One of my favorite Catholic priests and speakers, Father John Riccardo has a penchant for saying, “Put yourself into the Scripture. Imagine yourself there … see the marketplace, the people, the scenery. Instead of just reading it, get INTO it.”
Putting myself in the place of today’s Gospel, it hits home. As Jesus instructs his Disciples on to go, and spread word to build His Church, they are doubtful. Doubt is a cloud that shadows my mind frequently – “what am I supposed to be doing? Is this the right career for me? Am I making horrible parenting mistakes?” I can empathize with the Disciples being doubtful concerning the dauting task that Jesus presented to them.
…..And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age
Jesus reminds us that even though He no longer resides with us physically, He is always here. That thought has been my reassurance throughtout countless crises.
In thinking of someone who fully relies on God, even in the midst of horrific conditions, St Maximilan Kolbe comes to mind.
Born Raymond Kolbe in Poland in 1894, he excelled in math and physics, and had a passion for all things military. He gave up a career in teaching, the sciences, or as a military strategist in response to a dream he had as a child, which he felt called him to martyrdom.
While in seminary training, he took the name Maximilan Mary, in honor of his devotion to the Blessed Mother. He also founded the Militia Immaculatae, began the friary of Niepokalanow, published a daily Catholic newspaper, and traveled to Japan to evangelize. All this, while suffering from tuberculosis.
After the Germans invaded Poland (1939), his beloved friary Niepokalanow was occupied by Germans, and he was sent to prison. After his release, he and his friar brothers created a refugee haven for Polish refugees, including Polish Jews. In 1941, he was arrested, going first to Pawiak prison in Warsaw, then later on to Auschwitz. His status as a Catholic priest singled him out for special ill treatment. Along with other priests, he was forced to carry huge stone blocks, cut down and carry giant tree trunks, as well as endure beatings and squalid living conditions. Father Kolbe shared his rations with others, and would pray with others in secret, hearing confessions and leading the Rosary.
In July 1941, 3 prisoners escaped from Father Kolbe’s area. For punishment, 10 prisoners were chosen to be assigned to the Bunker, or underground starvation cell. When Franciszek Gajowniczek was assigned to die, Father Kolbe stepped up and volunteered to go in his place. After two weeks, still leading his comrades in prayers and singing, Father Kolbe was killed by lethal injection.
He was beatified in 1971, and named a saint by Blessed John Paul II in 1982. He is considered the patron saint of those fighting drug addiction, journalists, prisoners, families and the pro-life movement.
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