Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz is a dramatic one-man Catholic theater performance by Leonardo Defilippis. The play opens when the young Raymond Kolbe expresses his desire to be a priest. In spite of the trials he encounters as a seminarian, the Blessed Mother sustains him in his journey. In a vision, she offers him the choice between two crowns – one of purity or one of martyrdom. He boldly chooses both. This now sets the stage for the unfolding of the intense plot.
In this tour-de-force performance, Defilippis switches effortlessly from Maximilian Kolbe to Nazi, alternating dramatically between good and evil. The audience is drawn into the compelling events of this courageous life and into Kolbe’s message of trust. Maximilian is completed by a breath-taking musical score. Our updated version of the play also includes projected images and newsreels of Nazi Germany. This historical footage makes the story come alive in a visceral manner.
Now, perhaps more than ever, Maximilian has a special relevance for our time. The play offers an engaging reflection on the dangers we face in the current attack on religious freedom. This story is one of sacrificial love and of martyrdom for the Catholic Church. Defilippis says, “Saint Maximilian Kolbe has a powerful, yet cautionary, message for all of us – not to take the freedoms we cherish for granted, but rather to defend them with our lives.”
Maximilian premiered at the 1993 World Youth Day in Denver before an audience of 2500. In honor of the opening, Leonardo Defilippis received a special plaque of Saint Maximilian. It was signed by Francis Gajowniczek – the very man for whom Fr. Maximilian offered his life in Auschwitz! Defilippis also performed at World Youth Day 2000. There, several thousand young people witnessed the production at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels and Martyrs in Rome.
Countless people of many faiths and walks of life have seen this production. Audience members have included survivors of Auschwitz, former Nazi soldiers, and several who were in the very same lineup with Fr. Kolbe that fateful day. Brother Jerome, the personal secretary to Saint Maximilian, saw the play at age 83. Several seminarians who worked directly with Fr. Kolbe have also witnessed this live drama.
Over the years, Leonardo Defilippis has had the privilege of performing in many different venues. He was especially honored to perform for Mother Angelica and her Poor Clare Sisters in a private performance. Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta gave her personal blessing upon this show and wanted her sisters to experience it.