One of the places we visited today was Niepokalanow, the City of the Immaculate set up by Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Together with a few franciscan friars he established this chapel in 1927.
We all know that St Maximilian died a martyr's death at Auschwitz. In the chapel are paintings reminding us that other beatified Franciscans were also prisoners in the death camp. Here are two of them:
Adjacent to the chapel is St Maximilian's cell (pictured below with some of the Christmas Crib artefacts in temporary storage):
together with a display of some liturgical artefacts which he would have used:
A friar was suitably on hand for a photo as he was making rosary beads:
The friary grew to contained huge printing press from which the Friars carried out an effective printing apostolate. Near the chapel is a museum, principally about the life of St Maximilian but also about the missionary activity of the Franciscan Friars.
A series of paintings describe the story of Maximilian's life in Aushwitz:
This candle, donated from Holland, is a particularly impressive work of religious art in memory of St Maximilian.
Here is a detail from the centre of the Cross which contains the face of the crucified Christ.
Below the Cross is a representation of grapes that are crushed to become wine and the Blood of Christ in the Chalice beneath the Cross. Jesus' Body was crushed so that we might be saved by the shedding of His Blood which we receive in Holy Communion, and as a martyr's body is crushed and his blood shed:
The word 'Credo' in blood red wax and dripping remind us that we must be prepared to declare our faith even to the shedding of our blood. It is only thus that our saying 'Credo', 'I believe', can truly be sincere.
A summary of the life of St Maximilian (click to see it enlarged):
Nearby is the Basilica in honour of Our Lady Immaculate:
As you can see it was cold. Fr Piotr on the phone with plenty of snow on the ground:
The car thermometer records the outside temperature:
In this year of priesthood, we can ask St Maximilian to give all priests - and, indeed, all religious men and women - the grace of putting themselves at the service of others. Their celibacy enables them to offer their lives in sacrifice, after the example of Christ Himself, and to espouse themselves most especially to the Virgin Mary.
O Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, faithful follower of St Francis of Assisi, inflamed by the love of God you dedicated your life to the practice of virtue and to works of the apostolate. Look down with favour upon us who devoutly confide in your intercession.
Having consecrated yourself to the Immaculate Virgin Mary, you inspired countless souls to a holy life and various forms of apostolate in order to do good to others and to spread the kingdom of God. Obtain for us the grace by our lives and labours to draw many souls to Christ.
In your close conformity to our Divine Saviour you reached such an intense degree of love, that you offered your life to save that of a fellow prisoner. Implore God that we, inflamed by such ardent charity, may through our living faith and our apostolic works witness Christ to our fellowmen, and thus merit to join you in the blessed vision of God. Amen.