A Kolbe Quartet

A Kolbe Quartet

Msgr Peter J. Elliott

Maximilian Kolbe: anniversary of his canonisation (October)


The Childhood Vision of Raymond Kolbe

It is said and written
that she who is fair
came to you,
offering a choice, two crowns;
here, flowers for virgins,
there, thorns for martyrs,
and you chose them both,
with all the holy greed of youth impetuous,
that storms a kingdom,
child-like faith,
whose choice,


Martyrdom at Auschwitz, August 1941

Forward, ragged priest.
Come forward, nameless number,
builder of cities and leader of souls.
Jousting past, her knight will prove his pact.

This contest is her hour.
The steps of the step,
accomplished so swiftly,
quietly, without display,
you take his place,
the other man whose name is Francis,
a father of children,
yearning for the sound and touch of family.

Complete the step, substitute.
Fall in, and lead them
to the starving room.
Gather your family of dying men
to sing your priestly liturgy
atonement, substitution,
law of altar, crucifix,
death for life,
in this grey hell,
made by other men.


There are no relics here.
No bone or flesh dried behind glass
for curious gaze and pious touching.
There is nothing here but the room empty
as if by resurrection.

From the furnace of millions
your ashes were scattered
mingled and lost,
as martyrs of two covenants
were one in death's ecumenism.
Here, he kneels and remembers you,
he who bears the keys,
the burden, the suffering,
for love that will not suffer
is not love but sentiment,
and suffering that cannot love is,
and must always be,
only pain.
Then put your arms around him,
for he must suffer,
he, the one we love.


Canonisation, October 1982

pray for the nation,
the people who raise their eyes
to her scarred face at Jasna Gora
through candle-dappled darkness.
Come forth again, her victor champion!
Unfurl your colours, blood and purity,
against the double tyranny,
and rouse a nation, workers in Gdansk,
students of the halls
and mothers in the streets
whose pavement blooms
speak solidarity in silence,
because your name is Hope,
a bursting of tombs,
the liberty of grace.

Msgr Peter J. Elliott is Episcopal Vicar for Religious Education, Melbourne Archdiocese

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