St. Maximilian Kolbe: martyr, patron of addicts, died 75 years ago today

NOTE: This is an edited version of a post previously published to “Paul Sofranko’s Blog”

St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe was executed in the Nazi German concentration camp at Auschwitz seventy-five years ago today for being a Catholic priest.

He was a Conventual Franciscan friar and Guardian (leader, administrator) of Niepokalanow, then the world’s largest friary and a major Catholic media center. It is located some distance west of Warsaw, Poland.

He was canonized a saint by the Church in October 1982.

In late July 1941 a prisoner escaped and as was Nazi policy, ten men from that cell block were randomly selected to be sentenced to a starvation bunker until the escapee was found (dead or alive.) In reality, the ten condemned wouldn’t be released at all, regardless of the escapee’s status.

Death by starvation and dehydration is a very slow and very painful way to die. The ten were stripped naked and placed in a cell that measured three meters by three meters (that about 9 feet on a side.)

One of the ten was a Polish Army sergeant by the name of Franciszek Gajowniczek, who, upon being selected, wailed that he was a husband and father and bemoaned the fate of his family. Upon hearing this, Fr. Kolbe stepped out of line, went forward to the commander and offered to take the sergeant’s place.

The Nazi officer was duly astounded. Perhaps taken aback and confused by this act of selfless sacrifice, he accepted Kolbe’s offer and the Gajowniczek was excused. He survived the war.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the ten died, one-by-one. Every day an attendant would go into the cell to retrieve the dead.

Prison guards and camp survivors reported that while there would typically be sounds or rage and anger, of wailing and crying and begging, during the two weeks that Fr. Kolbe was imprisoned in the cell with the others, the sounds were quite different. Hymns were sung. Rosaries said. It was as if Fr. Kolbe had turned the bunker into a chapel. On August 14th, seeing that he was still alive, the Nazis got impatient that he wasn’t dying fast enough and had him injected with carbolic acid. For this reason, he is considered a patron saint of addicts.

When he volunteered to take the sergeant’s place, the Nazi asked Fr. Kolbe who he was. His answer?

“I am a Catholic priest.”

This was his identity, it was who he was. He died for being a priest; he died being a priest, ministering to his fellow condemned.

Week48IAmACatholicPriest

(Image via MI Canada)

Being a priest was enough to have him targeted by the Nazis; however there was more to him than that. For nearly twenty years he published “Knight of the Immaculata,” a monthly magazine dedicated to being the voice of the Militia of the Immaculata movement he founded in 1917 (more on that, later.) This publishing venture, begun in 1922, gradually expanded over the 1920s and ‘30s to include other periodicals and a daily newspaper. Circulation was amongst the largest in pre-WW2 Poland (and significant amongst global circulations, too.) Fr. Kolbe had already launched a shortwave radio station, although it was limited at first to just being on the Amateur bands. He also had plans for a TV station. Expansion of the radio station to non-amateur broadcasting and the TV enterprise were halted by the Nazi and Soviet invasion of September 1939. Fr. Kolbe also had plans for a motion picture studio.

He was “New Evangelization” before anyone else thought of it. If you wish to get the gist of what he did and also what he planned, what Mother Angelica did in Alabama 50 years later is essentially that.

I have also blogged about him before, numerous times (he has become my favorite saint.) Read more of my stuff about him here: St. Maximilian Kolbe post archives.

There is a special group of links for St. Maximilian Kolbe and his Militia of the Immaculata in the sidebar.
But for starters:

Militia of the Immaculata in the USA
The global Militia
“Niepokalanow”
another official Niepokalanow site

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

My Fatima postings

A couple of years ago I got the ambitious idea of preparing Sober Catholic readers for the centennial anniversary of the Apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima, Portugal. The centenary is next year, 2017. Every month on or about the date of each apparition I would blog about it and connect it with the mission of this blog.

It was a noble idea, especially as the message of Fatima is something that sober Catholics can adopt and make a part of their own recovery. The message of prayer, penance and reparation is extremely useful and important in being a sober Catholic.

However, I think I began too soon and as a result have produced a number of blogposts that were perhaps written just for the sake of writing them. Plus, many were tardy. This year, I’ve already missed blogging about two of the months (June and July) and I was thinking of writing them anyway and backdating them (with due notice of such a deed.)

I’m changing my mind; I will stop blogging about the Apparition for this year and resume more detailed and (hopefully) insightful posts during the centenary.

If you wish, click on the following link and read the over a dozen posts I’ve done so far: Fatima postings. In reading them, you should gain a decent knowledge of Fatima and how to connect it to your sober Catholic recovery. Even better is the EWTN special website on the Anniversary: EWTN Fatima Site.

