St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, August 14, 1941

St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe was executed in the Nazi German concentration camp at Auschwitz seventy-five years ago today for being a Catholic priest.

He was a Conventual Franciscan friar and Guardian (leader, administrator) of Niepokalanow, then the world’s largest friary and a major Catholic media center. It is located some distance west of Warsaw, Poland.

He was canonized a saint by the Church in October 1982.

In late July 1941 a prisoner escaped and as was Nazi policy, ten men from that cell block were randomly selected to be sentenced to a starvation bunker until the escapee was found (dead or alive.) In reality, the ten condemned wouldn’t be released at all, regardless of the escapee’s status.

Death by starvation and dehydration is a very slow and very painful way to die. The ten were stripped naked and placed in a cell that measured three meters by three meters (that about 9 feet on a side.)

One of the ten was a Polish Army sergeant by the name of Franciszek Gajowniczek, who, upon being selected, wailed that he was a husband and father and bemoaned the fate of his family. Upon hearing this, Fr. Kolbe stepped out of line, went forward to the commander and offered to take the sergeant’s place.

The Nazi officer was duly astounded. Perhaps taken aback and confused by this act of selfless sacrifice, he accepted Kolbe’s offer and the Gajowniczek was excused. He survived the war.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the ten died, one-by-one. Every day an attendant would go into the cell to retrieve the dead.

Prison guards and camp survivors reported that while there would typically be sounds or rage and anger, of wailing and crying and begging, during the two weeks that Fr. Kolbe was imprisoned in the cell with the others, the sounds were quite different. Hymns were sung. Rosaries said. It was as if Fr. Kolbe had turned the bunker into a chapel. On August 14th, seeing that he was still alive, the Nazis got impatient that he wasn’t dying fast enough and had him injected with carbolic acid.

When he volunteered to take the sergeant’s place, the Nazi asked Fr. Kolbe who he was. His answer?

“I am a Catholic priest.”

This was his identity, it was who he was. He died for being a priest; he died being a priest, ministering to his fellow condemned.


(Image via MI Canada)

Being a priest was enough to have him targeted by the Nazis; however there was more to him than that. For nearly twenty years he published “Knight of the Immaculata,” a monthly magazine dedicated to being the voice of the Militia of the Immaculata movement he founded in 1917 (more on that, later.) This publishing venture, begun in 1922, gradually expanded over the 1920s and ‘30s to include other periodicals and a daily newspaper. Circulation was amongst the largest in pre-WW2 Poland (and significant amongst global circulations, too.) Fr. Kolbe had already launched a shortwave radio station, although it was limited at first to just being on the Amateur bands. He also had plans for a TV station. Expansion of the radio station to non-amateur broadcasting and the TV enterprise were halted by the Nazi and Soviet invasion of September 1939. Fr. Kolbe also had plans for a motion picture studio.

He was “New Evangelization” before anyone else thought of it. If you wish to get the gist of what he did and also what he planned, what Mother Angelica did in Alabama 50 years later is essentially that.

Here are some links:

Militia of the Immaculata in the USA
The global Militia
another official Niepokalanow site

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Today I have been sober for 14 years. I’m not going to go any detail on that as I have a blog dedicated to all of that sobriety stuff. Right here: Sober Catholic.

#sobrietyhumoralert But some time ago the thought occurred to me that as a writer, (I am one as I do write stuff) I may be at odds with the stereotype of writers being drunken sots. Writing is a lonely profession; being solitary, one is apt to become depressed or otherwise feel a need to offset the lack of professional companionship. Thus writers develop a drinking habit to compensate for all that isolation. Despite the existence of social networks and thus connecting with others, it is still an isolated endeavor. Social networks can also distract you.

Or you drink to get inspiration. I think Hemingway said “Write drunk, edit sober.”

Nevertheless, I defy the stereotype. When I was attempting to become a writer #backintheday pre-Internet and computer, I didn’t drink. When I began drinking, I gave up the idea of writing. When I sobered up, I revisited the whole writing thing.

I can’t even do the “writer as a drunken sot” thing correctly. Just as well. I am a misfit.

