Saturday, August 15, 2015

St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Martyrs of Otranto

This is a late entry for one of the Bear's favorite saints, whose feast is celebrated on August 14, and also the Martyrs of Otranto, whose feast shares the day.

St. Maximilian Kolbe

St. Maximilian Kolbe

This Polish Franciscan Friar founded the Militia Immaculata for the conversion of enemies of the Church, especially Freemasons. He used the most modern techniques for evangelization, including radio. He is the only canonized saint to have held a ham radio operator's license: call sign SP3RN. He was interned in a concentration camp by the Germans during WWII. When the commandant chose 10 prisoners to be starved to death as a reprisal for escapees, St. Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a young husband and father. He encouraged the other nine, and was the last to die, by lethal injection. (The man he died for survived the war.) For all these reasons he is the patron of journalists and addicts.

The Bear thinks he would be a great patron saint of bloggers due to his use of technology to spread the Catholic faith.

The Martyrs of Otranto

Relics of the martyrs of Otranto

On August 14, 1480, the exhausted defenders of Otranto, in southern Italy, were given the choice of the defeated by Pasha Ahmet: convert to Islam or die.

A priest named Giovanni addressed the prisoners. He urged them to abandon the Catholic faith and agree to the Pasha's terms. To a man, the 800 prisoners rejected the priest's pleas. They were taken to a hill and every one of them had his head cut off by the Muslim invaders.

Some historians say their hopeless defense of Otranto delayed the Muslims long enough to throw off the invaders' timetable, and, ultimately, save Rome. For a good article on the subject, go here.

In 2007, Pope Benedict declared them martyrs, i.e. they were killed out of hatred for their faith. The martyrs were canonized on May 12, 2013 by Pope Francis.

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