Featured Entrepreneur of the Spirit: Saint Maximilian Kolbe

On August 14th we celebrated the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Many know of St. Maximilian Kolbe for his heroic offering to die in the place of another man at Auschwitz. But, did you know he is also the patron saint of entrepreneurs? As a Franciscan friar in German-occupied Poland during World War II, Fr. Maximilian refused to remain silent during the evils of this time and found entrepreneurial ways to communicate the Catholic faith.

Check out the feature here to learn more about what he did and how he did it. St. Maximilian’s courage and fidelity to Christ during such a tumultuous time is a beautiful witness for how we can persevere in the work to which God has called us. 

Early Life

From a young age, St. Maximilian, then known as Raymond, devoted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary. At the age of ten, Raymond had a vision of the Immaculate Virgin appearing to him during which she extended her hands to him. In one hand, she held a white crown, symbolizing a life of chastity and in the other hand a red crown, symbolizing a life of martyrdom. She asked if he wanted to choose one of these. Despite being so young, Raymond understood what this meant and actually chose to take both crowns. Three years later, at the age of thirteen, he entered the Franciscan Fathers Seminary where he took the name Maximilian Maria in honor of Our Lady.

St. Maximilian Kolbe: The Entrepreneur and Builder

Fr. Maximilian was a builder and an entrepreneur. 

During his years as a friar in the 1920s, with the rise of atheistic communism and fascism, there was an increase in opposition and attack of the Catholic Church. Instead of remaining complacent, Fr. Maximilian sought to speak out against the dangers of totalitarian communism and other oppressive systems and communicate Catholic faith and spirituality.

From identifying this need, he founded a monthly magazine called the Knight of the Immaculata. The goal was to help and encourage people to consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Virgin Mary in order to counteract the influence of oppressive regimes and groups.  

The magazine not only shared positive faith stories, but also offered practical teaching on the Catholic faith in response to communist and totalitarian propaganda against it. Fr. Maximilian utilized modern technology and forms of media in order to communicate and evangelize, including radio, movies and television. The magazine grew to a circulation of 800,000 copies and it eventually reached a monthly readership of one million.

The growth of the magazine was so great that in 1927, a community of Franciscans were formed under Fr. Maximilian, leading him to found a large apostolic center called the ”City of Immaculata” in Niepokalanow, Poland. This monastery grew to 650 friars, the largest religious house in all of Europe. Here, he also started seven more publications, eventually establishing one in Japan during the 1930s, becoming the first Westerner to print a Japanese magazine without help from the Japanese. During this assignment to Japan, he founded a monastery in Nagasaki that, years later, incredibly survived the atomic bomb of World War II. 

Through all this growth, Maximillian sought not to take credit for the work. In order to ensure Christ remained at the center of all this growth, before every printing of a new magazine all 327 staff members were required to spend one entire night in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Heroic Death

In February 1941, Fr. Maximilian was arrested by the Nazis on account of sheltering Jews in the seminary. He was imprisoned in one of the most notorious Nazi death camps: Auschwitz. During this time, he sought to ease the burdens and sufferings of other prisoners. Later that same year, a father of a family was sentenced to death in the prison. To save this man’s life so he could remain with his family, Fr. Maximilian willingly offered to take the man’s place in the death sentence. His offer was accepted and Fr. Maximilian was sentenced to death by starvation. After two weeks deprived of food and encouraging the others sentenced with him through prayer and support, Fr. Maximilian was the last of his group to remain alive. To hasten his death, he was finally given a lethal injection, to which he calmly accepted, dying on August 14th, 1941.  

Sacrificial Love in the Face of Uncertainty

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a great entrepreneur who found innovative ways to address the spiritual needs of his time. Yet, his entrepreneurial pursuits were ultimately fulfilled in his final act of love — the sacrifice and giving of his life for another.  

St. Maximilian’s courage and fidelity to Christ during such a tumultuous time can be a beautiful witness for us today, in the midst of great difficulties and uncertainty of our time, to persevere in the life and work to which God calls us.

Additional Resources

Click here for a short video on St. Maximilian