I remember my neighbor Miss Viola when I was growing up. She was the sweetest, funniest, most caring person I knew. I remember when she was diagnosed with cancer, I never told anyone but in secret I prayed that God would let me trade places with her. God didn’t answer that prayer. I miss her lots.
I still find myself doing that today, especially when I hear of a young mom or dad facing serious illnesses. It obviously isn’t God’s will that I trade but I believe He takes the prayers to heart. God knows that I am passionate about the people in my life. God knows we all need prayer to get us through or to the next place in our lives.
I always thought I was odd to have this trading places prayer but then I met St. Maximilian Kolbe. The love of God and neighbor made him unafraid to trade places. God allowed the trade in his story so that a husband and father would live to be with his children.
Today I am praying that St. Maximilian intercedes for all those I am praying for – especially those fighting to survive to be with their spouses and their children.
The Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Priest and Martyr on August 14th.
In 1939, Maximilian was arrested by the Nazis who had taken over Poland and sent to Auschwitz. Two years later, in July of 1941, at Block Fourteen, where Saint Maximilian was being kept, revealed that a prisoner had escaped. The policy was to assemble all the prisoners from the block in the yard where they would stand at attention the whole day. If, by the end of the day, the escapee had not been recovered, ten others would be chosen at random to die in his place.
By three o’clock the prisoner was still not found. One of the ten chosen to die was Francis Gajowniczek. Mr. Gajowniczek cried out, “My poor wife, my poor children! What will happen to my family!” That is when Fr. Kolbe came forward, asked to exchange places with Gajowniczek and took the place of the condemned man.
Father Kolbe was sent to the starvation bunker. He led those with him in prayer. After two weeks, he was still alive. On the morning of August 14, 1941 a lethal dose of carbolic acid was injected into him.
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