It is often said that John Paul II canonized more saints that many previous popes put together. Some have been critical of this, muttering about the lowering of standards, or cynical about the funds needed to set up a quick process for ‘a cause’ to be investigated. Saint-making is easier, they claim, for rich and powerful groups and religious orders who wish their founder or member to be elevated to the altars. I feel that this criticism is often misguided, churlish and a little mean-spirited. The desire of John Paul II to make saints that we could relate to in the modern world, that would make holiness an accessible and realistic goal was far-sighted and big-hearted. We all need inspiring role models to spur us on, especially in an age of dubious celebrity and a media that promotes a self destructive narcissism. It is great to be able to show youngsters powerful pictures of Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, being executed by Mexican authorities. The picture, taken in the age of celluloid says this is not a legend, it is real, it is relevant, we can have a faith like his.
Today’s memorial of St Maximilian Kolbe belongs to the same category. Kolbe, the Franciscan, who offered to substitute his life for a condemned man’s in Auschwitz, is a modern saint, a martyr of the Nazi’s. After a prisoner had escaped, 10 men were chosen to be put to death as revenge, when one of them pleaded that he was a family man, Fr or ‘Pate’ Kolbe offered to take his place, much to the amazement of the German Officer. ’Are you crazy’ he said – the ten men were locked up without food and water, as hostages to be released if the I have discovered not only photo’s of Maximilian Kolbe (right), but also an interview with an Auchwitz survivor who was an eyewitness to Kolbe’s death. Now living in Sweden, 88 year old Tadeusz Raznikiewicz was recorded and translated by a fellow parishioner in Upsalla. It lasts about twenty minutes and is absolutely absorbing listening. You can listen to it by clicking on this link – Kolbe eyewitness interview – the interview starts about 18mins into podcast. through the website ‘The Saint Cast’.
‘Saint Cast’ is produced by a remarkable man in America, Dr Paul Camarata. He is a brain surgeon and a marathon runner, and somehow he finds time in between these activities to make these podcasts about Saints. Although the ‘American’ style of the podcast is quite different to European ears – I love listening to these podcasts, in fact through ITunes you can download all the previous episodes.