Monday 30 November 2015

First fruits – Saint Cuthbert Mayne (2), English Martyr, Saint Edmund Campion, Mary's Dowry Productions

Saint Cuthbert Mayne – November 30th
At the Launceston assizes, Saint Cuthbert Mayne was indicted for treason under various heads, including importing and publishing a papal document and celebrating Mass. The evidence was very insufficient, and one of the judges had qualms about it. So the case was re-considered in London, but the Privy Council directed that the verdict of guilty should stand. On the day before that set for his execution, Saint Cuthbert Mayne was offered his life if he would renounce his religion, or at least swear that the queen was the supreme head of the Church in England: he refused peremptorily, confirming his refusal by a sign of the cross and a kiss upon the Bible. The next moning, 20th November 1577, he was dragged on a sledge to Launceston market-place, where he was not allowed to address the people. At the last moment he was invited to implicate Mr Tregian and Sir John Arundell (there were those who had their eye on these gentlemen’s estates); Mayne replied, “I know nothing of them except that they are good and godly men; and of the things laid to my charge, no one but myself knows anything”.
Saint Edmund Campion arrives on the English mission in the footsteps of Saint Cuthbert Mayne
© 2008 Mary's Dowry Productions
A year later, Saint Edmund Campion wrote to Gregory Martin: “We all thank you for your account of Cuthbert’s martyrdom; it gave many of us real religious joy. Wretch that I am, how that novice has outdistanced me. May he be favourable to his old friend and tutor!”
“These were purchased from among men, the first-fruits to God and to the Lamb.” – Apoc. 14, 4.
Reading for 30th November
Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England and Wales by Henry Sebastian Bowden of the Oratory.
For films about the Saints and English Martyrs:

Sunday 29 November 2015

"I am a man", Saint Cuthbert Mayne (1), English Martyr, Catholic Saint of England

"I am a man."
Saint Cuthbert Mayne (1) - Secular priest
Cuthbert Mayne was the first Martyr among the seminary priests trained at the colleges abroad. He was born near Barnstaple in Devon in 1544 and was brought up by his uncle, a schismatic priest, who had him ordained in the Church of England before he was twenty. At Oxford, Saint Cuthbert came under the influence of Gregory Martin and Edmund Campion; these two kept in touch with him from Douay, he adjured Protestantism, and in 1573 was himself entered at that college.
Saint Edmund Campion receives a blessing from the Pope before he sets out on the English Mission
© 2008 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Edmund Camion: A hero returns' DVD
After ordination he returned to England (the fifteenth missionary priest sent from Douay), and was stationed at Golden, Francis Tregian's house near Truro. Here he passed as the estate steward, but his priestly ministry lasted only a year. The sheriff of Cornwall, Richard Grenville (of the Revenge), suddenly descended on Tregian's house and searched it; sixteen people were arrested, among them Cuthbert Mayne. When the searchers beat on the door of his room, he had opened it and the sheriff had seized him by the coat exclaiming "What art thou?" And Mayne had replied, "I am a man". But round his neck was found an agnus Dei: it suggested that he was something else as well as a man - a priest.
"In their mouth there was found no lie." - Apoc. 14, 5.
Reading for 29th November
Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England and Wales
by Henry Sebastian Bowden
For films on DVD about the Missionary priests, Martyrs and Saints of England visit:

Saturday 28 November 2015

The Martyrs' Graves - Blessed James Thompson and Saint Margaret Clitherow, English Saint, Mary's Dowry Productions, English Catholic Martyrs, Reading for November 28th

Saint Margaret Clitherow hiding liturgical items for Mass
© 2009 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Margaret Clitherow DVD
The Martyrs' Graves
Blessed James Thompson - Secular Priest
Reading for 28th November
Taken from 'Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England and Wales
by Henry Sebastian Bowden
Born in York, he was a devout Catholic, and was deprived of a pension which he had, owing to his fidelity to the old religion. With the desire of consecrating his life to God he went over to Rheims in 1580, but fell so ill that his life was despaired of. He begged Dr Allen to allow him to be ordained without delay, as he believed God intended to employ him on the English mission. A dispensation was obtained and he received all the sacred orders within twelve days, though he was so ill he could scarcely stand. He regained sufficient strength to proceed to England, but was arrested after scarcely a year's ministry. He confessed that he was a priest, and refused the oath of supremacy, declaring he would certainly not fight against the pope. He was led to prison in irons, was tried and condemned, and suffered at the Knavesmire in York on 28th November 1582. Like many other martyrs, James was pestered by officials and ministers at the scaffold: "You say you come here to give me patience, but you are not patient yourselves. May God forgive you."
In her visits to his grave and that of other martyrs, Saint Margaret Clitherow found strength for her own passion.
"We would not have you ignorant, brethren, of our tribulation...We were pressed out of that we were weary even of life." - 2 Cor. 1,8.
Saint Margaret Clitherow:
In the historical context of Saint Margaret's time in history, the spiritual aspects of her faith bore fruit in her simple daily tasks, fulfilled in her intention of serving her fellow York citizens, sheltering hunted priests and making sure that her children received a proper Catholic education in a climate of Elizabethan hostility.  Her conflict with the Earl of Huntington, Queen Elizabeth I's cousin, culminated in a poignant and moving witness for the Catholic Church in England.  She is held up and remembered inspiringly for Christians today. 

