One of the residential houses at the lamented Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury was called, quite simply, Kolbe. It remembered a Polish Franciscan Saint, whose feast falls today, the day of his death and the eve of the Assumption of Mary.
Brother Maximilian had a lifelong devotion to Mary and encouraged others to follow this way to her son. He set up an organisation the ‘Militia of the Immaculate’
To pursue the conversion to God of all people, be they sinners, or non-Catholics, or unbelievers, in particular the freemasons; and that all become saints, under the patronage and through the mediation of the Immaculate Virgin.
That all become saints! He founded a publishing house and radio station, using technology to preach the Word and ‘pursue the conversion of all people’. Not surprisingly, much of his output was disliked by the Nazis after they invaded Poland. At the same time he was helping refugees, including Jewish people to hide from the Nazis.
His arrest was inevitable, as was his removal to Auschwitz. There he stepped forward to replace a married man with a family who had been picked out to die of starvation. When Brother Maximilian was too long in dying he was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid.
His remains were cremated the following day.
Following his canonisation he has been recognised as a patron saint of drug addicts; I am sure most of us have known, or known of, someone to recommend to his prayers.
Prison ministry can be demanding and discouraging. I remember Fr H telling me how the father of one of my pupils had at first been keen to speak with him, but kept out of H’s way when he returned to prison after being caught offending again. Drugs were a problem for him: and despite that discouraging incident, I think Fr H must have played some part in his rehab. When next I saw my pupil’s dad he was clean and looked 20 years younger.
Our friend Fr Valentine left us for prison chaplaincy. Wisely, he has recruited volunteers, including these university students, to bring a breath of fresh air into the place. On this occasion they spent an evening debating with the prisoners. Read about it here:
- Where can you exercise a ministry of friendship?
- Let us pray for all prisoners who will be inside at Christmas, especially those who will receive no messages, or very few, from outside. And let us pray for the prisoners’ families, as well as those affected by their crimes.
John had a degree in chemistry and a job that used his skills and experience. His employers were sympathetic to the needs of their employees, and tried hard to accommodate John’s mental ill-health but they parted company when he became unable to do his work and was in a mental hospital under a section.
Around this time John visited and told us he blamed his plight on past drug misuse that had permanently affected the way his brain worked.
His face comes to mind when I am approached by beggars or homeless people: would giving them money be giving bread or a stone? (Matthew 7:9) Another question: would I give my son money in the near-certain knowledge that it would be spent on mind-altering drugs? (Thank God he has more sense.) But at least I can trust ‘Catching Lives’ to use my donations to provide nourishment, support and shelter.
For example: Catching Lives run Canterbury Community Shelter:
It is open throughout December, January and February, in partnership with 7 churches in Canterbury and provides overnight accommodation for rough sleepers to shelter from the cold weather, and to work with staff and volunteers to find more permanent housing.
A strong team of volunteers carries out a variety of roles:
- Kitchen volunteers to help cook and serve supper for the shelter guests.
- Evening volunteers to welcome the guests in, play board games, chat, etc.
- Overnight volunteers to support the paid staff at the church halls.
- Volunteers to take bedding to and from the church halls in mornings and evenings.
No-one can claim this is the answer to a complex web of problems, but it is bread, not stones.