story begins on 8 January, 1894 - Raymond Kolbe was born
the second son of a poor weaver at Zdunska Wola near
Lodz in Poland. In his infancy Raymond seems to have
been normally mischievous but one day, after his mother
had scolded him for some mischief or other, her words
took effect and brought about a radical change in the
child's behaviour. Later Raymond explained this change:
night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me.
Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the
other red. She asked if I was willing to accept either
of these crowns. The white one meant that I should
persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a
martyr. I said that I would accept them both.'"
early did the child believe and accept that he was
destined for martyrdom. His belief in his dream coloured
all his future actions.
1910 he became a Franciscan, taking the name Maximilian.
He studied at Rome and was ordained in 1919. He returned
to Poland and taught Church history in a seminary. He
built a friary just west of Warsaw, which eventually
housed 762 Franciscans and printed eleven periodicals,
one with a circulation of over a million, including a
1930 he went to Asia, where he founded friaries in
Nagasaki and in India. In 1936 he was recalled to
supervise the original friary near Warsaw. When Germany
invaded Poland in 1939, he knew that the friary would be
seized, and sent most of the friars home. He was
imprisoned briefly and then released, and returned to
the friary, where he and the other friars began to
organize a shelter for 3,000 Polish refugees, among whom
were 2,000 Jews.
The friars shared everything they had
with the refugees. They housed, fed and clothed them,
and brought all their machinery into use in their