Feb. 17, 2016

The St. Maximilian Kolbe, O.F.M. Conv., Relic Tour is making its lone stop in the Washington, D.C., area at The Catholic University of America, where the martyr's relics are on display Feb. 17 through 19 for veneration and prayer.The relics are in Caldwell Chapel for a Triduum of Mercy and Charity and are open to the public from 6 to 6:30 p.m. On Sunday, Feb. 21, veneration will follow the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Vincent's Chapel and is limited to members of the CUA community.The pilgrimage - the largest ever of St. Maximilian's relics - commemorates the 75th anniversary of his martyrdom. Sponsored by friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province, the 30-stop tour includes ministry sites in Canada and the east coast of the United States. The tour will conclude in Ellicott City, Md., at the Shrine of St. Anthony for a closing ceremony on St. Maximilian's feast day, Aug. 14.St. Maximilian Kolbe was a friar of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual in Poland, which he joined at the age of 13 after having a vision of the Virgin Mary.Several years later, the onset of World War II prompted Kolbe to open a temporary hospital for those in need. After being arrested and then released, he refused to sign documentation acknowledging him as a German citizen, and returned to the monastery. One of the only friars to remain, Kolbe provided shelter for refugees in the monastery - including 2,000 Jews who sought refuge from German prosecution.In 1941 the monastery was closed and Kolbe was sent to prison, and then transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he refused to abandon his priesthood. Shortly after his arrival, Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a man who had been ordered to die by starvation. Over two weeks, Kolbe endured starvation and dehydration, while continuing to lead prisoners in prayer to the Virgin Mary.St. Maximillian died by lethal injection on Aug. 14, 1941. He was canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II, who declared Kolbe the patron saint of our difficult century and a martyr of charity. He is also the patron saint of family and the pro-life movement.