It was August 14, 1941, at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The Nazis were picking which prisoners would be killed that day. After 10 men were selected to die, one of them—Franciszek Gajowniczek—cried out, “My wife! My children! I will never see them again!”
Also present at this time was another Nazi prisoner, Father Maximilan Kolbe, a Franciscan Friar. He stepped forward and told the Nazi commandant, “I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.”
The commandant was surprised and asked, “What does this Polish pig want?” Father Kolbe pointed to the condemned man and repeated, “I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.”
Perhaps stunned by the priest’s selflessness, the Nazis granted his heroic request. Gajowniczek, the man he saved, said, “It was the first and the last time that such an incident happened in the whole history of Auschwitz.”
Maximilian Kolbe was canonized a saint in 1982.
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down
his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Give me a courageous and selfless heart, Father.