, another's, or that of humankind collectively, as we cast our eyes and hearts upon the unfolding landscape of salvation in Christ.

The Life of Hope

While there are many things we can learn from the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, one which stands out above others is the power of hope. Here we do not speak of hope as a natural human virtue, such as we might find in the personal conviction that we will somehow "get through the day" or complete a difficult task, but rather as one of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity that are infused into the human person by God.

St. Maximilian's hope did not originate from within himself, but from outside of himself, as a supernatural gift bestowed by the divine Other, from Father to adopted son. It was the virtue of hope that allowed St. Maximilian to continue to trustingly walk forward, even when faced with death itself, confident in the promises of Christ, enabling him to live as a child of God.

The theological virtues of faith, hope and charity "adapt man's faculties for participation in the divine nature" and "directly relate to God. They dispose Christians to live in a relationship with the Holy Trinity," and have as "their origin, motive, and object" the Triune God (CCC 1812). The theological virtues, then, are "infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life," and thus are "the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being" (CCC 1813).

We could not live and function as God's children in the absence of the infused theological virtues. For instance, devoid of hope, we would lack the ability to trust in Christ's promises, which would overpower any desire for the kingdom of heaven and eternal life with God as the culmination of human fulfillment. Therefore the joy experienced in looking forward to a life of unending happiness with God would be replaced by the darkness of discouragement -- if such a sad state of existence were not supplemented by created objects as distractions, it would become truly unbearable.

However, God provides us with unceasing encouragement through the virtue of hope, even in the midst of the greatest difficulties, providing us with not only a thirst for what he has planned out of his superabundant goodness, but the certitude that he himself will aid us in journeying ever-more-deeply into his life of love.

"Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit. 'Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful' (Heb. 10:23). 'The Holy Spirit . . . he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life'" (Titus 3:6-7; CCC #1817).

"The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men's activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity" (CCC #1818).

St. Maximilian Kolbe provides us with a portrait of the theological virtue of hope. In his life, we see not only the external, human manifestations of the virtue of hope, but also learn not to embrace those capitol errors so common in the present age: the unawareness of or disbelief in God's immanent presence; doubt of God's all inclusive plan of divine love; the apparent inability to trust in God's help; and the growing uncertainty that God intervenes in human history and in the daily lives of his children.

The Circumstances and Events in Life Cannot Be Mere Coincidence

Further, the example of St. Maximilian's life teaches us not to fall prey to the temptation of thinking life's tragedies are somehow entirely random coincidences, outside of Providence, which cannot possibly in any way be linked to our destiny of eternal happiness in God. For the Christian, nothing in life is merely a fluke.

Even the very worst of circumstances, such as the horrors found in the death camp of Auschwitz, can ultimately be the very path toward permanent, supernaturally infused bliss and the unending reception of divine love, provided we open our hearts in hope to God and make every effort to live according to his will.

"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Rom. 8:28-30).

St. Teresa of Avila wrote, "Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end" (qtd. from CCC #1821).

Nearly all of us, at some point or other, realize that we are not in complete control. We may find ourselves, one day, suddenly immersed in some unsolvable tragedy or circumstance for which it seems there can come no good end. Caught up in the situation, all our efforts often become concentrated on attempting to extricate ourselves from whatever seems opposed to our immediate, temporal happiness, while in the process we lose sight of the eternal landscape that lay on the horizon.

We can begin to misunderstand our purpose, and overlook the connection between the reality of our life and its events and God's providence. It is not unlike walking along a path while our gaze remains stubbornly riveted at our feet: our eyes fail to raise upon the rich meadows at our side and the magnificent sunrise that lay beyond. Unnoticed is the sky and the heavens above, infused with an astounding light reflecting the divine Other, whose unceasing whisper beckons us to direct our earthly pilgrimage toward the shores of an unseen yet tranquil, lasting home where the "night shall be no more" (Rev. 22:5).

Christ crucified beckons us to see in hope the "now" and beyond it into eternity. In doing so, aided by the Spirit and thus empowered to live in a new, even astonishing, recreated and transformed way, we join our voices confidently and with conviction to St. Maximilian Kolbe's: "I wish to die for that man."

-----
Deacon Fred Bartels serves the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado as a member of the Catholic Clergy. He has been married to his wife Shelly  for twenty eight years and they have four children. Deacon F.K. Bartels is a Catholic writer and deacon who knows his Catholic Faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever receive. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online. Visit him also at joyintruth.com

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2015
Universal:
That political responsibility may be lived at all levels as a high form of charity.
Evangelization: That, amid social inequalities, Latin American Christians may bear witness to love for the poor and contribute to a more fraternal society.



