The final chapter exploring the life and death of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
Note: This is the last part of a serial fiction series focusing on the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, following the life of a fictional character as he encounters the saint. We regret the delay in publishing this chapter. For previous chapter(s), click here.
Piotr began to cry while he and Father Maximilian were being driven away in the black car of the Gestapo. They were being arrested for “treason,” though the Gestapo did not specify what that meant.
Piotr had doubts that he would survive what would happen next. While his heart told him to look forward to Heaven, his mind was afraid of the suffering he might have to endure.
Father Maximilian could sense the despair in Piotr’s cries and talked soothingly to him.
“Piotr, I understand the feelings of fear you are experiencing. We do not know what will happen to us. It is frightening to consider all the possibilities. I only ask you to do one thing.”
As Father Maximilian paused for a moment, Piotr looked-up at him with tear-stained eyes.
“What is it, Father?”
“Hope. Hope not in this world, but in the Immaculata! The Virgin Mary is here right now in this car and is spreading her mantle over us. Have hope in her, that she will conduct us to our ultimate destiny!”
Piotr couldn’t help but smile as Father Maximilian looked at him with his own smile. He could see how nothing could sway Father Maximilian away from his hope in the future, a hope not in this life, but in the next.
A supernatural peace started to flood Piotr’s soul and his feelings calmed down. It was reassuring that he would be on this journey with his spiritual father and that he would be there to help him persevere.
The vehicle finally stopped and the Gestapo forcefully took all the priests and friars out of the three cars and processed them into the Pawiak Prison. Later they learned that this was a holding cell for prisoners, so that the officers could interrogate them and make further arrests.
They were in a cell in this prison for several weeks. The Nazis permitted Father Maximilian and others to send letters, though they had to be in German and were closely scrutinized.
One of Father Maximilian’s letters showed his undying hope.
“All the Brothers must pray very much and well. Work with fervor and don’t worry too much about us, because nothing can happen to us without the permission of God and the Immaculata.”
One day one of the Gestapo looked into the cell and saw the rosary that Father Maximilian still had on his religious habit. He burst into the cell and grabbed the crucifix.
“Do you believe in that?”
Father Maximilian calmly said, “Yes, I believe.”
This enraged the Gestapo, who punched Father Maximilian in the face.
“Now do you believe?”
Again, Father Maximilian said with a smile, “Yes, I believe.”
The Gestapo slapped the priest in the face harder, asking him the same question over and over again. Each time Father Maximilian responded, the Gestapo assaulted him.
After a while the Gestapo realized his efforts were in vain and threw Father Maximilian to the floor.
Piotr and he other prisoners ran to the priest and checked to see if he was okay. Father Maximilian responded, “Do not worry about me! It is only a scratch!”
Far from just a scratch, Father Maximilian had bruises all over his body and bleeding wounds covering his face.
Months went by and Father Maximilian, along with Piotr, remained in the Pawiak prison. His last letter was dated May 12 and contained the following words.
“Let us promise to let ourselves be led more and more completely how and where the Mother of God wishes so that fulfilling our duty to the utmost, we may through love, save all souls.”
A few weeks later Piotr was talking to Father Maximilian about the Nazis.
“Father, how could these terrible Nazis be saved by God? Their treatment to us and everyone else is utterly deplorable. Surely God’s mercy does not extend to them.”
Father Maximilian closed his eyes for a few seconds in prayer, likely asking God what he was to say. Then he opened his mouth and said, “Piotr, no one’s conversion is impossible. Let us continue to pray for the Nazis, that their hearts will be converted.”
As they finished talking the Gestapo burst into the cell and ordered the two friars to get up.
“You two, you are coming with us!”
Piotr and Father Maximilian were forcefully taken out of the prison and as they were leaving the building, Piotr was taken into one car, while Father Maximilian was led to another.
Father Maximilian called out, “Hope!”
Piotr would never see Father Maximilian again.
Father Maximilian died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, taking the place of another prisoner who had a wife and children. His sacrifice was later recognized by the Catholic Church as making him a “martyr of charity.” He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982.
Come back next tomorrow for a new series!