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Was St. Maximilian Kolbe an anti-Semite, asks T. Rowiński

Originally on Fronda.pl: 14/08/2016

This topic returns constantly in scientific works and journalism. What's more, he often accompanied the struggle for the image of Father Maximilian Kolbe in secular historiography. But not only that - it has often been suggested that declaring Kolbe a saint was a mistake, because a man preaching anti-Semitism cannot, in secular dogma, be saved. Of course, there is nothing laudable about anti-Semitism as racial hatred, but let us not forget that holy people are not sinless people. The question remains, however, was Kolbe an anti-Semite at all? Indeed, Fr. Maximilian did not always speak elegantly about Jews (or Jews – there is a small letter in print when it is about the Jewish denomination, not the nation). The otherwise controversial Jesuit, late Fr. Stanislaw Musial S.J., an advocate of Catholic-Jewish dialogue said about it: "As for Father Kolbe, he really did not speak very flatteringly about Jews. In his texts we can read that he called them with the words: circumcised, Jewish. Therefore, I would not propose that Saint Maximilian Kolbe be made patron saint of Jewish-Christian dialogue. And yet Fr. He had not called Kolbe an anti-Semite.

Interestingly, his statement can be found in an "exposure" article under the significant title "O. Kolbe - a holy anti-Semite". Why is it interesting? Because the statement of Fr. She had to be the only fragment that tells about what the title promises. This is very little if we consider moderately Jesuit. One could have hoped that the opponents of Father Maksymilian's virtues would find more substantive statements that would allow for a more serious discussion. Meanwhile, the argument is supported only by minor but easily detectable manipulations. For example, in the paragraph in which the program, goals and means of the Immaculate Militia are quoted. The goal is obvious, although the author smells like the Holy Inquisition. Of course, the one known from the black legend, and not from history, in which it softened the brutal customs of secular courts: "Any means  (if only fair) that the state, conditions and circumstances allow, which is recommended to everyone with zeal and prudence: above all, the Miraculous Medal." The underlining, of course, comes from the author of the text from the portal rationalista.pl and does not include the phrase "just fair ". Well, it's a pity that Father Kolbe has no worthy opponents...

A much more interesting discussion of the alleged anti-Semitism of St. Maximilian Kolbe can be found in Catholic authors who cite specific statements and testimonies. Ewa Czaczkowska in an interesting article "For the love of the Immaculata" reminds that during World War II, Father Maksymilian, as a guardian, supported about 1,500 Jews in Niepokalanów, of which at least some managed to hide and save in the monastery, when the deportation and extermination began .

It is also worth quoting the words of Zygmunt Gorson, an Auschwitz prisoner who met a priest from Niepokalanów in this earthly hell: "Many of us lost hope, many boys of my age threw themselves on the high-tension wires. When I wandered around looking for someone with whom I could share memories, Father Kolbe met me and talked to me. He was like an angel to me, he always wiped away my tears. I lost my faith and Father Kolbe gave it back to me! (...) He knew I was Jewish, but it wasn't it made no difference. His heart made no distinction between persons and it did not matter to him whether they were Jews, Catholics or other religions: he loved everyone and gave love, nothing but love."

At that time, a prayer known to this day was also created: "O Mary, conceived without original sin, pray for us who have recourse to you and for all those who do not have recourse to you, especially for Masons, Jews and those recommended to you. " Its ending was later changed and - despite controversial opinions on the subject - but improved to "for the enemies of the Holy Church and those recommended to you" .

The most controversial among the works of Father Kolbe was "Mały Dziennik", published in Niepokalanów. most accusations of anti-Semitism were formulated against this title. The saint did not publish in it, although he was acquainted with its content. At that time, he stayed in Japan and commented on this publication: "It is necessary to require that editors and collaborators really write in the spirit of MI (Militia Immaculatae), i.e. the conquest of the world of the Immaculata, the salvation and sanctification of souls by the Immaculata, and avoid unnecessary stigmatization of people or parties, or other nations. (...) Speaking of Jews, I would be very careful not to arouse or deepen hatred towards them in readers who are already at times hostile towards them. In general, I would try more to develop Polish trade and industry than to stigmatize the Jews. Of course, there will be cases of ill will on their part, when it will be necessary to act more vigorously, never forgetting, however, that our primary goal is always the conversion and sanctification of souls, that is, winning them for the Immaculata, love for all souls, even Jews and freemasons, and heretics, etc.” He also distanced himself from the well-known pre-war anti-Semite, Fr. Trzeciak: "Fr. the prelate is such an anti-Semite to the point of chauvinism that MD (Little Journal) cannot follow his line and hence not all of his works get into the pages of MD. The selection of fragments of Fr. Kolbe's statements concerning anti-Semitism and Jews is more extensive, those interested will certainly find more of them even by searching the Internet. It is also worth reaching for letters and magazines published by Niepokalanów, which are almost completely absent from culture.

The legacy of St. Maximilian Kolbe, however, is powerful - what is more, it seems stronger in the universal Church and than in our country. Unfortunately, this is a feature characteristic of contemporary Poland - we find it difficult to accept what is valuable in our own culture. Yes, Sister Faustyna Kowalska is an important figure for the Church in Poland, but the fact of her mass worship around the world is not absorbed by Polish culture in any way. It is similar with Maximilian Kolbe - he is a great saint both for Catholics in the United States, as well as in Italy and France. His spiritual influence can be proved by the dynamically developing Franciscans of the Immaculata, who made Kolbe's work a model for themselves, but also recognized in him a modern way of carrying out the mission of the Poverello of Assisi himself. The popularity of Kolbe and his importance for the Church can also be seen in the book dedicated to him by Philippe Maxence, a French writer and journalist associated with Catholic traditionalism. As you know, appreciating what comes from the Slavic culture is not easy for the French. I recall the testimony of a monk who, around 2009, admitted to me in a conversation that only then, while reading the Diary and Letters, he became convinced of St. Faustina. Seven years after beatification. Worthy of St. Paul's vigilance, but at the same time a testimony to the distance of the culture of Romance countries to the "bulwark of Russia". As you know, appreciating what comes from the Slavic culture is not easy for the French. I recall the testimony of a monk who, around 2009, admitted to me in a conversation that only then, while reading the Diary and Letters, he became convinced of St. Faustina. Seven years after beatification. Worthy of St. Paul's vigilance, but at the same time a testimony to the distance of the culture of Romance countries to the "bulwark of Russia". As you know, appreciating what comes from the Slavic culture is not easy for the French. I recall the testimony of a monk who, around 2009, admitted to me in a conversation that only then, while reading the Diary and Letters, he became convinced of St. Faustina. Seven years after beatification. Worthy of St. Paul's vigilance, but at the same time a testimony to the distance of the culture of Romance countries to the "bulwark of Russia".

It seems that a sad song is repeated over and over again, also in the presence of our saints - you value someone else's, you do not know your own. Let us cherish Kolbe, his legacy of faith and activity is great.

Tomasz Rowinski

Source: https://www.fronda.pl/a/T-Rowinski-Czy-sw-Maksymilian-Kolbe-byl-antysemita,211199.html