Daniel 3:14–20, 91–92, 95; Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56; John 8:31–42
The story of the men in the fiery furnace, from the book of Daniel, is a colorful story and the subject of a great old Gospel song. It tells the triumph of God’s power in the face of a cruel king’s persecution of Jewish exiles. In the twentieth century, furnaces of a different kind consumed millions of bodies in the Nazi holocaust.
Conventual Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe, imprisoned in Auschwitz in 1941, witnessed many fellow prisoners taken to the gas chambers or killed in other brutal ways. He had been interred along with Jews and others from his native Poland after Germany and the Soviet Union overran his country.
Fr. Kolbe was a high-profile religious figure, a threat to the Nazi regime. Years before, he had founded the “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanów, a center to promote devotion to Our Lady. Seven hundred Conventual friars lived there; a foundation also was established in Nagasaki, Japan. A million subscribers joined the “Militia of the Immaculate” and subscribed to Knight of the Immaculate, its religious magazine. The powerful work of prayer and witness of this group, spearheaded by Fr. Kolbe, was a threat to the forces of evil unleashed in the world.
Despite the overwhelming cruelty and immense tragedy of the concentration camps, God’s power was at work there. When a fellow prisoner, a family man, was singled out for execution in retaliation for a prisoner escape, Fr. Maximilian stepped forward to take his place. Starvation and lethal injection ended his earthly life but led him to the crown of martyrdom, a climax to a life of faith and devotion to the Blessed Mother and her Son.
Pray today for contemporary victims of genocide and persecution.
God of Abraham, hear the cries of those who are oppressed and persecuted in our world today.
Free them to lift their voices in praise of your name.