A very special day

Today is a special day if you’re of Polish descent, Catholic, and a Ham Radio operator.  Today is the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe.  For those of you who are not Catholic, a Saint’s Feast Day commemorates the day that the faithful believe that the Saint left this earthly existence, directly heading to Heaven for his or her eternal reward.

It was on August 14, 1941, that Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar died from an injection of carbolic acid.  Fr. Kolbe was a detainee at Auschwitz, during WWII. He was sent there for the crime of providing shelter and safe harbor to over 2,000 Polish Jews in his friary at Niepokalanów.

At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from Auschwitz, during what appeared to be a successful prison break.  To retaliate, the deputy camp commander picked out 10 men at random to be starved to death.  One of the chosen men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out that he had a wife and children and begged for mercy.  Fr. Kolbe heard this and asked, and was granted permission to take Gajowniczek’s place.

In the starvation bunker where the condemned men were being kept, Fr. Kolbe celebrated Mass each day and led the men in hymns and prayers.  Two weeks later, after all the men had passed, Fr. Kolbe was the last condemned prisoner left alive. The Nazi’s had other plans for that bunker, so to end it all, Fr. Kolbe was given the lethal injection.

But during his lifetime here on earth, Fr. Max was unique among Saints, as he was an Amateur Radio operator.  His call sign was SP3RN, and this might be the only photo in existence of him “at the key”, so to speak.

I had heard of Fr. Kolbe a lot during my younger years, being a student in a Catholic school that was part of the Polish Ethnic Parish that I grew up in, St. Mary of Ostrobrama in South River, NJ.  It wasn’t until after I became a Ham myself, that I was made aware of the radio connection.
Fr. Kolbe was elevated to Sainthood by Pope John Paul II in 1982.  He is the unofficial patron saint of Ham Radio operators everywhere.
Saint-Max, módl się za nami!
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “A very special day”

  • David Bahorski KC8UDQ:

    Thank You Larry,

    I to went to catholic school and did not know about Saint Max.Touching story and I will all ways try to rember this day from now on and say a prayer.

  • Steve KA1ZL:

    Thank you for writing this very poignant article. It linked together a topic which is very important to me, with my hobby of ham radio. I have forwarded it several family members. Even without the ham radio connection it is a wonderful and beautifully written piece.
    Keep up the great work!


  • Henry SP9JPA:

    120th Brthday of St. Maximilian
    75th Anniversary of Radio Niepokalanów

    Special-event stations and Awards.

    Please have a look at:
    Blog SP9JPA: http://sp9jpa.blogspot.com
    St. Maximilian: http://stmaximiliansp3rn.blogspot.com

    73, Henryk SP9JPA

  • Jerome Freihammer N0SDR:

    I have only recently been made away that St. Maximilian Kolbe was a patron of Amateur Radio Operators. My wife brought it to my attention. I was amazed and read all articles about his radio operations. Now I pray to him to help me find a solution to my noise problem at my QTH. I live at a junction of cable distribution of cable tv, wi-fi, power, all located within 20-30 feet of my antennas.

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