Saint Margaret Clitherow shared the faith with everyone she met
Screenshot of Saint Margaret in The Shambles from 'Saint Margaret Clitherow' DVD
© 2009 Mary's Dowry Productions

In 2007 Mary’s Dowry productions created a new form of film media to present the lives of the saints. Mary’s Dowry Productions recreates stunning silent visuals, informative, devotional narration, and original contemplative music that touches your spirit to draw you into a spiritual encounter with the saint. Watch with your spiritual eye, listen with your spiritual ear. Our films seek to offer a window into the lives of our saints. Using your spiritual senses we invite you to shut out the world, sit prayerfully and peacefully and go on a journey of faith, history and prayer with Saint Margaret Clitherow. Closing the distance of time between Elizabethan England and the present day, encounter this inspiring young wife and mother. 

Length and Format: 

The film runs for one hour and is available on Region Free DVD worldwide.

Friday 27 November 2015

First Victims - Hugh Taylor and Marmaduke Bowes, English Martyrs, Catholic Saints of England, Mary's Dowry Productions

First Victims
Reading for 27th November
Taken from 'Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England and Wales
by Henry Sebastian Bowden
Marmaduke Bowes was a Yorkshire gentleman who was a Catholic at heart but, for fear of losing his property, conformed from time to time by putting in an appearance at his parish church. For all that, he gave shelter to priests and engaged a Catholic tutor for his children. In 1585 this tutor was arrested, and by ill usage and bribery was induced to apostatize and turn informer; he denounced his master as a harbourer of priests. Marmaduke Bowes and his wife were arrested. She seems to have been released; but her husband was found guilty on the sole evidence of the tutor, who, as a contemporary remarked, "could be bought for sixpence". Marmaduke Bowes was the first layman to be executed under the statue that made helping priests a felony. He was hanged at York on 27th November 1585, openly confessing his real faith. There suffered on the day before him Hugh Taylor, a Durham priest who had absolved Marmaduke Bowes in prison. He was the first seminary priest to suffer under the Act against "Jesuits, seminary priests and other such like disobedient persons"; he had been a seminarist at Rheims, ordained only the year before.

Blessed Thomas Percy, another Martyr in York, calmly prepares to give his life for the Catholic Faith
© 2010 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'The Shining Pearl of York' DVD

"The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." - Luke 19, 10.
The Shining Pearl of York DVD by Mary's Dowry Productions:
A shorter version of our long film about St. Margaret Clitherow giving a different and equally moving insight into her beautiful devotion and inspiring witness.
In 2007 Mary’s Dowry productions created a new form of film media to present the lives of the saints. Mary’s Dowry Productions recreates stunning silent visuals, informative, devotional narration, and original contemplative music that touches your spirit to draw you into a spiritual encounter with the saint. Watch with your spiritual eye, listen with your spiritual ear. Our films seek to offer a window into the lives of our saints. Using your spiritual senses we invite you to shut out the world, sit prayerfully and peacefully and go on a journey of faith, history and prayer with this inspiring Elizabethan Saint.
Length and Format:

The film runs for 25 minutes and is available worldwide on Region Free DVD.
Available on DVD worldwide from:

Thursday 26 November 2015

Satan thwarted - The Ven. Alexander Crow, Secular priest - Mementoes of the Martyrs, Mary's Dowry Productions

Today's reading from 'Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England' and Wales by Henry Sebastian Bowden of the Oratory.
November 26th
Alexander Crow was a York shoemaker who became a servant at the seminary at Rheims, and for his virtues and diligence was admitted as a student. Finally he was ordained a priest. He arrived on the English Mission in 1584 and after nearly two years' ministry was arrested at South Duffield, where he had gone to baptize a child, and sentenced at York. On the night before his execution he was seen by a fellow prisoner who shared his cell to be as it were wrestling in agony with some unseen foe, whilst he prayed continuously. At length he broke out with joy into Laudate Dominun de Coelis, and sank exhausted on his bed. He said he had been assailed by "a most ugly monster", who assured him that his soul was lost anyway, and urged him to take his life at once and not wait for the gallows. He was in the greatest distress, till two figures, whom he believed to be Our Lady and Saint John the Evangelist, appeared and put the creature to flight. Yet on the gallows the Evil One made a final assault, and flung him off the ladder. Though the fall was from a height, he rose unhurt, and smilingly told the onlookers that it was not as they thought: he had not tried to kill himself but had won the victory. Thus he went to God, at York on 30th November 1587.
"Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk, and shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon." - Ps. 90, 13.
Saint Alexander Briant, another missionary priest, stands at the gallows
© 2013 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Alexander Briant' DVD
In 2007 Mary’s Dowry productions created a new form of film media to present the lives of the saints. Mary’s Dowry Productions recreates stunning silent visuals, informative, devotional narration, and original contemplative music that touches your spirit to draw you into a spiritual encounter with the saint. Watch with your spiritual eye, listen with your spiritual ear. Our films seek to offer a window into the lives of our saints. Using your spiritual senses we invite you to shut out the world, sit prayerfully and peacefully and go on a journey of faith, history and prayer with our Saints and English Martyrs.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Saint Thomas More, English Martyr, defending a great Catholic figure, film, DVD, Wolf's Hall, Henry VIII, Tudor England, Mary's Dowry Productions

Saint Thomas More, renowned for his writings throughout Christendom
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Thomas More' DVD

No Compromise
Taken from 'Mementoes of the Martyrs and Confessors of England and Wales'
by Henry Sebastian Bowden of the Oratory
Reading for July 5th
During his imprisonment in the Tower, Sir Thomas More's keenest trial arose from the endeavour of his beloved daughter Margaret to persuade him to take the oath, as she had done herself. She urged that he was more to the king than any man in England, and therefore ought to obey him in what was not evidently repugnant to God's law. That in favour of the oath of supremacy were all the learned men of England, and nearly all the bishops and doctors, save Fisher.