On the subject of “misfits,” I did join AA when I sobered up. Again, not going into any detail as I’ve written extensively on it over at Sober Catholic, I never quite fit in there, either. A supposed “Fellowship” of like-minded people who are all united in keeping each other sober, I never quite got the hang of it. I attended zillions of meetings, adopted the language and worked the 12 Steps, did service work (make coffee, set up/clean up), participated in the “meeting before the meetings” and hung out afterwards. Never developed that wonderful “Fellowship” that is discussed so glowingly in the pages of AA literature. I tried, not being overbearing, of course (not my style), but still never saw people away from meetings, never got involved in their lives, nor they in mine. It was as if we didn’t exist outside of the rooms.

Oh, well. Leave it to me to be a misfit in a society of misfits.

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Novena to St. Isidore

St. Isidore is the patron saint of farmers and rural people in the United States. Athough I am not a farmer, I am a rural person and I do some vegetable gardening.

There is a novena to St. Isidore and it starts tomorrow. Actually, there are several times throughout the year when you can pray this novena; the one tomorrow ends on his old, pre-Vatican II American feast day, March 22nd. This was the day he was canonized in 1622. Other dates are May 7-15 (to end on his Spanish feast day and current American one, which commemorates the day he died in 1170) and August 7-15 (ending on the Feast of the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary, known also as the feast of Our Lady of the Fields.) Another time is the eight days preceeding the American Thanksgiving holiday.

He was married to a lady named Maria de la Cabeza; she is also a saint.

Quoting, “St. Isidore, the Farmer, was born in Madrid, Spain, about the year 1110. He came from a poor and humble family. From childhood he worked as a farm hand on the De Vargas estate. He was very prayerful and particularly devoted to the Mass and the Holy Eucharist. He loved the good earth, he was honest in his work, and careful in his farming practices. It is said that domestic beasts and birds showed their attachment to him because he was gentle and kind to them. Master De Vargas watched Isidore at plowing and he saw two angels as his helpers. Hence, the saying arose, “St. Isidore plowing with angels does the work of three farmers.”

Isidore married a sweet and pious maid-servant by the name of Maria. They had only one son who died in youth. Both were most charitable and ever willing to help neighbors in distress and the poor in the city slums.


The novena can be found here, on the website of Catholic Rural Life: Novena to St. Isidore

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Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Today’s feast day on the Catholic liturgical calendar is important to me. It is the “Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle.”

Paul, originally called “Saul,” was a badass Jewish Pharisee dude who viewed the Way of Christ a serious enough threat to the Judaism of the time that he personally led a vicious persecution of the Church. He was directly or indirectly involved with the arrests and deaths of scores of Christians.

Until one day.

Acts of the Apostles 22:4-8 “I persecuted this Way, even unto death, binding and delivering into custody both men and women, just as the high priest and all those greater by birth bear witness to me.

Having received letters from them to the brothers, I journeyed to Damascus, so that I might lead them bound from there to Jerusalem, so that they might be punished.

But it happened that, as I was traveling and was approaching Damascus at midday, suddenly from heaven a great light shone around me.

And falling to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’

And I responded, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’

Popular tradition holds that he was knocked of his horse, there is however no scriptural evidence of that.

Why is this feast day of the Church important to me? I mean, apart from my being named after St. Paul?

The idea of conversion is central to my identity, especially after 2001. I am both an alcoholic in recovery and a revert to the Catholic Church.

I won’t discuss my alcoholism here, I have a blog devoted to that: Sober Catholic. My reversion to the faith is covered there, too, but not as much as my alcoholism recovery.

I was born and raised Catholic. Educated in a Catholic school from kindergarten through 8th grade. I was an altar boy (no girls allowed back then) at Mass and I had a fairly decent grasp of Catholic teachings.

Turned out my knowledge didn’t include the obvious need to apply it directly in daily living. Somehow I missed the lessons that we were to live out our Faith, not just pray, go to Mass on Sundays and whatnot. The actual, direct infusion into my life of Catholic living wasn’t really there. I mean, there were “daily living” things that I followed, such as no sex outside of marriage, but the Faith didn’t always form my decision-making.

Add that my knowledge of the Faith might have been broad, but it wasn’t deep.

