Friday, July 29, 2011


"Dear father come home," Easter message from his daughters when he was in jail before trial

Franz Jagerstatter, an Austrian Catholic who was executed on August 9, 1943 by the German Reich because he would not fight in Hitler’s unjust wars, has been recently recognized as on the path to sainthood.  Franz was beatified on October 26, 2007 in Linz, Austria.  He was a loving husband and father of four small children, a peasant farmer, and a sacristan at the local church.  He knew the wars of Hitler were unjust, and that faith in the Fatherland was taking the place of faith in God.  He couldn’t understand why more German Christians didn’t see this danger.
 ranz was born in the small farming village of St. Radegund near Linz, Austria on May 20, 1907.  Due to the poverty of his parents {servants too poor for marriage}, he was raised during early childhood, in the home of his grandmother who had 13 children of her own.  He was as hungry for learning as for food, both which were limited in those days.  His natural father died in World War I.  When his mother did marry in 1917, he found more opportunity for learning, with a good library in the farmhouse.  From early on a lover of books, Franz later advised his godson, "People who don't read will never be able to stand on their own feet and will all too easily become a football for the opinions of others."
As a young man he is remembered as fun-loving and popular, went to dances and the pubs, owned the first motorcycle in town, sometimes a “Raufer” [brawler], and also took part in the yearly Passion Play.  In his Catholic region this play was thought equal to Oberammergau’s.  He’d had a child out of wedlock, the mother’s family wouldn’t allow marriage, but he remained a supportive loving father, very unusual for those times.  Franz went then to mass regularly and attended social events at church, where he met his wife Franziska. She was a great joy and inspiration for him. They had three small daughters to whom he was dearly devoted, and they together operated the family farm.

The Jagerstatters continued attending daily mass and were well respected in the village. Yet some thought they were carrying things too far in their criticism of the Third Reich.  The family rejected the state’s social aid payments, and then Franz refused to report for army duty, when called up, after basic training, a second time.  For this he was jailed in March 1943 and sentenced to death that summer.  He could see clearly that Hitler’s wars were unjust, and knew that he was one of those given the grace to resist this evil.
By Erna Putz

Franz had been in prayer constantly the six months he’d been in jail, praying the scriptures and the rosary.  On the day of his execution, a priest at the prison, Fr. Jochmann, offered spiritual readings. With an unforgettable joy in his eyes, Franz replied, “I am completely bound in inner union with the Lord, and any reading would only interrupt my communication with my God.”  The priest later stated, “I say with certainty that this simple man is the only saint that I have ever met in my lifetime.”

On August 9, 1943 he was beheaded in Berlin.  His consolation was his trust in God, and the promise that his family would be reunited in heaven.  Now in our time of terrible war without end, Franz is a shining example of faith in the Gospel life, conquering death by refusing to kill.

His widow, Franziska, attended his beatification in 2007, and met with Pope Benedict XVI in a general audience the following year. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna commended Jagerstatter to the Holy Father, noting that he came to question how one could be “a soldier for Christ” and a soldier in Hitler's army at the same time.

 Icon available from Catholic Peace Fellowship website

In slightly edited form, my article above appears in the online national Knights of Columbus webpage, “Fathers for the Good.” 

Spanish translation of prayer published last week. {article above also available in Spanish--email me for copy}

ORACIÓN por INTERCESIÓN del BEATO FRANZ JAGERSTATTER--Para el fin de nuestras guerras en Irak y Afganistán.

Señor Jesucristo,
Rellenó a tu siervo Franz Jägerstätter
con un profundo amor por usted, su familia y
todas las personas.
Durante un tiempo de desprecio por Dios y
humanidad que le concedió
discernimiento inequívoco e integridad.
De fe, siguió a su conciencia, y
dijo que una NO decisivo para el régimen Nazi
y guerra injusta.
Por lo tanto sacrificó su vida.
Oramos para que usted pueda glorificar su
siervo Franz, así que muchas personas pueden
alentar a por él y crecer en el amor
para usted y todas las personas.
Su ejemplo puede brillar fuera en nuestro tiempo,
y usted podrá otorgar todas las personas la
fuerza para defender la justicia, paz
y la dignidad humana.
Por la tuya es la gloria y honor con
el padre y el Espíritu Santo ahora y
para siempre. Amen.

(Oración de la Diócesis de Linz, Austria)

Anual Novena de oración, 1-9 de agosto, comenzado en la parroquia de la Santísima Trinidad, Port Huron, MI, USA en 2008. Oración anterior es oró en cada parroquia recopilación y liturgia durante nueve días.

 Illumination by Kathy Brahney

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