Margaret Roper, Saint Thomas More's daughter, tries to speak with
him as he is led from Westminster to the Tower of London
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Thomas More' DVD
Thomas More answered that he condemned no one for taking the oath, "for some may do it upon temporal hopes, or fear of great losses, for which I will never think any have taken it; for I imagine that nobody is so frail and fearful as myself. Some may hope that God will not impute it unto them for a sin, because they do it by constraint. Some may hope to do penance presently after, and others are of the opinion that God is not offended with out mouth, so our heart is pure; but as for my part, I dare not jeopardy myself upon these vain hopes." As to the numbers against him, he had on his side many more in other parts of Christendom, and all the doctors of the Church.
"He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth." - Matt. 12, 30.

Saint Thomas More's love of God and those around him was reflected in every moment of his life. He was a learned man who radiated joy and a deep desire to see all come to the happiness of Heaven, knowing how quickly a person's life passes in this world. Known throughout Christendom as a kind and educated man, a man of prayer and charity, Saint Thomas More was able to share the faith with everyone he met in Tudor England and abroad. He has left us an inspiring journey to reflect upon as we travel the same path through life in England today.
Saint Thomas More with Cardinal Wolsey
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD
In 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions filmed various key moments from the lives of Saint Thomas More and Saint John Fisher. These portrayals run silently beneath a narrative with original contemplative and uplifting music, offering a prayerful way to look through a window into the lives of these Saints and journey with them. While filled with historical information, facts and events in the context of English history, these films seek to offer a spiritual encounter with Saint Thomas More or Saint John Fisher.
We filmed scenes from various events in the life of Saint Thomas More over two days, with additional filming on various external locations for scenery and nature. Scenes recreated included moments with his family in Chelsea, his writings, time at court, imprisonment in the Tower of London and his last moments on Tower Hill.
The story is told from Saint Thomas More's point of view and runs for one hour. The original music was composed by Bernadette Bevans and fuses medieval and contemporary styles into a contemplative, absorbing atmosphere that accompanies Saint Thomas More.
Saint Thomas More with his family in Chelsea
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD
In 2007 Mary’s Dowry productions created a new form of film media to present the lives of the saints. Mary’s Dowry Productions recreates stunning silent visuals, informative, devotional narration, and original contemplative music that touches your spirit to draw you into a spiritual encounter with the saint. Watch with your spiritual eye, listen with your spiritual ear. Our films seek to offer a window into the lives of our saints. Using your spiritual senses we invite you to shut out the world, sit prayerfully and peacefully and go on a journey of faith, history and prayer with this inspiring Tudor Saint.

Our film is available worldwide through our online shop:
We ship worldwide in all region formats
The following is an article from the Guardian Online -  showing the fruits of 500 years of protestant thought and a secular presentation of Catholic figures in history, especially in secular entertainment:
"No matter how controversial the standing of a great statesman, the passing of almost 500 years since his death might be expected to settle opinion one way or the other. Yet the power of a popular historical account, most recently Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker prize-winner Wolf Hall shows that reputations are rarely safe.
Hilary Mantel’s 2009 story of political intrigue in the court of Henry VIII, has already persuaded hundreds of thousands of readers that Thomas Cromwell, played by Mark Rylance, was an admirably modern man and not simply a grim political fixer for a self-indulgent king. But the actor Anton Lesser appears in the role of Sir Thomas More in the BBC2 series, taking up arms in a second long-running battle for the public image of a famous man. And unlike Cromwell, Thomas More was not only a key political figure in England’s history: for many he remains a revered saint.
Saint Thomas More's concern for souls included that of
his friend and King, Henry VIII.
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD

Thomas More (1478-1535), lawyer and moral philosopher, is still regarded by many Catholics as the quintessential good man. He has been held up to schoolchildren for centuries as the most significant English defender of the true Catholic faith. Hilary Mantel’s portrait, however, is of a torturer of heretics with a penchant for self-punishment and a misogynist to boot. The Catholic writer Peter Stanford suspects that many Catholics, lapsed or otherwise, will be dismayed when Mantel’s well-researched yet passionately argued slant on the merits of Cromwell versus More reaches a wider TV audience. “As a child I was told that More was a very clever man who defended the pope against a parvenu king and who would not let him fiddle around with the eternal truths so that he could have his way with another woman,” he said. “He is still revered, often alongside John Fisher, the bishop and martyr, who was beheaded by Henry VIII in the same year as More. He is important as a defender of the faith, even though we are not persecuted any more in this country. Wolf Hall is going to be hard for some people to watch because there are lots of churches named after More and several of the old recusant stately homes have relics. They frequently have part of Mary Queen of Scots’ rosary, a bit of the stick that John Fisher used to stagger up to the gallows on and something claimed to have been written by More.”
Saint Thomas More calmly ties the blindfold over his eyes
as he kneels before the block on Tower Hill, July 1535
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD
Hilary Mantel, who received a Catholic education at a convent school, uproots More and places Cromwell, the king’s chief adviser, much closer to the moral core of her story – although he is rendered as complex and enigmatic. More, in contrast, cuts a dry and uncompromising figure. “Mantel may portray Thomas More as a callous religious obsessive, but for us growing up he was the exact opposite,” said Stanford. The biographer of Lord Longford adds that a religious education is such a powerful tool that many with a Catholic background will, like him, never have questioned More’s saintly status.

