Monday, July 28, 2014


s long as we continue to claim that our recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, ... were just and good projects of who we are as a people, we condemn ourselves to repeat tragic unnecessary violence. The war we left behind in Iraq rages on, as it will in Afghanistan.  Violence once again burns out of control in the Middle East. In Libya, where all our bombs and bullets intervention have left only lawless militias in charge, we've just had to evacuate all our embassy personnel and their Marine guards.  They went to Tunisia, the country that initiated Arab Spring's nonviolent movement for change that succeeded there.  After Tunisia all the weaponeers of the world rose up to nip that Spring in the bud, as it tried to reach neighboring countries.  We reap only bad harvests from this conviction, might makes right, guns are like gods.

There is another way.  The way that follows Jesus in his nonviolent love of friends and enemies, the solving of conflict by the belief that death is not the end, only love conquers evil.  We have many heroes of faith to remind us of this eternal life and love.  One is Blessed Franz Jagerstatter.  A Novena of prayer for his intercession to help end all wars begins at our Holy Trinity parish this Friday, August 1st, till August 9th, a day that also commemorates his execution by the Nazis because he wouldn't fight for them.

More of his story is included below.  Please join in the Novena [prayer at this site] for the conversion of the world to Jesus' way of courageous nonviolent peacemaking.

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter – The Family Man Who Wouldn't Fight in Hitler's Wars
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.  Pope Benedict XVI who is from the adjacent Bavarian region of Germany, neighbor to where Franz grew up in Austria, has met with Franz’ widow Franziska, helping to shepherd this beatification.
Franz 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."

The driving lessons were a welcome interruption of the army basic training. Winter 1940/1941 under extreme weather conditions.
Franz Jagerstatter in basis training--deployment he later refused.

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.

he 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.

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.

Edited from a previously published article in Ligourian magazine, by Michael McCarthy 


Illumination by Kathy Brahney

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