Today I am dedicating this piece on St. Maksymilian (Maximillian) Kolbe to a living saint (in my own book) named Anthony Comella, a friend and Knight of Columbus in Brunswik, Ohio. Anthony helped turn my souring opinion of the Knights of Columbus into a much more positive picture because of his love of God and neighbor, charity, empathy, good works, and non-judgmental attitude. Over Pride Month in June, I will dedicate my writings to remembering the Holocaust because we are experiencing a repeat and resurfacing of right-winged fascist history right now in different parts of the world, including parts of the United States. LGBTQIA+ families were executed during the Holocaust right along with Jewish people and other groups for “not fitting the perfect mold” and being portrayed as “less than” when the Catholic Church teaches that each person is equally-sacred and equally-created in God’s image. Do these Nazi attitudes and actions sound familiar today? History does tend to repeat itself.
According to history, openly opposing the Nazi army was not possible as it is becoming more and more difficult to oppose the current-day fascist threats. The Catholic Church had both those who secretly opposed Nazism and helped aid in escape of Jewish people and other oppressed groups while other Catholic leaders were complicit with Nazism. However, there were notable Catholic networks to rescue Jews and those in danger. Many Catholics were actually sent to concentration camps for aiding in the rescue of Jewish people and other oppressed groups. Hugh O’Flaherty’s “Rome Escape Line”, the Assisi Network, and Poland’s Żegota were three of the more notable rescue missions.
The living-day Catholic Anthony Comella honors and venerates Catholic St. Maximillian Kolbe because of his unique role during the Holocaust with his many efforts to defeat Nazism, including the giving of his own life to save a Jewish father of young children. Anthony’s love of St. Maximillian does not surprise me considering the type of Catholic gentleman that Anthony is and the example he sets for the Knights of Columbus. Here is a little history about St. Maximillian Kolbe during the Holocaust.
According to a summary from Encyclopedia Britannica, Maximilian was arrested in 1939 for his anti-Nazism but was later released. He and his Franciscan brothers sheltered an estimated 2,000–3,000 Polish refugees, the majority of whom were Jewish, and continued to publish anti-Nazi publications. He was again arrested in February 1941 on charges of aiding Jews and the Polish underground. He was then imprisoned at Warsaw and then sent to Auschwitz. There, Maximilian continued his priestly ministry, including hearing confessions and holding Mass with smuggled bread. Following a prisoner’s escape, 10 men were then randomly selected to die as punishment, and Kolbe volunteered his life in the place of Franciszek Gajowniczek who was married with young children. Father Maximilian Kolbe died so this Jewish father with a young family could live.
According to The Gospel of John 15:13, St. Maximilian Kolbe, truly followed the words of Jesus, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” When we observe his icon, we see this verse inscribed on a scroll he is holding.
I am hoping and praying that our current political climate turns around like my heart and attitude did for the Knights of Columbus because of Anthony’s goodness. In writing this piece and other similar pieces over Pride Month in June, I also confess that I am trying to reclaim my Catholic faith and love for the Church. My faith and love for the Church have been damaged due to the threat of fascism from within and outside the Church and for openly opposing the current-day fascist threats from within and outside the Church, like through trans advocacy. The attempt to focus on what is good about the Church verses what has hurt others and my family is the direction I deliberately choose to take thanks to a number of good Catholic friends. I just can no longer exist in a combative state of pain and negativity while also regaining my love for Christ and His Church. I so desperately want the latter, so I am shifting my focus on the ways I mentioned. Happy Pentecost!!