Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar. He founded a monastery in Japan during the 1930’s and during the Second World War he sheltered Polish refugees, many of them Jewish, he was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in Auschwitz. In July 1941, ten men from his barracks were selected to be starved to death and Maximilian volunteered to take the place of one of them. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, Kolbe and three others were still alive and he was finally killed with an injection of carbolic acid on this date in 1941. He is one of the ten twentieth-century martyrs depicted above the West Door of Westminster Abbey. These are his words:
You must be prepared for periods of darkness, anxiety, doubts, fears, of temptations that are sometimes very, very insistent, of suffering of the body and, what is a hundred times more painful, of the soul. For if there were nothing to bear, for what would you go to heaven. If there were no trials, there would be no struggle. Without struggle, victory would be impossible, and without victory, there is no crown, no reward … so be prepared from now on for everything.