In 2017, I came across in article in Church Life Journal titled, St. Maximilian Kolbe and the War Against Indifference. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is my favorite thing I have ever read about Fr. Kolbe. I’ve read it on his feast day just about every year since.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when the author, Jessica Keating, agreed to be a guest on the podcast.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Maximilian Kolbe. I’ve heard people say that you don’t pick patron saints, they pick you. Maximilian Kolbe picked me. For all of my adult life I’ve felt like I could trust Kolbe with the most important things. Maybe most significantly, Kolbe accompanied me after Kristina and I had a very unexpected pregnancy in the midst of some serious health problems several years ago. When we found out the baby’s due date – August 14 – at the first ultrasound, I knew that somehow this baby was in the will of God. We eventually named our son Francis Kolbe.

Another thing everyone knows about me is that I love the doctrine of theosis, or divinization. This idea reframed my entire faith life years ago. In it’s simplest terms, this is the teaching that says, as St. Athanasius stated, “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”

Salvation, from a Catholic perspective, isn’t only forgiveness of sin (as if that weren’t enough!), it’s sharing in God’s divine life, in Heaven, and during this life. And that’s the story of Fr. Kolbe’s life and death. Jessica Keating wrote:

“Kolbe would die as he had lived—an icon of the royal priesthood of Christ. Entering the ranks of the nameless condemned, he became one of more than 1.1 million men, women, and children to die within these walls of hatred.

He did not know the man he had volunteered to replace, but he was so practiced in love that it made little difference. They were stripped naked and cast into the starvation cell. As one biographer puts it, “God had snuck into hell.” Kolbe’s will had so completely merged with God’s that it was truly no longer he who lived, but Christ in him.”

And in another place she quoted a biographer of Fr. Kolbe who said, “God had snuck into hell.”

In this sense, we can say that Kolbe’s arrest and time in Auschwitz was a kind of Holy Saturday, where Christ once again broke into hell to bring light and life into the darkest place.

It was a joy to talk with Jessica Keating. Please listen and then read her wonderful article.

This episode is available on Youtube and in your favorite podcast app!

This week, to celebrate the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Paul talks with Jessica Keating about the life and witness of this martyr of Auschwitz. They first share his story and their own personal relationships with St. Maximilian. Then they unpack some of Fr. Kolbe’s theology of Mary before moving into a discussion about how we can say, in a real but mysterious way, that Fr. Kolbe’s time in Auschwitz was like Christ’s harrowing of hell.

Jessica Keating is the director of the Notre Dame Office of Human Dignity and Life Initiatives, where she engages in scholarship that strives to recover the concept of human dignity for the theological and philosophical imagination.

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Paul Fahey lives in Michigan with his wife and four kids. For the past eight years, he has worked as a professional catechist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology and is currently working toward a Masters Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He is a retreat leader, catechist formator, writer, and a co-founder of Where Peter Is. He is also the founder and co-host of the Pope Francis Generation podcast. His long-term goal is to provide pastoral counseling for Catholics who have been spiritually abused, counseling for Catholic ministers, and counseling education so that ministers are more equipped to help others in their ministry.

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