When you sail or fly west from Hawaii, you soon cross the international date line and must advance your calendar by one day. So, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on that date “that will live in infamy” as President Franklin Roosevelt called it, it was December 8 in Japan, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the patronal feast of the United States of America. And on the next day, President Roosevelt declared war on Japan, on what was in this country December 8. Then, four bloody years later, after the two atomic bombs had been dropped over the Japanese mainland, the dreadfully aggressive Empire of Japan surrendered on what was in their country August 15, the feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother into heaven. These being the facts, we can hardly doubt the concern that Our Lady was showing for this country dedicated by the Catholic Church to her. Let us be aware of these things [tomorrow], on the [70th] anniversary of that surrender and the end of World War II.
During that same terrible war, a Polish priest had been imprisoned in the notorious death camp of Auschwitz maintained by the Nazis in his native Poland. His crime: writing and preaching about the beauty of Mary Immaculate, the Mother of the Lord, and about the evils of Naziism. At Auschwitz, the Nazis had a policy of retaliation: if any prisoner escaped from the prison camp, ten of the other prisoners, chosen at random, would be killed in reprisal. In August, 1941, one of the prisoners escaped, so the prison guards chose ten men to die by starvation in what was called “the bunker of death.” One of them, a husband and father, fell to his knees and begged to be spared for the sake of his wife and children, to whom he hoped to return some day. The merciless Nazis were ignoring him completely when Father Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish priest and prisoner there, stepped forward. He asked the Nazi in command if he could be substituted for the husband and father. The commanding officer shrugged indifferently: one prisoner was worth no more than another, so if this priest wanted to die in place of the other man, so be it. Saint Maximilian Kolbe and his nine fellow-victims were locked in a subterranean cell about fifteen feet square. The lights were turned off, and they were left there to die in the dark, without food or drink or toilet facilities. About two weeks later, when the guards returned, they found that all but two or three of the prisoners had died of thirst or hunger; among the ones still alive was Saint Maximilian. To hasten their deaths, carbolic acid was injected into their veins and they died from the internal acid burns.
A year later, Saint Edith Stein, the German Jewish woman who had become a Catholic and a Carmelite nun, was gassed and cremated at the same prison camp of Auschwitz. So the same hell-hole has given to the world and the Church two canonized saints whose love triumphed over the diabolical evil which prevailed at Auschwitz for years. Greater love than this no one has, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. Jesus died on the cross for us; Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein died in a Nazi concentration camp in imitation of him. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.