Creative Writing: St. Maximillian Kolbe


Fr. Maximilian Kolbe. Photo taken 1939. Public Domain.

Although his feast day has passed, I publish this story because his life, and most especially his death are a strong and unfading witness to the truth which we even today are meant to uphold and share always. The virtue and heroism of St. Maximilian Kolbe inspires me, as I hope it will inspire you. St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.

“5659!” A stern, uncaring voice read the number off of a slip of paper.

The knees of a thin, pale man standing among the front row of prisoners betrayed him. He crumpled to the ground, releasing a cry of anguish.

Franciszek Gajowniczek had just been condemned to death.

This prospect, which for all time has filled the hearts of men with fear, spared him not. It terrified him, filling him with despair, such horrible despair.

“But, my family sir! What will happen to them? How will they survive without me? My sons, my dear sons!”

Emotions flooded from him: anger, sorrow, pain. Sobs racked his emaciated frame.

Like time, waiting for nothing and caring for no one, so were the Nazis desensitized to his pain.
Armed men came ready to haul him away, ignoring his pleas, spite in his anguish. They moved to throw him among those others similarly condemned, their forced sacrifice to atone for the acts of others.

It was the end.

The other men watched. These were their comrades, and their brothers. These were the men with whom they had suffered, with whom they had banded together, to face in solidarity the terrible plight set before them.

But what could they do? Who, when hiding from a beast, risks himself to aid the friend who has already been devoured? Speaking out was death, and to die meant that the home which they so desired to see again would never be refound.


And yet, from the dark there came a light.

One man, a bald Polish man, stepped out of the ranks. A contending force against the dread of the tired prisoners, a contending force against the tense and threatening stillness of the prison guards. He approached the Nazi commandment.

Such foolishness! Such courage!

Disgust filled every crevice of the Nazi’s war-hardened face, contempt showed in his angry eyes. He would not, could not condescend to speak to this Pole directly. He spit, and then spoke.

“What does this Polish pig want?”


Unfazed, the man looked up into the commandment’s eyes. From his mouth came a reply, both meek, and yet with firm resolve.

“I am a Catholic priest. I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.”

Gazing into this old soldier’s eyes, what did this saint see? Gazing into this fearless prisoner’s eyes, what did this soldier see?

Still was there silence.

Onlookers watched in grim expectation, preparing once more for the godless ritual of violence they had so many times before experienced. The blood of their brothers would stay with them forever.

Nazi prison guards prepared for the order to make this impudent priest suffer. To fulfill their duty, to their country, to their families, to their people, they were ready to obey.

And yet, still unmoving were the soldier and the saint.

And then, movement.

The commandment nodded his acknowledgement. The guards were shocked, yet they roughly escorted the priest to join the other prisoners. No one else could have seen the respect in his eyes, and the awe. But Maximilian Kolbe knew.

Franciszek Gajowniczek, still weeping on the ground, looked up through his tears. Looking back at him was the loving face of a bearded man, a man being dragged away to a cruel death, a man who would die to save him. Forever would he remember that instant. Forever would his life be changed.


And those marked with the sign of death, were led to her cold, dark chamber. Thus, in a concrete torture cell would these ten die. In the deepest wallows of human disparity and human cruelty, they would slip away, forgotten and unheard by their captors. In the excruciating pains of the dehydration and starvation inflicted upon them by their imprisonment, these men would spend the last days of their lives suffering. And yet, in the joyful presence of this small Polish priest would they each find hope and peace.

Songs and prayers flowed with unfading fervor from the death cell, joy and life amidst a place characterized by joylessness and lifelessness. What should have been a place of utter despair, was rather one of light and grace.

The priest ministered to each man individually, and most importantly, spoke to him, imploring him to look farther past the pains he was now enduring, to the comfort he would soon gain in paradise.

And time slipped and slipped away.

Deprived of life’s necessities, the men began to die. And the priest was there with each of them; anointing him, comforting him, praying for him, loving him.

Time slipped and slipped away, and the men were one by one, taken away with it.

Songs still echoed from the corridors of their cell, and prayers still christened the place so lacking in the love of God. Three weeks passed, three weeks without food or water, and left behind from these weeks were only four men. Maximilian Kolbe was among them.

Finally, the Nazis entered the cell. A group of soldiers, faces grim and hands tense, entered the bunker. They carried with them vials of carbolic acid; to fulfill their duty, to their country, to their families, to their people, they were ready to do what they must.

They approached each man individually, now just skin and bones, and injected him with the poison. Life slipped out of his body, and his suffering was complete. One by one the men slumped to the floor.

Prayers of comfort, peace, joy, and courage filled the cell. The small, bearded man in the back of the room lifted his eyes to God.

And finally they came to Maximillian Kolbe.

The priest’s thoughts drifted back to that day in his childhood, years ago, when he had been spoken to by our Lady. On that day, he had accepted from her the crown of purity, and that of martyrdom. Today, both crowns were finally fulfilled.

Eagerly anticipating the joys that lay ahead, Father Maximillian Kolbe weakly lifted up his arms and received the acid. In a final act of trust he muttered two words, “Ave Maria.”

Then his heart stopped, and his lifeless body fell to the ground. But his soul, truly pure and holy, rose up to heaven, to meet his loving Mother, Mary.