During a pastoral visit to the parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Rome last December 12th, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Let us start from here. St. Maximilian Kolbe, who offered to starve to death to save the father of a family. What a great light he became! What light has come from this figure and encouraged others to give themselves, to be near to the suffering, to the oppressed!
Let us think of Damien de Veuster who was a father to the lepers. He lived and died with and for the lepers and thus brought light into this community.
Let us think of Mother Teresa, who gave so much light to people, who, after a life without light, died with a smile, because they were touched by the light of God’s love.”
Three modern giants. As the Pope continued saying, “It is not the violent revolution in the world, it is not the great promises that change the world, but it is the silent light of the truth and of the goodness of God…”
Maximilian was born in 1894 in Poland and became a Franciscan. He contracted tuberculosis and, though he recovered, he remained frail all his life. Before his ordination as a priest, Maximilian founded the Immaculata Movement devoted to Our Lady. He went to Japan where he built a monastery and then on to India where he furthered the Movement. In 1936 he returned home because of ill health. After the Nazi invasion in 1941, he was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. On July 31, 1941, in reprisal for one prisoner’s escape, ten men were chosen to die. Father Kolbe offered himself in place of a young husband and father. And he was the last to die, enduring two weeks of starvation, thirst, and neglect.
The ‘leper priest’ as he was called, Father Damien was born in Belgium. In 1864, he was sent to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was ordained. For the next nine years he worked in missions on the big island, Hawaii. In 1873, he went to the leper colony on Molokai, after volunteering for the assignment. Twelve years later he announced he was a leper and yet continued to build hospitals, clinics, and churches, and some six hundred coffins. He died on April 15, on Molokai.
Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was born on 26 August 1910, in Skopje, Macedonia, to Albanian heritage. In 1928 she joined the Loreto Sisters where she received the name of Teresa, after her patroness, Saint Therese of Lisieux, and a year later was sent to Calcutta India. On a train journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling, Mother Teresa received what she termed the “call within a call,” which was to give rise to the Missionaries of Charity family of Sisters. The content of this inspiration? “To quench the infinite thirst of Jesus on the cross for love and souls” by “laboring for the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor.” In 1979 Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. After a horrifying and painful long spiritual night, she died with a smile on her face at 9:30pm on 5th of September.
We are not forgotten. We are loved completely. We are not a product of chance. We are the product of a will of love.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.