(This painting and reflection is from 2015)
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr, 1894-1941
This is a crude finger painting. It is meant to be incomplete and simple because there is no easy way to interpret this man’s faith, life and death. This Polish Franciscan priest died in Auschwitz on this day in 1941.
Crown: The red crown was given to him in a vision when he was 12 years old. He had a vision of Mary who presented him with two crowns, one white that would become his reward in heaven, then a red crown, representing his martyrdom. He accepted both crowns from Mary, the Mother of God.
Mary, the Mother of God: Mary’s appearance to Maximilian gave him purpose in life. Notice how the blue beads of the rosary co-exist and even blend into the barbed wire. I must believe that the painful pieces of wire in the concentration camp became a rhythm of prayer for him. The wire knots of the fence became a sequence of prayer so that he could keep his faith alive. As the artist, I hold on to that notion.
The brown shirt: Fr. Kolbe was a Franciscan priest. He dedicated his life to the proclamation of the gospel; the passion, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. The red mark represents the martyr of martyrs, Jesus.
The prisoner uniform: At the same time, he was a prisoner and his number was, 16670.
The drops of blood on his face: There were ten people put to death by lethal injection. The blood stains represent those who died with him. The blood comes from the martyrs crown. He took the place of a man who had a wife and children. That man was then present at this canonization in 1982.
The green background: The green background represents hope for the people who died and hope for the people who lived through such anguish and suffering. The green backdrop invites us all into our own suffering and the realization that “everything will be alright.” I believe this message is the key to his priesthood. I know it is the eternal message of my own priesthood.
The gold halo: Maximilian’s halo is hope to us all, that our faith in Jesus, in the suffering of this world, leads us safely home.