Saint Thomas More and Erasmus, two great thinkers of the 16th Century
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD

“Once someone has been elevated to the canon of saints, that is it really. They are beyond question for many Catholics. It tends to stop the conversation,” he said. More’s moral quality was underlined for a modern public in 1966 with the release of the hit film version of Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons. This gave cinemagoers of all faiths, and of none, a reason to look up to More as a bastion of wider humanist values. With its tight and witty screenplay, drawing convincingly on the original words of More, the film established Henry VIII’s disobedient lord chancellor as brave and full of integrity. A man who, out of a sense of personal honour as much as religious conviction, was prepared to stand in opposition to the king’s plan to go against the tenets of Rome to divorce and marry for a second time. It did no harm to More’s historical profile that he was played on screen by the late Paul Scofield in a softly spoken performance that has gone down as one of his finest. Crossing swords with a villainous Cromwell in one scene, More’s is the voice of stylish, unpretentious reason.

More: “You threaten like a dockside bully.
Cromwell: “How should I threaten?”
More: “Like a minister of state. With justice.”
Cromwell: “Oh, justice is what you’re threatened with.”
More: “Then I am not threatened.”
The other piece of influential writing that has helped emphasise More’s superior character is his own book, Utopia. A philosophical argument couched in the tale of a traveller who returns from an unknown land, it has furnished English literature with many enduring ideas – not least that of a Utopia itself; a perfect, unattainable society. Published in Latin in 1516, Utopia still intrigues and amuses readers despite having been around for half a millennium. In More’s imagined Utopia, property, goods and food are all shared among the households in each city and there is a heavy emphasis on agriculture, although some weight is given to academic learning as well. When it comes to government: “Anyone who campaigns for public office becomes disqualified for holding any office at all,” he suggests. Religious tolerance is advocated, as is legal divorce, euthanasia and the adorning of male and female married priests. On the other hand, and less palatable to current taste, atheists are regarded as despicable, and most households keep slaves drawn from a ready supply of foreigners and criminals. The book, though widely studied, has always puzzled readers because many of the notions it toys with appear to run directly against More’s own Catholic convictions, not least about divorce. It also seems odd that the role of lawyers in Utopia should be held up for contempt by the man who was at one point, as lord chancellor, the leading legal authority in the land.

Saint Thomas More reads his epithalamium to King Henry VIII
and Queen Catherine of Aragon on the occasion on their wedding
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD

For Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of church history at Oxford University and a great fan of Cromwell over More, there is no denying the appeal of More’s mind. “I have seen some of the new series and More comes across as a desiccated fanatic. Well, that would be one take. It is true he has always been a controversial character partly because he became such a plaster saint, seen as unassailable in the Catholic church,” said MacCulloch. “But like Cromwell he was a complicated humanist, as well as a great stylist and the author of the wonderful Utopia. For More, I think, the whole of the late 1520s became resolved into a life and death struggle for his world. We all have our priorities and for him a united Christendom overrode his concern with mercy or with pity.”
MacCulloch admits he takes much of his understanding of the relationship between More and Cromwell from the late eminent Tudor scholar Sir Geoffrey Elton, once his doctoral supervisor at Cambridge. Elton, who wrote about Cromwell had a low opinion of More. “Elton was a little partisan perhaps, but I do find Hilary’s version compelling.” The professor, who is working on his own biography of Cromwell, is happy for popular historical fiction to engage with Tudor history. “It is not a battle between fiction and history. It is a conversation. I regard Hilary as an ally, not a threat. She has created a powerful parallel universe and historians and novelists each bring their own perspective.”
Saint Thomas More in the Tower of London
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD
The screen image of More as played by Scofield has “ruled the roost for 30 or 40 years now,” MacCulloch adds, and it is time for a different view. “The problem is that anyone looks quite good when they are compared with the monstrous Henry VIII, and More did show great nobility in squaring up to him. There was also a lot of fancy footwork though, which does distract you from the fact that, in the end, More died for something he believed in.”
More, first called “a man for all seasons” by his contemporary Robert Whittington, always had a good argument to hand, and would probably have pointed out that men who are prepared to put their head on the block for an idea are not likely to be self-interested. As More once said: “If honour were profitable, everybody would be honourable.” Today, however, proofs of strong conviction and acts of religious martyrdom are no longer recognised as a fair way to win.
Saint Thomas More calmly offers his life for the Catholic Faith
which had been the Faith of England for over a thousand years
© 2012 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Thomas More' DVD
Our own film about Saint Thomas More is a prayerful journey with a holy man, Saint and great historical figure that offers a spiritual encounter with the Man for all Seasons, certainly relevant for our own troubled days in England.

For films on the lives of the Saints and Martyrs:

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Saint Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Carmelite, Philosopher, Mary's Dowry Productions, DVD

A new film about Saint Edith Stein
A prayerful and mystical journey with Saint Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) in a new film that especially captures the thought and spirit of her Carmelite soul.  Pausing for reflection upon her writings, including her letter to Pope Pius XI and her many works, Saint Edith Stein shows how she brought hope and comfort to the people and children around her during the troubled times of the Nazi occupation.  With an original atmospheric, choral and contemplative music score "St. Edith Stein" offers a prayerful journey into her life.