And so I left the Church. It occurred during a rough period in my life when things weren’t going well and I prayed fervently for relief, but got none.

And so I decided that since “prayer didn’t work,” I’ll stop attending Mass. I wasn’t struck dead by lightening and this encouraged me to continue missing Mass.

I never became an atheist. The idea of “no God” is ludicrous. Created things need a creator. Made things need a maker. I instead just came to the conclusion that organized religion was a method of control over the masses.

Life continued, things got better in some ways. However these “better ways” lead to different problems which I won’t bother with here. Life happens, things occur and we adapt and cope or we do not.

I wandered about aimlessly spiritually for 15 years. I finally reverted to the Catholic Church at the same time I began my recovery from alcoholism. It just seemed to “make sense” now, and as AA introduced me to the notion of “applied spirituality,” I decided to explore what the Church actually said. Being confined to a couch for weeks on end because of early sobriety illness and watching the Daily Mass on EWTN also exposed me to a healthy dose of sound theology and doctrine.

Such things have a way of straightening out one’s mind. Truth does that.

I also learned that Catholicism isn’t just something that you do for an hour on Sundays, and off and on through the week when you pray (to get out of a jam? to get something?)

There isn’t much to this post apart from tying my reversion in to the feast day. Paul was hard-headed and stubborn and bent on destruction. So was I. I was hostile to the Church, as was he. (Although I wasn’t murderous with rage.)

After his conversion, he changed his life’s path and became a great Apostle, converting countless Gentiles. He did this by allowing Christ into his life.

And what an example of this!

Galatians 2: 20 I live; yet now, it is not I, but truly Christ, who lives in me. And though I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and who delivered himself for me.”

And this “faith of the Son of God,” he received it:

Galatians 1:11-12 “For I would have you understand, brothers, that the Gospel which has been preached by me is not according to man.

And I did not receive it from man, nor did I learn it, except through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

And so Jesus Himself taught St. Paul His Gospel. (Next time someone says that they looked throughout the entire New Testament and declare that “Jesus never said anything about….” to defend their unholy lives, remember this. He might not have said anything on “whatever” Himself, but He did through St. Paul.)

My conversion wasn’t as complete or intense as Paul’s. Jesus “lives in me” as He does in all of His brothers and sisters, but Paul’s conversion was deep andd critical to the future of humanity.

Mine: it’s good enough to write a blog for Catholic ex-drunks and to perhaps write Catholic-themed fiction.

All Scripture passages via Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version

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Defending Sanity

My wife got me for Christmas an anthology of essays by G.K. Chesterton. (This isn’t really a book review as I haven’t finished the book.)

Confession: I know a bazillion people online who love GKC. Although I have several of his books, and have tried to read him, I had found them difficult to get through. I attempted “What’s Wrong with the World” and made it through a few essays. As a Distributist, I read “The Outline of Sanity”, one of the basic texts in forming the movement. That, I finished. Understood the gist of it, so what I came for I got out, but there were many references to then-contemporary English life and business I failed to grasp.

I was getting to think that if you’re a Catholic with literary pretensions, not to mention opinions on politics and economics that are contraray to the conventional, you’re “supposed to” like GKC. Sort of how you’re “supposed to” like the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” because, well, it stars Redford and Newman, it’s a revolutionary Western and all the critics loved it. (Seriously, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head?” In a Western? And the cowboy is riding a bike?) But I hated “Butch…” At the end I was rooting for the Bolivians.

Which doesn’t mean that I hated Chesterton. I just found the material I’ve tried (what’s that word used for when something is “hard?”) “inaccessible.” Yes, I had difficulty accessing Chesterton.


No matter. The book Rosey got for me, In Defense Of Sanity The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton, is different. I am quite hooked. Perhaps you can’t just start with “any” GKC book. Perhaps you have to start somewhere that I hadn’t.

But I’m loving the experience. Chesterton has a manner of developing his point, which seems to typically involve a roundabout way of getting to. Possibly because it seems he also uses an inverted way of looking at things. Not that I mind. I am finding that Chesterton can take as long as he needs to get to the point he is making and he can look at things from any perspective he chooses, I’m enjoying the ride.

It’s intriguing that you can actually make an entire essay on what you find in your pockets sound interesting.

