After a prisoner escaped from the camp, ten others were selected to die as a punishment. One of the ten, Franciszek Gajowniczek, began to cry out that he would never see his family again. Prisoner number 16770 stepped forward and asked to take his place. Thus began the martyrdom of Fr. Kolbe. As for Franciszek Gajowniczek, he lived 53 more years and died in 1995 at the age of 95.
A snippet from today's Office of Readings from a letter of St. Maximilian gives us a window into the heart of so generous and so brave a man: "Obedience raises us beyond the limits of our littleness and puts us in harmony with God's will." St. Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, "Preach always, use words when you have to." This son of St. Francis died as a faithful and obedient servant (and "preacher") of the Gospel -- he laid down his life for a fellow prisoner.
Prior to his imprisonment, Kolbe established the sodality of the Militia of Mary Immaculate. Click here to learn more about it.
"Charity and obedience are so closely united that they cannot possibly be separated. Love makes us obey promptly."
St. Francis de Sales