Thanks!

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

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…if this chalice cannot pass away from me…

Continuing along with my weekly Passion meditations from (almost) every Friday, this last one on July 15th managed to get me only one more verse into Matthew’s account before stopping.

Matthew 26:42 “Again, a second time, he went and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this chalice cannot pass away, unless I drink it, let your will be done.”

(Via Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version)

If you read Twelve Step literature and have attended meetings a lot, you’ll recall “Not my will, but yours (or God’s) be done” mentioned frequently. This is a very good exercise in getting away from oneself and putting others before you. We alcoholics and addicts can be a very self-centered and selfish lot.

We don’t decide what we want to do; rather we try and discern what God wants us to do. Not an easy task but if you are a Christian it is somewhat easier.

Study the Ten Commandments.

Study the Beatitudes.

Study Matthew 25:31-45.

Study the Lord’s Prayer.

Put God first, others second and yourself third.

Practice humility.

There is another object lesson in the passage from Matthew. Jesus knew what was going to happen, and based upon the text, might have been reluctant. Perhaps His human nature exerting itself? (Probably a theologically imprecise statement, but you know what I mean.)

The thing is, quite often we are faced with doing things we’d rather not do. Few of us will face something as severe like the trial and execution that Jesus was to undergo. Be that as it may, many times we’d rather run and hide than do what’s in front of us.

Like I mentioned in an earlier post in this series, “If Jesus can feel that way, that gives us some consolation. God knows everything, but knowing and experiencing something in His human nature AND in His divine nature I think divinizes the experience. We suffer, and are sorrowful so much so at times that our spirit embraces death. Not necessarily becoming suicidal, but the degree of severity to which we are suffering can be “like death.” We, as baptized Catholics, and thus members of the Mystical Body of Christ, can draw upon this when we “offer up” or pains. He knows about them. Not just because He is an omniscient God, but because He’d been there, He suffered them, too.. Our sufferings are gathered up into the Mystical Body, and as He suffered we can draw strength and courage from that.”

See also earlier posts on this topic:
My Way or His Way

Not My Will, but Yours be Done

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak

Continuing on with my Friday (almost) weekly Scripture meditations on the Passion of Our Lord, I managed to get only a few more verses on July 8th than last time.

Matthew 26:41 “Be vigilant and pray, so that you may not enter into temptation. Indeed, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” really stuck with me. It should speak to all of us at various stages of our drinking. We want to stop, we know we must. But we can’t. We are addicted.

But we do not have to rely on the flesh for results. Our own will isn’t strong enough. It essentially never is when doing battle. We have to rely on graces from Our Lord. For example:

Matthew 19:26 “But with God, all things are possible.”

Phillipians 4:13 “Everything is possible in him who has strengthened me.”

We cannot overcome our struggles alone. We can try but we will continually fail. Even if we persevere and after each time we rise up and resolve to do better, that still takes its toll.

Granted, saints are made from those who always arise after their fall, but we can take heart that if we learn to allow God to shower us with His graces and let Him “take over,” we can be more successful. Trying to resist temptation on our own willpower will doom us to failure.

Scripture quotes via Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

For those addicted to gambling…

…you may have a patron in St. Camillus de Lellis.

St. Camillus was born on May 25, 1550, at Bucchianico, which is now in Abruzzo, then part of the Kingdom of Naples. His mother was about 50 when she bore him, and died when he was 12. His father was in the military and seldom home. He grew up neglected by the family.

He enlisted in the military and had a commendable career, having been wounded in the Battle of Lepanto. He suffered a wound which refused to heal and eventually left military service when his unit disbanded. He served as a day laborer for a while, and at this point I suggest that you look up his bio in the links I’ll list at the end of this post.

St. Camillus had, according to several “lives of the saints” bios I’ve read on him, an addiction to gambling. Apparently he wasn’t good at it, losing most everything he owned. In 1575 he had a religious conversion and this led him to enter into a life of service to the sick and terminally ill. He helped reform the care of such people, who previously had been neglected or cared for by less-than-diligent people. He wound up founding an order that was a precursor to the Red Cross.

He led an ascetic life, performing penances and other mortifications. His devotion to the sick and the dying, coupled with his Faith enabled him to abandon his prior worldly life.

St. Camillus de Lellis on Catholic Online

St. Camillus de Lellis on American Catholic

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

My “Way” Obsession

“Hi, my name is Paul, and I am a Wayaholic.”

I’m admitting to having developed an ongoing obsession interest in the movie, “The Way,” which I blogged about a few months ago, right here: “The Way-the Movie.”.

