Chris Stefanick posted a moving video this morning of himself standing in Auschwitz, telling the story of Fr. Maximillian Kolbe, whose feast day is today.
His memory stands in stark contrast to the violence we saw in Virginia over the weekend, perpetrated by two groups of extremists that have made hateful rhetoric and actions central to the means by which they carry out their missions.
You can watch the video here.
From the moment Virginia declared a state of emergency on Saturday, the steady stream of Facebook posts, tweets, and general commentary from everyone from politicians to personal friends has been almost overwhelming. It seems everyone has an opinion on who bears the greatest responsibility, and that’s entirely fair—when a life is lost the way one was on Saturday, a national conversation surrounding what could’ve prevented it seems to be the only appropriate response.
All of that being said, I’ve seen hardly any mention of God or faith in any of these opinions. Of course we should condemn racism. Of course we should condemn violence. But what is at the root, here? Why is it that we’re suddenly reacting so angrily—and violently—to differing viewpoints?
Most would tell you it’s Trump, but it’s not. I’ll never forget the last-minute road trip I made with two friends down to Louisiana for the 2014 senatorial runoff election—we listened to tail end reports of Ferguson unrest for much of the way down. This was long before the Trump phenomenon, yet we’ve placed the blame for this sudden civil discourse entirely on his shoulders.
Has he contributed? I’m not sure. But here’s what I can say with surety:
I’ll never be convinced that violent, hateful unrest like what we saw on Saturday is anything other than the product of a lack of God in our society. A lack of peace out in the world is a reflection of a lack of peace in the hearts of those involved. When we meet aggression with aggression and violence with violence, we exhibit a lack of faith in Christ and a separation from the suffering and persecution He endured during His time on earth. The peace required to face such aggression with humility, courage, and love for other human beings can only be acquired through a genuine encounter with the Lord in our hearts. If we do not have that peace within, we cannot exhibit it out in the world.
Maximillian Kolbe is such a moving, remarkable example of this peace. Stefanick explains in his video above that during his time in Auschwitz, St. Maximillian volunteered to take the place of a husband and father who’d been sent away to starve to death in a dark, locked room. This faithful, humble Catholic priest had such peace in his heart that he met the aggression of the Nazis with the ultimate sacrifice—the offering of his life. And Stefanick adds that the Nazi Commander trembled in his presence.
St. Maximillian lived in that room, starving, for twelve days. The Nazis finally ended his starvation with a lethal injection that took his life. And other camp members who knew him and what he’d done responded to his martyrdom by singing hymns throughout the camp.
This is a man who knew peace in his heart. This is a man who knew the love of Christ.
We cannot and will not deliver our country from this violence without this same sense of peace and this same faith in God’s love. On this feast day of Fr. Maximillian Kolbe, let us remember that.