Saint Edith Stein conversing with a Nazi Guard
© 2015 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Edith Stein'

In 2007 Mary’s Dowry productions created a new form of film media to present the lives of the saints. Mary’s Dowry Productions recreates stunning silent visuals, informative, devotional narration, and original contemplative music that touches your spirit to draw you into a spiritual encounter with the saint. Watch with your spiritual eye, listen with your spiritual ear. Our films seek to offer a window into the lives of our saints. Using your spiritual senses we invite you to shut out the world, sit prayerfully and peacefully and go on a journey of faith, history and prayer with this inspiring Carmelite Saint.

Length and Format:

Saint Edith Stein runs for 40 minutes and is available worldwide on Region Free DVD:

Friday 6 November 2015

Saint Maximilian Kolbe, new film on DVD, available now through Mary's Dowry Productions, NEWS

Our new film about Saint Maximilian Kolbe is now available worldwide on DVD in all region formats through Mary's Dowry Productions.
The film runs for 30 minutes and is a prayerful, informative and inspiring way to encounter Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

In 2007 Mary’s Dowry productions created a new form of film media to present the lives of the saints. Mary’s Dowry Productions recreates stunning silent visuals, informative, devotional narration, and original contemplative music that touches your spirit to draw you into a spiritual encounter with the saint. Watch with your spiritual eye, listen with your spiritual ear. Our films seek to offer a window into the lives of our saints. Using your spiritual senses we invite you to shut out the world, sit prayerfully and peacefully and go on a journey of faith, history and prayer with this young and inspiring Saint.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe shows us that love of Mary is very important
© 2015 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan priest who loved God and the Blessed Virgin Mary so much that he wished to share that love with everyone. He radiated such joy and peace even during the troubled time of Nazi occupied Poland. Saint Maximilian has left us an inspiring example with his beautiful life of prayer, advice and kindness.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe loved people so much he did not hesitate to
try to alleviate their pain
© 2015 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
Our DVD about Saint Maximilian Kolbe is available worldwide, all region formats
Mary's Dowry Productions online shop:

About Saint Maximilian Kolbe:

