What could the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, the radio call sign SP3RN, and the prisoner number 16670 have in common?
Among the twenty stone statues of Christian Martyrs that stand above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey in London, is one of a Roman Catholic Franciscan Priest from Poland. He holds in his hands an open book on whose pages are carved two crowns, representing purity and martyrdom. His statue, with the others, stands as a silent witness to love and faithfulness.
Maximilian Maria Kolbe was a man ahead of his time. He believed that all the various forms of the media of his day could be used to spread the Gospel in a marvelous way, and he proved it’s effectiveness. Using the most modern techniques, printing presses in his monasteries put out all manner of devotional tracts, catechetical books and magazines, even a newspaper.
Besides all of that, Saint Maximilian built and operated a radio station – the beginnings of Catholic radio! He is the only canonized saint to have ever held an amateur radio license! His call sign was SP3RN, and he put it to good use. He was the first to use radio to spread the light of faith amidst the ever growing darkness that was beginning to envelop Europe through the rise of Nazism. As Hitler’s ideology gained momentum, he was not afraid to speak out against the terrible evil that it was.
As is the case with all regimes, truth is feared. Maximilian Kolbe, who was a voice in the darkness, could not be tolerated, he had to be silenced. He was arrested by the Gestapo and eventually transported to Auschwitz. As he entered the gates of that terrible place of darkness and hopelessness, he was assigned a new number, prisoner 16670.
In that hellish death camp, he brought the light of love and truth his enemies had so desperately tried to extinguish, he gave his life for another, dying as a martyr of charity.
If Saint Maximilian were alive today there is no question he would be using television and radio to evangelize. He would be broadcasting, podcasting, tweeting and texting with the zeal of a Saint Paul!
Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, through the intercession of the Immaculate, pray for those who work in Catholic Media. Pray for us all!
Merry Christmas! As the eight day celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity approaches its end this might be a good time to look at the different saints who are celebrated during the Christmas Octave. They are many and varied, so what brings them together during this exalted celebration?
St. Stephen, St. John the Apostle, the Holy Innocents, St. Thomas Becket, the Holy Family. Well, probably no one wonders why the feast of the Holy Family falls within the octave, but what about the others? In their lives we see that the followers of Christ may come from any profession, any background, any culture. The key is not where they came from, but where they were going – no matter which direction their lives were headed, when they heard Jesus’ call they followed Him unreservedly, even to Calvary and the shedding of their blood.
St. Stephen, the first martyr, whose blood bore great fruit for the Church – the grace of his sacrifice turned Saul the Pharisee into St. Paul the Apostle.
St. John, especially beloved of God, and entrusted with the care of Our Lord’s own Mother, his Gospel teaches us so much about the divinity of Christ.
The Holy Innocents – babies and toddlers, unable to speak the name of their newborn King, yet giving their lives for Him. In their martyrdom we see God’s power in bringing grace and goodness out of even the most evil actions of man.
St. Thomas Becket – a close friend of King Henry II, but once consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury, he didn’t shrink from opposing the king in defense of Christ and His Church, even when it cost him his life.
Though not all were called to follow Him to the same end, they all shared a life-changing love for Jesus Christ. As St. Thomas Becket wrote in the second reading from today’s Office of Readings, “The whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.”
Each one of these saints won the crown of eternal life – some by the witness of their blood, but all by the witness of their life – through sacrifice, prayer, perseverance, and God’s grace; all of which are available to us today, if only we seek and ask.