On Sunday, August 21, a solemn Mass was celebrated at St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish on the occasion of the feast day of our parish’s patron saint. The Mass was presided over by Bp. Stanislaw Gadecki, the Metropolitan of Poznan and the President of the Polish Episcopal Conference.
During the celebration, Bp. Gadecki blessed the parish’s new altar, which was made from the altar on which St. John Paul II celebrated Holy Mass on July 28, 2002 at the World Youth Days in Toronto. The original altar was a gift to our parish from St. Eugene de Mazenod Parish in Brampton. Having undergone a slight alteration, the new altar has found its venerable place in our newly renovated sanctuary. Relics of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, hairs from his beard, were placed inside the altar. At the beginning of the Second World War, Fr. Kolbe shaved his beard, which he had grown during his missions in Japan. Suspecting that he could one day become a saint, Fr. Kolbe’s brothers kept many of his things, and the monastery’s barber, Br. Akurcjusz Pruszak, kept the hairs from his beard.
Bp. Gadecki blessed our new tabernacle, which was a gift from the parents of the children that received the Sacrament of First Communion and the youth that received the Sacrament of Confirmation this year. The tabernacle, resembling the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, was made in Poland. Bp. Gadecki also blessed our new baptismal font, pulpit, and lectern.
In this Year of Mercy, our parish also received a new image of the Merciful Jesus, painted by Mrs. Beata Wiekiera. It was placed permanently on the right side of the sanctuary. Both the painting and the frame are a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Wiekiera. May the often repeated words “Jesus, I trust in You” (“Jezu, ufam Tobie”) bring into our lives an abundance of God’s grace.
Concluding his reflection, Bp. Gadecki emphasized: “… St. Maximilian is not only apostolate. It is also a heroic love for God and man. He proved this during his life, and ultimately when, on May 28, 1941, he was transported to Auschwitz. A place of degradation, where many experienced a crisis of humanity; a place where animal instincts arose, where there was the impression that the entire world is drowning in hate… Yet, suddenly, there occurred in this place a shock as a result of the heroic decision of the 47-year-old Fr. Kolbe. With this decision, he condemned himself to two weeks of slow death from starvation, but at the same time, as a priest, became a companion to nine prisoners condemned to death. The fact is that, from the moment Fr. Kolbe was among them, their feeling of unhappiness was suddenly replaced with a feeling of care and security, while the cells in which they awaited their merciless end began to resound with prayers and songs. The executioners themselves were shocked by this. ‘We have never seen anything like this,’ they said.”
At a time when some Christians question their own identity, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe stands among us, not to instruct us through theological discussions, but through his life and death. He was just like his Master, bearing witness to the “greatest love.”