Posted in Books, Writing | 1 Comment

Sundays and Mondays

A few days ago I blogged about a neat exercise for blogging daily. Entitled “getting stoned,” it involved little bits of writing, be it poetry, haiku, or random thoughts on a specific…thing.

I changed my mind, having found it distracting. I was taking too much time trying to think of stuff to post for it.


Upon pondering this I decided that I will instead refocus or repurpose the whole idea.

This isn’t my main blogging effort, that “honor” goes to Sober Catholic, which today celebrates its ninth anniversary. This might become my main, or co-equal blog to SC if/when my published works ever grow beyond the two little devotional books I have.

More {{{sighing}}}

So. The refocusing and repurposing. Not sure if either term applies as this blog wasn’t too keen on being focused or purposed. What I am going to do with this is blog here primarily on Sundays and Mondays. These are my two days off and I should have time to gather myself here and write about something. No guarantees, of course (of course!) but I’ll think of stuff. Perhaps more haiku or other poetry. Maybe those random thoughts on random things, taken from random notes scribbled over the week. Maybe novel updates on how it’s going (maybe first on what it’s about?)

We’ll see. I admit to struggling to determine a purpose for this “personal” blog. But at least attempting to commit to putting something here is a step towards giving this place a purpose and a focus.

Later! (For whomever reads this 😉 )

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A guiding light, to…where?

Tried to write a haiku that was Epiphany-inspired.

Nothing was happening.


A guiding light, leading people across endless lands… to show up in some backwater burgh to find a King to worship, only to see Him in a less-than-kingly estate.

Metaphors abound in that. The idea of a way, a passage, traveling from one place to another for a goal… resonates with me in a major fashion. (Just see my recent posts on Sober Catholic about a movie: “The Way” and Camino playlist.)

The destination being the Messiah… in humble surroundings that were base even in that era; speaks to us who prefer comfort and convenience. Do we have the endurance and desire to “go the distance” to achieve whatever is at our “destiny?”

Would we be willing to traverse the “desert?”

And what will we find there? Our preconceptions fulfilled, or a surprise?

Posted in Vocation, Writing | Comments Off on A guiding light, to…where?

getting stoned

Several years ago there was a month-long writing activity on another blog where for every day during the month of January you’d write a “small stone” which is described as “…a polished moment of paying proper attention” . The exercise was hosted here: Writing Our Way Home: small stones, a “mindful writing” blog where that link has a much longer and detailed description of “small stones” and how they impact writing.

I’ll wait a few minutes while you click on that link and read the post.


…still waiting…

…dang, you read slow. I’ll continue and for those who dallied over there, you’ll have to catch up.

Since that old “small stones” activity is apparently no longer (it was annual and I did participate for one year, I think it was 2011 or 2012…) I’m going to attempt it here. With two differences:

  • I won’t be calling it “Small Stones” as that name belongs to the originators of the idea (they may or may not have trademarked the term, even if they didn’t I won’t appropriate it as I think that would be rude)
  • I’m not opening it up to contributors. If you’re a writer (published or wannabe), you can do it on your own blog or social media page.

I think this is a great way to get the ol’ creative juices flowing, to blog and write daily, and to use one of my favorite reasons for writing: THERAPY. Yes, I find writing therapeutic. Since I do not (still) write as much as I ought, it proves I’m still too messed up. (Hush up, Jerry.)

I’m adding a new blogpost category for this, see “Writing bits” in the categories drop down menu on the right. That’s also a good category to use for “writing prompts, which I never took advantage of, but think I need to.

It’s exercise. If I’m “blocked,” then I can get “unblocked.” Although it is obvious my problem is discipline. So, this might help with that.

Anyway, I’m going off now to review portions of my novel-in-progress. Before I close for the night I may post my first “small stone,” or “writing bit.” I think I have somewhere the “small stones” I wrote for the exercise. If/when I find them I may repost them here.

Welcome back to those who took a long time to read stuff on that other blog. Please scroll up and pick up where you left off…

EDIT: I’ve changed my mind about this. My eyeballs were bigger than my ability to carry it out. I’m leaving the post up, albeit strikethrough’ed.

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