His name wasn't always Maximilian. He was born the second son of a poor weaver on 8 January 1894 at Zdunska Wola near Lodz in Poland, and was given the baptismal name of Raymond. Both parents were devout Christians with a particular devotion to Mary. In his infancy Raymond seems to have been normally mischievous but we are told that one day, after his mother had scolded him for some mischief or other, her words took effect and brought about a radical change in the child's behaviour. Later he explained this change. 'That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.'
The Nazis persecuted the Jews and Catholics in Poland.
© 2015 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'St. Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
Thus early did the child believe and accept that he was destined for martyrdom. His belief in his dream coloured all his future actions.
In 1907 Raymond and his elder brother entered a junior Franciscan seminary in Lwow. Here he excelled in mathematics and physics and his teachers predicted a brilliant future for him in science. Others, seeing his passionate interest in all things military, saw in him a future strategist. For a time indeed his interest in military affairs together with his fiery patriotism made him lose interest in the idea of becoming a priest, The fulfilment of his dream would lie in saving Poland from her oppressors as a soldier. But before he could tell anyone about his decision his mother announced that, as all their children were now in seminaries, she and her husband intended to enter religious life. Raymond hadn't the heart to upset his parents' plans and so he abandoned his plans for joining the army. He was received as a novice in September 1910 and with the habit he took the new name of Maximilian. From 1912 to 1915 he was in Rome studying philosophy at the Gregorian College, and from 1915 to 1919 theology at the Collegio Serafico.
Nazi soldier
© 2015 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
Saint Maximilian Kolbe was ordained in Rome on 28 April 1918.
The love of fighting didn't leave him, but while he was in Rome he stopped seeing the struggle as a military one. He didn't like what he saw of the world, in fact he saw it as downright evil. The fight, he decided, was a spiritual one. The world was bigger than Poland and there were worse slaveries than earthly ones. The fight was still on, but he would not be waging it with the sword. At that time many Catholics in Europe regarded freemasonry as their chief enemy; and it was against the freemasons that Maximilian Kolbe began to wage war. On 16 October 1917, with six companions, he founded the Crusade of Mary Immaculate (), with the aim of 'converting sinners, heretics and schismatics, particularly freemasons, and bringing all men to love Mary Immaculate'.
As he entered what was to be the most creative period of his life, Fr Maximilian's health had already begun to deteriorate. He was by now in an advanced state of tuberculosis, and he felt himself overshadowed by death. His love for Mary Immaculate now became the devouring characteristic of his life. He regarded himself as no more than an instrument of her will, and the only time he was known to lose his temper was in defence of her honour. It was for her that he strove to develop all the good that was in him, and he wanted to encourage others to do the same.
Saint Maximilian forgot himself in service of others
© 2015 Mary's Dowry Productions
Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
When Maximilian returned to Poland in 1919 he rejoiced to see his country free once again, a liberation which he typically attributed to Mary Immaculate. Pius XI in response to a request from the Polish bishops had just promulgated the Feast of Our Lady Queen of Poland, and Fr Maximilian wrote: 'She must be the Queen of Poland and of every Polish heart. We must labour to win each and every heart for her.' He set himself to extend the influence of his Crusade, and formed cells and circles all over Poland. The doctors had by now pronounced him incurable; one lung had collapsed and the other was damaged. Yet it was now that he flung himself into a whirlwind of activity. In January 1922 he began to publish a monthly review, the , in Cracow. Its aim was 'to illuminate the truth and show the true way to happiness'. As funds were low, only 5,000 copies of the first issue were printed. In 1922 he removed to another friary in Grodno and acquired a small printing establishment; and from now on the review began to grow. In 1927 70,000 copies were being printed. The Grodno Friary became too small to house such a mammoth operation, so Fr Maximilian began to look for a site nearer to Warsaw. Prince Jan Drucko-Lubecki offered him some land at Teresin, west of Warsaw, Fr Maximilian promptly erected a statue of Mary Immaculate there, and the monks began the arduous work of construction.
On 21 November 1927 the Franciscans moved from Grodno to Teresin and on 8 December the friary was consecrated and was given the name of Niepokalanow, the City of the Immaculate. 'Niepokalanow', said Fr Maximilian, 'is a place chosen by Mary Immaculate and is exclusively dedicated to spreading her cult. All that is and will be at Niepokalanow will belong to her. The monastic spirit will flourish here; we shall practise obedience and we shall be poor, in the spirit of St Francis.'
Before the Nazis, Saint Maximilian shoed peace and love even to those
who bore hatred
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Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
At first Niepokalanow consisted of no more than a few shacks with tar-paper roofs, but it soon flourished. To cope with the flood of vocations all over Poland, a junior seminary was built at Niepokalanow 'to prepare priests for the missions capable of every task in the name of the Immaculate and with her help'. A few years later there were more than a hundred seminarians and the numbers were still growing. Before long Niepokalanow had become one of the largest (some say largest) friaries in the world. In 1939 it housed 762 inhabitants: 13 priests, 18 novices, 527 brothers, 122 boys in the junior seminary and 82 candidates for the priesthood. No matter how many labourers were in the vineyard there was always work for more. Among the inhabitants of Niepokalanow there were doctors, dentists, farmers, mechanics, tailors, builders, printers, gardeners, shoemakers, cooks. The place was entirely self-supporting.
Not only the friary but the printing house had been expanding. More modern machinery had been installed, including three machines which could produce 16,000 copies of the review in an hour. New techniques of type, photogravure and binding were adopted. The new machinery and techniques made it possible to meet the growing demand for —which had now reached the incredible circulation figure of 750,000 per month—and to produce other publications as well. In 1935 they began to produce a daily Catholic newspaper,< The Little Daily>, of which 137,000 copies were printed on weekdays and 225,000 on Sundays and holydays.
Maximilian did not rest content with mere journalistic activity. His sights were set even further. On 8 December 1938 a radio station was installed at Niepokalanow with the signature tune (played by the brothers' own orchestra) of the Lourdes hymn. And now that there was so much valuable equipment around, Niepokalanow acquired its own fire brigade to protect it against its enemies. Some of the brothers were now trained as firemen.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe's example of peace
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Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
There was no doubt that Niepokalanow was going from strength to strength, a unique institution within Poland. The results of the work done there were becoming apparent. Priests in parishes all over the country reported a tremendous upsurge of faith, which they attributed to the literature emerging from Niepokalanow. A campaign against abortion in the columns of the< Knight> (1938) seemed to awaken the conscience of the nation: more than a million people of all classes and professions ranged themselves behind the standard of Mary Immaculate. Years later, after the war, the Polish bishops sent an official letter to the Holy See claiming that Fr Kolbe's magazine had prepared the Polish nation to endure and survive the horrors of the war that was soon to follow.
