It has become a common trend to see women traveling abroad with pregnancies just to deliver their babies outside the country. It is a mark of prestige for us Africans or Nigerians to see that our babies have double citizenship. We love it when we hear our kids speak with foreign accents because it gives them some edge over their peers at home.
However, the fact remains that we don’t need to travel abroad or be born outside the country to acquire double citizenship. By virtue of the fact that we are Christians, we already have foreign citizenship in a country very different from ours. Indeed, as St. Paul would say: “We are ambassadors for Christ.” 2nd Corinthians 5:20
As foreigners on planet earth, it is good to constantly remind ourselves that we do not belong here. Jesus knew this very well, hence he often freely talked about his death and the fact that death would not the end for him but a beginning of a greater life.
Jesus also knew that by virtue of his dual citizenship, he ought not to pay tax. However in other to avoid giving offence to the authorities, Jesus went ahead to pay. In this way, Jesus teaches us that even though we have double citizenship, there is no need for disobedience to civil authorities.
The life of St. Maximilian Kolbe whom we celebrate today is another perfect example of a man who knew he had double citizenship. Born as Raymund Kolbe on January 8, 1894, in the Kingdom of Poland, he was a Polish Franciscan friar and a martyr in the German death Camp of Auschwitz during World War II.
In 1918, he was ordained a priest and continued his work of promoting Mary throughout Poland. Over the next several years, Kolbe took on publishing. He founded a monthly periodical titled, “Rycerz Niepokalanej” (Knight of the Immaculate). He also operated a religious publishing press and founded a new Conventual Franciscan monastery at Niepokalanow, which became a major religious publishing center.
Kolbe also founded monasteries in both Japan and India. To this day, the monastery in Japan remains prominent in the Roman Catholic Church in Japan.
In 1936, Kolbe’s poor health forced him to return home to Poland, and once the WWII invasion by Germany began, he became one of the only brothers to remain in the monastery. He opened up a temporary hospital to aid those in need. When his town was captured, Kolbe was sent to prison but released three months later.
Kolbe refused to sign a document that would recognize him as a German citizen with his German ancestry and continued to work in his monastery, providing shelter for refugees – including hiding 2,000 Jews from German persecution.
On February 17, 1941, the monastery was shut down; Kolbe was arrested by the German Gestapo and taken to the Pawiak prison. Three months later, he was transferred to Auschwitz.
Never abandoning his priesthood, Kolbe was the victim of severe violence and harassment. Toward the end of his second month in Auschwitz, men were chosen to face death by starvation to warn against escapes. Kolbe was not chosen but volunteered to take the place of a man with a family.
It is said during the last days of his life Kolbe led prayers to Our Lady with the prisoners and remained calm. He was the last of the group to remain alive, after two weeks of dehydration and starvation. The guards gave him a lethal injection of carbolic acid. The stories tell that he raised his left arm and calmly awaited death.
St. Maximilian Kolbe died on August 14 and his remains were cremated on August 15, the same day as the Assumption of Mary feast day.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my longing for heaven daily. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Monday of the 19th week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Deuteronomy 10:12-22 and Matthew 17:22-27).