On February 13, Father John Connaughton, director of vocations for the Diocese of Bridgeport, conducted a Confirmation session for over 220 Confirmation candidates in the eighth and ninth grades at St. Thomas More Parish. Father Connaughton spoke with the confirmandis on the history & origin of the Gifts of the Spirit.
In addition, he discussed Confirmation names and who he chose as his name-saint and why. He told the youngsters how, at their age, he was impressed by what had happened to St. Maximilian Kolbe. He began by telling the confirmadis that, as a young priest, Father Kolbe had a vision of the Virgin Mary. In his vision, Our Lady gave him a choice of which crown he would like: red, which symbolized martyrdom, or a white crown which symbolized heroic virtue. In the vision Father Kolbe replied that he wanted both.
Father Connaughton then went on the tell them about what happened in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, where Father Kolbe was imprisoned during World War II. Someone had escaped from the camp, and the guard’s policy was for 10 people to be executed for every one who escaped. One of the men picked begged for mercy because he had a wife and young children. Father Kolbe volunteered to take that man’s place. The 10 picked for death were to put in a cell to starve. However, with Father Kolbe’s spirit-filled intervention through prayer and song, the victims lasted longer than expected and the Nazis eventually had to use other methods to dispose of the prisoners.
Through his unfailing faith, Father Kolbe did achieve crowns of both martyrdom and heroic virtue—and eventually sainthood. The man who he had replaced survived Auschwitz, as did his family. Members of the family were present at St. Maximilian Kolbe’s canonization.
His own reaction to St. Maximilian’s story was so intense that the confirmandi sat transfixed throughout his account.