Fr Maximilian was a restless spirit, and his activities could not be confined to Poland. His junior seminary had been started in 1929 but he didn't intend to wait for its first priest to be trained before he himself set out for the mission lands. To those who pointed out that Niepokalanow wasn't yet up to undertaking foreign apostolic work, he quoted the example of St Francis, who had risked himself on the mission fields when the other Orders had remained uninvolved. With the blessing of his Father General, Maximilian prepared his expedition. Asked whether he had money to finance it, he replied: 'Money? It will turn up somehow or other. Mary will see to it. It's her business and her Son's.'
On 26 February 1930 Fr Maximilian left Poland with four brothers from Niepokalanow on a journey to the Far East. They travelled by way of Port Said, Saigon and Shanghai, and on 24 April they landed at Nagasaki in Japan. Here they were given episcopal permission to stay. In fact Archbishop Hayasaka received them very warmly when he learned that Fr Maximilian had two doctorates and would be able to take the vacant chair of philosophy in the diocesan seminary in exchange for a licence to print his review.
The going was hard. The Poles' only shelter was a wretched hut whose walls and roof were caving in. They slept on what straw they could find and their tables were planks of wood. But despite such hardships, and the fact that they knew no word of the Japanese language, and had no money, on 24 April 1930, exactly a month after their arrival, a telegram was despatched to Niepokalanow: 'Today distributing Japanese . Have printing press. Praise to Mary Immaculate.' After that, it was scarcely surprising that a year later the Japanese Niepokalanow was inaugurated, Mugenzai no Sono (the Garden of the Immaculate), built on the slopes of Mount Hikosan. The choice of this site in the suburbs had been dictated by poverty, but it proved a lucky one. People thought Fr Maximilian was crazy to be building on steep ground sloping away from the town; but in 1945, when the atomic bomb all but levelled Nagasaki, Mugenzai no Sono sustained no more damage than a few broken panes of stained glass. Today it forms the centre of a Franciscan province.
Despite his passionate zeal in the cause of Mary, Fr Maximilian proved to be a wise missionary. He did not attempt to impose Western ideas on the Japanese. He respected their national customs and looked for what was good in Buddhism and Shintoism. He entered into dialogue with Buddhist priests and some of them became his friends. In 1931 he founded a noviciate and in 1936 a junior seminary. And of course he continued to publish his beloved magazine. , the Japanese , had a circulation six times that of its nearest Japanese Catholic rival. This was because it was aimed at the whole community, not just Catholics. The first 10,000 copies had swollen to 65,000 by 1936.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe - man of prayer
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Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
Father Maximilian's health was rapidly deteriorating, but he didn't allow this fact to diminish his zeal or his restless energy. Although he often complained of the lack of manpower and machines needed to serve the people of Japan, in 1932 he was already seeking fresh pastures. On 31 May he left Japan and sailed to Malabar where, after a few initial difficulties, he founded a third Niepokalanow. But his superiors requested him to return to Japan, and as no priests could be spared for Malabar that idea had to be given up. On another of his journeys he travelled through Siberia and spent some time in Moscow. Even here he dreamed of publishing his magazine-in Russian. He had studied the language and had a fair acquaintance with Marxist literature. Like Pope John XXIII he looked for the good elements even in systems which he believed to be evil; and he tried to teach his friars to do likewise.
In 1936 he was recalled to Poland, and left Japan for the last time. He had thought that he would find martyrdom there; and indeed he had found martyrdom of a kind. He was racked by violent headaches and covered with abscesses brought on by the food to which he could not grow accustomed. But these things were only pinpricks: the real martyrdom awaited him elsewhere.
Just before the Second World War broke out Fr Maximilian spoke to his friars about suffering. They must not be afraid, he said, for suffering accepted with love would bring them closer to Mary. All his life he had dreamed of a martyr's crown, and the time was nearly at hand.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe - Martyr of Charity
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Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
By 13 September 1939 Niepokalanow had been occupied by the invading Germans and most of its inhabitants had been deported to Germany. Among them was Fr Maximilian. But that exile did not last long and on 8 December the prisoners were set free. From the moment that he returned to Niepokalanow Fr Maximilian was galvanized into a new kind of activity. He began to organize a shelter for 3,000 Polish refugees, among whom were 2,000 Jews. 'We must do everything in our power to help these unfortunate people who have been driven from their homes and deprived of even the most basic necessities. Our mission is among them in the days that lie ahead.' The friars shared everything they had with the refugees. They housed, fed and clothed them, and brought all their machinery into use in their service.
Inevitably the community came under suspicion and was closely watched. Early in 1941, in the only edition of which he was allowed to publish, Fr Maximilian set pen to paper and thus provoked his own arrest. 'No one in the world can change Truth', he wrote. 'What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is an inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?'
He would never know that kind of defeat; but a more obvious defeat was near. On 17 February 1941 he was arrested and sent to the infamous Pawiak prison in Warsaw. Here he was singled out for special ill-treatment. A witness tells us that in March of that year an S. S. guard, seeing this man in his habit girdled with a rosary, asked if he believed in Christ. When the priest calmly replied 'I do', the guard struck him. The S. S. man repeated his question several times and receiving always the same answer went on beating him mercilessly. Shortly afterwards the Franciscan habit was taken away and a prisoner's garment was substituted.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, always aware of peoples afflictions
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Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
On 28 May Fr Maximilian was with over 300 others who were deported from Pawiak to Auschwitz. There he received his striped convict's garments and was branded with the number 16670. He was put to work immediately carrying blocks of stone for the construction of a crematorium wall. On the last day of May he was assigned with other priests to the Babice section which was under the direction of 'Bloody' Krott, an ex-criminal. 'These men are lay-abouts and parasites', said the Commandant to Krott, 'get them working.' Krott forced the priests to cut and carry huge tree-trunks. The work went on all day without a stop and had to be done running—with the aid of vicious blows from the guards. Despite his one lung, Father Maximilian accepted the work and the blows with surprising calm. Krott conceived a relentless hatred against the Franciscan and gave him heavier tasks than the others. Sometimes his colleagues would try to come to his aid but he would not expose them to danger. Always he replied, 'Mary gives me strength. All will be well.' At this time he wrote to his mother, 'Do not worry about me or my health, for the good Lord is everywhere and holds every one of us in his great love.'
Kapo 'Bloody' Krott with Saint Maximilian Kolbe
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Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