It is now about six months since I wrote that, I must have seen the film well over a dozen times. I’ve also gotten to scouring YouTube, and more recently, Gloria.tv for videos on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I blogged about that, too: Camino de Santiago playlist on the SoberCatholic YouTube Channel. I’ve added more videos to the playlist since…

I’ve even taken to putting the DVD into the player and watching some of the “scene selections” as a part of my morning devotions. (Just a few times… I was going to do that this morning but chose instead to write this.)

Tonight there will be a presentation at my home parish on the Camino. The dude who is the parish youth coordinator (or whatever his title is, he runs the youth programs) will be speaking on his Camino pilgrimage and will also be showing The Way. The whole thing is four hours long. (The movie is only two hours.)

I may go. I may not, I’ll see how I feel this evening. It’ll be strange for me to watch the movie with a bunch of others, I’ve only seen it alone in the wee hours of the morning. I may be interested in his pilgrimage experience, although I seriously doubt I’ll ever go and do it myself.

I just like the film, to me it and the Camino are symbols of the journey, the “trudging the road of happy destiny” we are all on. It’s an obvious trope, but obvious works for me quite often!

The film draws me out from “where I am” to somewhere most other films, including escapist stuff, doesn’t. And that may be why I may not go; the film is very personal and I’m not sure if I want to “share” the viewing experience with strangers. Just my melancholic/introverted personality…

{{{sigh}}} What to do… what to do…

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

My soul is sorrowful, even unto death

One of my favorite saints, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, once suggested somewhere in his writings that we should meditate on the Passion narratives of Our Lord on Fridays. Or was that St. Therese of Lisieux? Another favorite of mine, I’ve been studying her writings recently along with St. Max’s. I might get their suggestions mixed up at times.

Last Friday I started with the account in Matthew’s Gospel. I got as far as:

Matthew 26:38 Then he said to them: “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

(via Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version)

I’m a melancholic individual, sometimes depressed or sad for miscellaneous reasons. Sometimes for too long as I tend to dwell on things. I have contemplated suicide three times in my life (1985-86, 1994-95 and late 2005-early 2006. I may discuss them at some point (if I haven’t already, at the moment I didn’t feel like searching for any blogposts on the subject, but there is a post category on it so I must have…)

On the night He was betrayed, He was praying in Gethsemane, praying hard and was “sorrowful, even unto death.” He knew what was coming. He also knew, based on His nature, that He’d survive. And yet He was still “sorrowful, even unto death.”

Those words just stopped me cold and I couldn’t read past that. I’ve read those words numerous times before, and they’ve always brought some comfort. If Jesus can feel that way, that gives us some consolation. God knows everything, but knowing and experiencing something in His human nature AND in His divine nature I think divinizes the experience. We suffer, and are sorrowful so much so at times that our spirit embraces death. Not necessarily becoming suicidal, but the degree of severity to which we are suffering can be “like death.” We, as baptized Catholics, and thus members of the Mystical Body of Christ, can draw upon this when we “offer up” or pains. He knows about them. Not just because He is an omniscient God, but because He’d been there, He suffered them, too.. Our sufferings are gathered up into the Mystical Body, and as He suffered we can draw strength and courage from that.

Ask for the graces…

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Fifteen years…

…ago I started attending AA meetings. Not sure as to the exact date, as I was unaware of the significance, but it may have been earlier in June.

A family member called the local AA number and found out where a meeting was. He had prior experience with the Fellowship as his father was in the program decades prior.

My then-employer had wanted me to go to a treatment facility if I wanted to keep my job. I declined.

They gave me thirty days to think about it. I thought about it and decided that if the job that was driving me to drink was the reward, they can forget about it…

Anyway, I barely remember the meeting save for Gene (the elder statesman of that Group) giving me my copy if the Big Book (the 3rd edition was the current one. The 4th edition came out six months later.)

As I’ve stated in previous “About Me” posts, I didn’t quite get the Program right away. It wasn’t until February 2002 that I stopped drinking and that wasn’t because I had an “awakening” or some such experience, but rather I was too sick and physically weak to make it to a liquor store. Or an AA meeting.

I suffered withdrawal and hallucinations and wound up in the local hospital for six days and a $10,500 bill I somehow paid off in about four years.

And then I went back out after 3 1/2 months!

That’s all. Just a personal reflection that occurred to me when I saw a calendar.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

A fortnight of years in sobriety

Today marks my 14th anniversary of my last drunk. I sort of remember it, although for years I couldn’t recall the exact time (as in hour/minute) I took my last drink. I still can’t. I won’t bother with the details of my last drunk as I’ve written about them before.

