The Papal Artifacts’ Collection is primarily dedicated to artifacts connected to the papacy. Individual popes, their biographies and multiple items belonging to them, including first and second class relics, make up the majority of this Collection. But that isn’t all it is.
Father Kunst has a deep devotion to the saints as can be readily seen in viewing the Saints & Blesseds section of this site. We invite you to visit Papal History/Saints & Blesseds to view the many canonized and beatified men and women who make up this section of the Collection.
St. Maximilian Kolbe is one of them.
A Few Minutes with St. Maximilian Kolbe & Father Richard Kunst
About the First Class Relic of St. Maximilian Kolbe:
How does one come to have a first class relic of a saint who died a martyr’s death in Auschwitz? Of all the relics in Father Kunst’s Collection, perhaps this one is the most incredible.
This is a first-class relic, in the form of hairs from his head and beard, preserved without his knowledge by two friars at Niepolkalanow who served as barbers in his friary between 1930 and 1941. Since his beatification in 1971, these relics have been distributed around the world for public veneration.
Second-class relics, such as his personal effects, clothing and liturgical vestments, are preserved in his monastery cell and in a chapel at Niepokalanow and may be viewed by the faithful who visit
Father Richard Kunst:
The document, featured below, authenticates the 1st class relic of hairs from St. Maximilian Kolbe’s beard. The barber, who shaved his beard, was supposed to burn the hair, but the fire went out, and as a result the barber kept these hairs. They are now a 1st class relic of a martyred saint.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.
A Letter of Dismissal Signed by St. Maximilian Kolbe
Considered to Be Among the Rarer Autographs of the 20th Century
The artifact is a letter signed by Father Maximilian Kolbe. It concerns the dismissal of an employee and was signed on March 14, 1939.
The letter includes a redaction seal and is considered to be one of the rarer signatures in the 20th century.
“It is among the rarer autographs of 20th century personages, primarily due to the fact that Kolbe did not gain notoriety till decades after his death.” —Fr. Richard Kunst
The Papal Artifacts’ Collection is fortunate to have obtained, not only his First Class relic, but also, now, his signature.
Translation of the Letter
Center: The Little Diary, Publication of the Knights of the Immaculata
Left upper corner: Headquarter: Niepokalanów
Right upper corner: addresses of local branches
Niepokalanow, March 14, 1939
Since, in your letter dated February 27th 1939, delivered to us on March 1st of the current year, you have offended your employer, according to the par. 32 of regulations of employment contract for administrative (white collar) workers, we dismiss (fire) you from work today (with immediate effect).
Fr. Maximilian Kolbe (original: O. Maksymilian Kolbe)
The Little Diary’s editor in chief
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr (1894 – 1941)
The Franciscan friar, Maximilian Mary Kolbe, died in the Auschwitz concentration camp on August 14, 1941. Two weeks earlier, a prisoner had gone missing. The commandant, Karl Fristsch, announced the penalty to the entire camp: ten men would die in the starvation bunker. As his name was called, Franciszek Gajowniczek cried out, “My wife, my children!” Father Maximilian stepped forward and offered to take his place. He and the other nine men were tossed naked into a concrete hole in Building 13.
Francixzek Gajowniczek is pictured below at the canonization of Maximilian Kolbe. The saint saved his life and he was privileged to be a part of the canonization
The camp prisoners waited to hear the howls of anguish coming from the bunker. Instead, they heard feeble voices raised in prayer and hymns of praise. Maximilian was encouraging the men. A Pole assigned to serve at the bunker later told how at each inspection the priest was always in the middle of them, standing or kneeling in prayer. After two weeks, only Maximilian remained alive. When the SS men entered the cell, he offered his arm for their lethal injection.
One prisoner later said his death was “a shock filled with hope, bringing new life and strength…It was like a powerful shaft of light in the darkness of the camp.” Maximilian is a patron of families, for he gave his life for the father of a family. He is a patron of prisoners, for he gave hope to the condemned. —Lisa Lickona, The Magnificat Year of Mercy Companion, page 320 Maximillian Kolbe died, August 14, 1941.
The Mass in Red, & Its Significance
To His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, who, attentive to truth, to justice, and to the voice of the people, proclaimed the martyrdom of Maximilian Kolbe.
The Mass in Red
(On the day of the canonization of Maximilian Kolbe) his brother Franciscans prayed fervently that their fellow countryman would be proclaimed a martyr by John Paul II. their hopes hesitated between joy and fear.
Right up to the end, difficulties were posed by experts. They cast no doubt on the sanctity of Kolbe, whose heroism they had acknowledged. A man dedicated to the Gospel, imprisoned at Auschwitz, gave his life to save a fellow prisoner; he was condemned to starve to death. Theologians wanted his canonized as a confessor and not a martyr. Since he hadn’t been interrogated by his executioners about the Faith, did he qualify? Would John Paul feel bound by the opinion of theologians, or would he pass over it to respond to universal expectation and his own desire.
Sunday, October 10,1982: 200 thousand people assembled for the canonization. Confessor? Martyr. John Paul, the genius of communication had said nothing, and let God be his only confidant.
The altar was ready, banked with flowers. All was ready. the coat of arms of John Paul was displayed. A portrait of Maximilian Kolbe in his black, Franciscan robe. Confessor? Martyr? No one knew.Would John Paul pass over contrary opinion and proclaim himself in favor of the verdict of martyrdom?
The crowd only found out when the Pope appeared in red vestments, and after a moment of silence, there was a great murmur of ratification. When the officials approached John Paul to ask him to inscribe Kolbe in the canon of saints, the Pope did not reply right away. After they knelt to recite the Litany of the Saints, all rose to hear the Pope’s reply: To the glory of the most Blessed Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the growth of Christian life, by the authority of Jesus Christ, the Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority…after having reflected at length, we declare and decree that the Blessed Maximilian Kolbe is a saint; and that he shall be inscribed the the canon of saints and throughout the Church, piously honored among the martyrs.
In the homily, John Paul continued, “There is no greater love than that a man give his life for those he loves.”
It is true that theology can argue about martyrdom, love cannot. Thus, on that October Sunday, in that place where the Church has always invited to pardon and called for mercy, one generous heart celebrated another. —-Forget Not Love, by Andre Frossard, The Passion of Maximilian Kolbe.
Saint John Paul II & Saint Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!