One day Krott found some of the heaviest planks he could lay hold of and personally loaded them on the Franciscan's back, ordering him to run. When he collapsed, Krott kicked him in the stomach and face and had his men give him fifty lashes. When the priest lost consciousness Krott threw him in the mud and left him for dead. But his companions managed to smuggle him to the Revier, the camp hospital. Although he was suffering greatly, he secretly heard confessions in the hospital and spoke to the other inmates of the love of God. In Auschwitz, where hunger and hatred reigned and faith evaporated, this man opened his heart to others and spoke of God's infinite love. He seemed never to think of himself. When food was brought in and everyone struggled to get his place in the queue so as to be sure of a share, Fr Maximilian stood aside, so that frequently there was none left for him. At other times he shared his meagre ration of soup or bread with others. He was once asked whether such self-abnegation made sense in a place where every man was engaged in a struggle for survival, and he answered: 'Every man has an aim in life. For most men it is to return home to their wives and families, or to their mothers. For my part, I give my life for the good of all men.'
Men gathered in secret to hear his words of love and encouragement, but it was his example which counted for most. Fr Zygmunt Rusczak remembers: 'Each time I saw Father Kolbe in the courtyard I felt within myself an extraordinary effusion of his goodness. Although he wore the same ragged clothes as the rest of us, with the same tin can hanging from his belt, one forgot this wretched exterior and was conscious only of the charm of his inspired countenance and of his radiant holiness.'
There remained only the last act in the drama. The events are recorded in the sworn testimonials of former inmates of the camp, collected as part of the beatification proceedings. They are as follows:
Tadeusz Joachimowski, clerk of Block 14A: 'In the summer of 1941, most probably on the last day of July, the camp siren announced that there had been an escape. At the evening roll-call of the same day we, i.e. Block 14A, were formed up in the street between the buildings of Blocks 14 and 17. After some delay we were joined by a group of the Landwirtschafts-Kommando. During the count it was found that three prisoners from this Kommando had escaped: one from our Block and the two others from other Blocks. Lagerfuhrer Fritzsch announced that on account of the escape of the three prisoners, ten prisoners would be picked in reprisal from the blocks in which the fugitives had lived and would be assigned to the Bunker (the underground starvation cell).' Jan Jakub Szegidewicz takes up the story from there: 'After the group of doomed men had already been selected, a prisoner stepped out from the ranks of one of the Blocks. I recognized Father Kolbe. Owing to my poor knowledge of German I did not understand what they talked about, nor do I remember whether Fr Kolbe spoke directly to Fritzsch. When making his request, Fr Kolbe stood at attention and pointed at a former non-commissioned officer known to me from the camp. It could be inferred from the expression on Fritzsch's face that he was surprised at Fr Kolbe's action. As the sign was given, Fr Kolbe joined the ranks of the doomed and the non-commissioned officer left the ranks of the doomed and resumed his place in his Block; which meant that Fritzsch had consented to the exchange. A little later the doomed men were marched off in the direction of Block 13, the death Block.'
The non-commissioned officer was Franciszek Gajowniczek. When the sentence of doom had been pronounced, Gajowniczek had cried out in despair, 'O my poor wife, my poor children. I shall never see them again.' It was then that the unexpected had happened, and that from among the ranks of those temporarily reprieved, prisoner 16670 had stepped forward and offered himself in the other man's place. Then the ten condemned men were led off to the dreaded Bunker, to the airless underground cells where men died slowly without food or water.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe offers his arm to his executioner
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Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
Bruno Borgowiec was an eye-witness of those last terrible days, for he was an assistant to the janitor and an interpreter in the underground Bunkers. He tells us what happened: 'In the cell of the poor wretches there were daily loud prayers, the rosary and singing, in which prisoners from neighbouring cells also joined. When no S. S. men were in the Block I went to the Bunker to talk to the men and comfort them. Fervent prayers and songs to the Holy Mother resounded in all the corridors of the Bunker. I had the impression I was in a church. Fr Kolbe was leading and the prisoners responded in unison. They were often so deep in prayer that they did not even hear that inspecting S. S. men had descended to the Bunker; and the voices fell silent only at the loud yelling of their visitors. When the cells were opened the poor wretches cried loudly and begged for a piece of bread and for water, which they did not receive, however. If any of the stronger ones approached the door he was immediately kicked in the stomach by the S. S. men, so that falling backwards on the cement floor he was instantly killed; or he was shot to death ... Fr Kolbe bore up bravely, he did not beg and did not complain but raised the spirits of the others.... Since they had grown very weak, prayers were now only whispered. At every inspection, when almost all the others were now lying on the floor, Fr Kolbe was seen kneeling or standing in the centre as he looked cheerfully in the face of the S. S. men. Two weeks passed in this way. Meanwhile one after another they died, until only Fr Kolbe was left. This the authorities felt was too long; the cell was needed for new victims. So one day they brought in the head of the sick-quarters, a German, a common criminal named Bock, who gave Fr Kolbe an injection of carbolic acid in the vein of his left arm. Fr Kolbe, with a prayer on his lips, himself gave his arm to the executioner. Unable to watch this I left under the pretext of work to be done. Immediately after the S. S. men with the executioner had left I returned to the cell, where I found Fr Kolbe leaning in a sitting position against the back wall with his eyes open and his head drooping sideways. His face was calm and radiant.'
The heroism of Father Kolbe went echoing through Auschwitz. In that desert of hatred he had sown love. Mr Jozef Stemler, former director of an important cultural institute in Poland, comments: 'In those conditions ... in the midst of a brutalization of thought and feeling and words such as had never before been known, man indeed became a ravening wolf in his relations with other men. And into this state of affairs came the heroic self-sacrifice of Fr Maximilian. The atmosphere grew lighter, as this thunderbolt provoked its profound and salutary shock.' Jerzy Bielecki declared that Fr Kolbe's 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.'
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
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Screenshot from 'Saint Maximilian Kolbe' DVD
His reputation spread far and wide, through the Nazi camps and beyond. After the war newspapers all over the world were deluged with articles about this 'saint for our times', 'saint of progress', 'giant of holiness'. Biographies were written, and everywhere there were claims of cures being brought about through his intercession. 'The life and death of this one man alone', wrote the Polish bishops, 'can be proof and witness of the fact that the love of God can overcome the greatest hatred, the greatest injustice, even death itself.' The demands for his beatification became insistent, and at last on 12 August 1947 proceedings started. Seventy-five witnesses were questioned. His cause was introduced on 16 March 1960. When all the usual objections had been overcome, the promoter spoke of 'the charm of this magnificent fool'. On 17 October 1971 Maximilian Kolbe was beatified. Like his master Jesus Christ he had loved his fellow-men to the point of sacrificing his life for them. 'Greater love hath no man than this ... and these were the opening words of the papal decree introducing the process of beatification.

Blessed Maximilian Kolbe, Priest hero of a death camp. By Mary Craig. Published by The Catholic Truth Society-London.

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