Question: “How’d I do it?” Answer: “One day at a time!!” Well, there’s more to it than that, but in essence the twelve step practice of taking each day as it comes does help.

Sometimes I have to take each hour as it comes.

Speaking of the Twelve Steps, yes, they are useful. A wonderful lifeline when other things are absent or insufficient. (Absent or insufficient because they have not been developed enough as a response to external factors that may create a desire to drink.)

My Catholic Faith was and is more useful. I do know that if I had to rely solely upon the spirituality of the Twelve Steps and meeting attendance, I’d be one of those poster children for relapses; “those people” you see who enter the program, “get it” for a while, and then go back out.

Once in a while there are stressors. Anxiety, isolation, economic concerns and so forth well up and I think, “Just one drink to take the edge off.” But no, I don’t. I get through it (“One hour at a time, one minute at a time…”) and move on.

At times like those I also grab my AA literature (the Big Book or 12 & 12) and get help that way. Sometimes I feel the need for a meeting, but don’t bother (I seriously am NOT a meeting person. Never was, never will be. Online recovery works for me. I visit In the Rooms a lot.)

Sometimes when I feel that way, that my Faith and other personal means to maintain sobriety aren’t working, and I feel the need to fall back on traditional fixes like “going to a meeting” or “calling a sponsor” then I assess the state of my Faith. Sincerely, the Faith is all one should need.

Jesus came to heal the broken and wounded. The sick. We are all that and so His Church and the sacraments and devotions should work. They have, for me and for others that I’ve run across over the years. But at times they seem to be “not enough.”

But that isn’t an indictment of the Faith, or possibly not even my practice of it. There’s a list of saints very long who have gone through frequent periods of spiritual dryness, times when the Faith “wasn’t there.” They persevered and discerned that it was God’s way of drawing them closer. It is a path of spiritual growth and development (see St. Teresa of Jesus, a/k/a St. Teresa of Avila.) We feel distant and therefore we persevere and strive on, or we abandon the path.

I stay on the path. (This must be why images and symbols of “the path,” “the road,” “the way,” “the journey” resonate with me.)

I have come to feel that in those times when I feel the urge to drink is strong, and I need to respond in a traditional twelve step way, that I need to work on my Faith. I need to make a Spiritual Communion, or meditate on the Holy Spirit and His indwelling in me, or talk to the Blessed Mother. If this sounds selfish to you who are avid and devoted Twelve-Steppers, so be it. For the most part, my experience with AA has been at variance with the common conception of a “fellowship.” It’s just one more organization where I am a misfit, despite trying.

To me, AA and meeting attendance are training wheels or a crib. Eventually you outgrow them. You learn to ride on your own without the help of training wheels, and you move out of the crib. Useful to understand alcoholism and get the basics of Twelve Step spirituality and how to change your way of thinking and responding to situations, but after a fashion, one should learn what the Faith has to offer.

We were created by God. We exist to love Him and serve Him in this life and to be united and happy with Him forever in the next life (Heaven.) To get through this life He has established a Church to guide us.

We are obligated and we owe Him the duty to fully explore that Church and the Faith that springs up around Her. This does not mean leaving AA, if that suits your sobriety and you really enjoy it, then fine. It can be considered a work of mercy. Perhaps even a source for friendships.

But working within a Twelve Step program shouldn’t come at the expense of your Catholic Faith; that is like continuing to eat pureed baby food when the bread of life is readily available.

That’s all I have to say! I’ve just been very reflective on my fourteen years, where I’ve been, am now and where I’m going, along with the means for the way.

Just trudgin’ my road of happy destiny.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Ninety-nine years ago, today

Today is the 99th anniversary of the beginning of the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal.

Two years ago I took a greater interest in the Apparitions than before and in studying them, discerned that they would be of great beneficial use to recovering alcoholics and addicts.

On the one hand, I probably shouldn’t have started blogging about them when I did, as I haven’t written in too great a detail about the individual apparitions; the result being too many posts of perhaps shallow substance (at least “shallow” for anyone very familiar with them). The primary purpose of this blog isn’t really to delve too deeply into things like Marian Apparitions. But, I do have two hands and the other one counters with the proposition that perhaps I may have whetted your appetite on Fatima several years prior to their centennial, and hopefully you have gone beyond what I have written here, explored them on your own and have taken to heart the Fatima message of prayer, penance and conversion.

The Fatima message is essentially the message of this blog. So… perhaps in response to the approaching centennial, I can incorporate more things on Fatima throughout the year, rather than just on the Apparition date. (I’m obviously blog-planning out loud…)

EWTN has a good page on first Apparition at Fatima.

Here are all my posts on Fatima to figure out what I was doing.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"