Comments


More Living Faith

Group of Christians spontaneously perform outside movie theater to inspire 'War Room' viewers Watch

Image of A group gathers to join in the worship at North Carolina's Concord Mills movie theater.

By Linky C. (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

One Christian leader group was so inspired by the release of the movie War Room that they decided to flood the atrium of a local mall in Charlotte, North Carolina with Christian music and a lively performance. MUNTINLUPA CITY, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - War Room, ... continue reading


Pilgrimage with Pope Francis - FOURTH STATION - St. Anne, patron of grandparents and single women

Image of Saint Anne, pray for us!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Welcome to the fourth station on our virtual pilgrimage to Philadelphia with Pope Francis ahead of the World Meeting of Families. Let us pray! About St. AnneSaint Anne is the grandmother of Jesus Christ and mother to the Virgin Mary. Very little is known about her, but ... continue reading


'I hope the Pope can sing along!' Washington D.C. choir looks forward to Pope's U.S. visit Watch

Image of

By Adelaide Mena, CNA/EWTN News

Choir members from around the Washington, D.C. archdiocese chosen to sing for Pope Francis during his visit later this month hope to stir the soul of the pontiff - and maybe even inspire him to sing along. Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News) - "Our purpose is to ... continue reading


Pope Francis beseeches world to give thanks and protect all life on Day of Creation Watch

Image of Pope Francis had announced last month that the Catholic Church would join the Orthodox Church in marking the prayer day September 1 each year.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

During an evening celebration of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis prayed that God would "enlighten the lords of power and money so they would not fall into indifference, but would love the common good, encourage the weak and care ... continue reading


SSPX confessions valid during Jubilee, Pope Francis declares - many pray schism will end Watch

Image of Pope Francis has extended an olive branch to the SSPX. Will our brothers and sisters accept it, or will they perceive it as a slight?

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Absolutions granted by priests of the Fraternity of St. Pius X (SSPX) will have the full support of the Pope Francis and the Church during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. The notice was given by Pope Francis in a special letter in which he announced the ... continue reading


POPE FRANCIS ISSUES EXTRAORDINARY INDULGENCE - Here's how you and others can obtain it Watch

Image of Pope Francis has issued an extraordinary indulgence for all who seek to reconcile with God.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is issuing a Jubilee Indulgence that he hopes will allow people to experience God's mercy and grace. In preparation for the coming Jubilee, Pope Francis has published a letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who heads his council for the promotion of the ... continue reading


Priest asks, what would St. Francis of Assisi do if he were alive today? Watch

Image of Although Pope Francis presided over the celebration, Fr. Cantalamessa (who has been preacher to the Papal Household since St. John Paul II appointed him in 1980) gave the homily.

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

On the first World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, the preacher to the papal household said that St. Francis of Assisi is a key model in showing the link between faith in God and care for our common home. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Saint Francis "is ... continue reading


No school days for working children

Image of

By Tony Magliano

It's that time again when adults take off to celebrate Labor Day, and kids head back to the adventures a new school year. But for millions of children worldwide the adventures of a new school year remain but a dream. Sadly, these children will never learn to read or ... continue reading


Catholic lawmakers asked by Pope to rally for pro-life, immigrants and persecuted Christians Watch

Image of The Holy Father was presented with a document by lawmakers outlining their commitment to promoting life in their respective nations, especially in areas of abortion, Christian persecution, and migration.

By Ann Schneible, CNA/EWTN News

On Sunday, Pope Francis urged Catholic legislators to be protectors of human life, calling them to "be strong" against a throwaway culture marked by Christian persecution, and the rejection of the unborn and migrants. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - The pontiff ... continue reading


Will Pope Francis' visit end in disaster? Residents say organizers don't have their act together Watch

Image of Mayor Nutter unveils the 'I'll Be There' campaign to encourage shop owners to stay open during the papal visit.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Philadelphia residents are stressing over the upcoming Papal visit, and for good reason. Preparations for the visit appear ad hoc and are being poorly communicated to the community, according to locals. LOA ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Will Pope Francis' visit to ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Colossians 1:15-20
15 He is the image of the unseen God, the first-born ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:1, 2, 3, 4, 5
1 [Psalm For thanksgiving] Acclaim Yahweh, all the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 5:33-39
33 They then said to him, 'John's disciples are ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 4th, 2015 Image

St. Rosalia
September 4: St. Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses and Quisquina, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter