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Saint Maximilian Kolbe


Kolbe’s was a surprisingly difficult face to paint, with all its subtle slopes and planes, and many many hours went into this painting. But how could I expect any less than the grace to grow in perseverance when I am painting the image of a man who persisted in spreading the gospel in the midst of war, despite persecution and beatings, who willingly gave his life for a stranger, and even at the last, though he was starving, continued to praise God?

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Dimensions 8 × 10 in


Raymond Kolbe was born into the Russian Empire in the year 1894. When he was only a boy, Mary appeared to him, offering him two crowns: a white one signifying purity, and a red one signifying martyrdom. He accepted both. As a teenager, he joined the Franciscans and became Maximilian. Empowered by the call to holiness, he undertook many projects as a priest: he organized the Militia Immaculatae to rescue souls for Christ through Mary, founded a publication apostolate, a radio station, and several new friaries—one in Poland, one in Japan, another in India. When World War II erupted, he transformed the Polish friary into a hospital—and also sheltered two thousand jewish refugees from persecution. But German authorities did not tolerate him long. Soon they shut down the friary, arrested Maximilian, and imprisoned him in Auschwitz. He became prisoner #16670. Yet even in this death camp, he remained a light in the darkness, offering the Sacraments—and even his food—to the hungry, earning himself violent beatings. But he could not be silenced. One day, when a prisoner escaped, the overseers responded by sentencing ten men to death by starvation. A father among the chosen cried out, lamenting his family’s fate. Maximilian stepped forward, offering himself instead. Locked in with the dying, his faith did not falter. He continued to pray and to counsel, leading his fellow prisoners to Our Lady. Two weeks later, Maximilian and three others still clung to life. Peacefully, embracing martyrdom, he received a lethal injection that freed him from Earth into Heaven. His body was cremated in 1941.