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Greater Than the Greatest: Memorial of St Maximilian Maria Kolbe, priest & martyr

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love there is no greater love than this: Saint Kolbe laying down his life for a stranger. Saint Kolbe Apostle of Consecration to Mary. Patron Saint of Prisoners, of those struggling against Drug Addiction, Pro-Life Movement, and Radio Reporters.

In the First Epistle to the Corinthians, addressed to the Christian church in Corinth one of the Pauline epistles and part of the New Testament of the Christian Bible Saint Paul the Apostle and co-author, Sosthenes, write in part: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues* but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13


The Catholic Catechism (1817) defines Hope as the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.  (1818 ) The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity. (1819 ) Christian hope takes up and fulfills the hope of the chosen people which has its origin and model in the hope of Abraham, who was blessed abundantly by the promises of God fulfilled in Isaac, and who was purified by the test of the sacrifice. “Hoping against hope, he believed, and thus became the father of many nations.” (1820) Christian hope unfolds from the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in the proclamation of the beatitudes. The beatitudes raise our hope toward heaven as the new Promised Land; they trace the path that leads through the trials that await the disciples of Jesus. But through the merits of Jesus Christ and of his Passion, God keeps us in the “hope that does not disappoint.” 88 Hope is the “sure and steadfast anchor of the soul . . . that enters . . . where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.”89 Hope is also a weapon that protects us in the struggle of salvation: “Let us . . . put on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”90 It affords us joy even under trial: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.”91 Hope is expressed and nourished in prayer, especially in the Our Father, the summary of everything that hope leads us to desire.


Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Hebrew names Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah), along with  Daniel are brought to Babylon to study Chaldean language and literature with a view to them serving at the King’s court, and their Hebrew names are replaced with Chaldean or Babylonian names. Eventually the three Jewish men are thrown into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylon for refusing to bow to the king’s image, but they remain unharmed. “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was startled and rose in haste, asking his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” “Certainly, O king,” they answered.

“But,” he replied, “I see four men unbound and unhurt, walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God” – Daniel Chapter 3

The Martyrdom of a Mother and Her Seven Sons is recounted in 2 Mccabees

“It also happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.

One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said: “What do you expect to learn by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”  After the torture and death of the seven children 2 Mccabees continues:
“Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother who, seeing her seven sons perish in a single day, bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord.”

Saint John the Apostle the author of the Johannine Works, (the three Johannine epistles and the Book of Revelation, together with the Gospel of John, are called the Johannine works) in John 15:13 he writes ” No one has greater love than this,  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus alludes to the sacrifice he’s about to make. True love is not a cheap, shallow sentiment; it is costly. When we love others the way Christ loved us, we will need to sacrifice some things or even many things.

The disciples surely missed the true depth of these words in that moment. But after he died on the cross and rose again these words took on a whole new meaning. Jesus showed that “there is no greater love than this” when he laid down his life for us.

Maximilian Maria Kolbe OFM was a Polish Catholic priest and Conventual Franciscan friar. In 1941 he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where in terrible circumstances he continued to work as a priest and offer solace to fellow inmates. When the Nazi guards selected 10 people to be starved to death in punishment, Kolbe volunteered to die in place of a stranger, a man named Franciszek Gajowniczek the German death camp of Auschwitz, located in German-occupied Poland during World War II

He had been active in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, founding and supervising the monastery of Niepokalanów near Warsaw, operating an amateur-radio station (SP3RN), and founding or running several other organizations and publications.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love there is no greater love than this: Saint Kolbe laying down his life for a stranger.

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