Tuesday, August 14, 2012

St Maximilian Kolbe Was a Rocket Scientist and Other Lesser Known Facts

Today is the Feast Day of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Most Catholics know him as the Polish priest who died on August 14, 1941 in Auschwitz, after he offered his own life to prevent another prisoner from being killed. Less well known is the zealous faith-filled way he lived his life beforehand, which I believe prepared him well for the final sacrifice for which he is primarily remembered. Because of all the things he did, this article tells us that "Maximilian Kolbe is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners and the pro-life movement. Pope John Paul II also declared him the 'Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century.'" Along with all of these accomplishments, he was a rocket scientist, about which you'll learn more, if you read on.

A Conventual Franciscan friar, St. Maximilian Kolbe had also been a zealous evangelizer, with a great devotion to Our Lady, not only in Poland but also in Nagasaki, Japan. The works he did in Japan have had a seminal importance in the history of the Church in Japan. In his zeal, St. Maximilian drew many friars to work with him in his use of the latest technologies to help bring people to conversion. Following is a partial list of things that are not well known about St. Maximilian Kolbe from the article mentioned above and from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Kolbe.html.
  • He was born in 1894, so he was 47 at the time of his death.
  • At 13, he illegally made a border crossing between the Russia and Austria-Hungary with his brother and entered the junior seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvov, Poland.
  • His father was killed by the Russians, his mother became a religious sister, and his one brother who lived to adulthood became a priest.
  • St. Maximilian was sent to study in Rome in 1912.
  • He earned a doctorate in philosophy and in theology.
  • He took his final vows in 1914 in Rome and was ordained in 1918.
  • He was a rocket scientist! His interest in astrophysics and space flight led him to design an airplane-like spacecraft, similar to the present-day space shuttle, and he tried to patent it.
  • While still in seminary, he organized the Militia Immaculatae (Army of Mary) to work for the conversion of sinners, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary.
  • He used the latest printing presses and the relatively new technology of radio for outreach of the Army of Mary. Circulation of his publication grew to over 750,000.
  • He founded two friaries in Japan and a seminary near Nagasaki and put out a Japanese newspaper that reached 65,000.
  • From the article mentioned above: "Kolbe decided to build the [first] monastery on a mountain side that, according to Shinto beliefs, was not the side best suited to be in tune with nature. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Kolbe’s monastery was saved because the blast of the bomb hit the other side of the mountain, which took the main force of the blast. Had Kolbe built the monastery on the preferred side of mountain as he was advised, his work and all of his fellow monks would have been destroyed."
  • After he was recalled to Poland, he became superior of a monastery that grew to number 762 friars.
  • During the war, the friary provided shelter to 3,000 refugees 2/3 of whom were Jewish. As an amateur radio amateur he attacked Nazi activities in his reports.
  • He was eventually sent to Auchwitz after he was arrested on February 17, 1941 as a journalist, publisher, and 'intellectual.'


Sophia's Favorite said...

One minor correction (I was looking for "patron saint of rocket scientists" and found this), but it is not, precisely, Shinto that would be involved, but "onmyodo" ("Way of Yin and Yang"), a school of Taoist geomancy, distantly related to feng shui, that ran a Japanese government ministry dedicated to various divinations from the 9th century to 1876.

And it would not be that the side of the mountain wasn't "in harmony with nature", but that it was unlucky—I'd stake dollars to donuts the monastery was on the northeast side of the mountain, the unlucky direction known as "kimon" or "ogre gate".

Roseanne Therese Sullivan said...

Sophia's Favorite: I suspect that the person who wrote the article I quoted used the term "in tune with nature" as a convenient vague way to talk about a belief system he didn't understand as well as you do. Thanks for the correction. Good thing the monastery was on the "unlucky" side of the mountain.

Roseanne Therese Sullivan said...
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