Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Cost of Discipleship: Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Franz Jägerstätter

In this era during which much ink has been and continues to be spilled for the purpose of implicating the Church, writ large, in the atrocities of the National Socialist regime, which, under Adolf Hitler, ruled Germany and Austria from the early 1930s to its demise in 1945, Rocco over at Whispers relays the story of Franz Jägerstätter, a Christian martyr who, rather than serve in the army of the Third Reich, suffered arrest, imprisonment, and death, saying: "I believe it is better to sacrifice one’s life right away than to place oneself in the grave danger of committing sin and then dying." Now, don't misconstrue these words. While fear of hell, which is eternity without God, was certainly Jägerstätter's concern, it was so out of love, not some misplaced selfish ambition. After all, would you do something, commit some act against the person you love most, your wife, your husband, a child, a parent, a dear friend, that would result in you never seeing or being with your beloved ever again? So, it was for love of God and of his fellow human beings that Jägerstätter refused to serve a cause that was repugnantly evil, which resulted in his beheading on 9 August 1943. In the words of Robert Royal, Franz Jägerstätter "accepted execution, even though he knew it would make no earthly difference to the Nazi death machine."

Yesterday morning Franz Jägerstätter was declared among the blessed, the step before canonization, by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who himself was rounded up and forced to serve this evil cause at the tender age of fourteen. Being declared among the blessed means that one can be venerated by the faithful. His cause for canonization, like that of Archbishop Oscar Romero, is proceeding as that of a martyr, which requires no acknowledged miracle for sainthood. Therefore, let us not hesitate to invoke the intercession of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter and pray that he may soon be raised to the altar as a martyr, which is a witness, for giving his life in imitation of the Lord, Jesus Christ. In this way, while not being able to stop the Nazi death machine, mysteriously participating in the redemption of God's beloved and good, yet broken creation, which redemptive activity continues until the end of time through Christ's Body, the Church. God's redemption of the world, through his Son, continues through men like Bl. Franz Jägerstätter and Archbishop Oscar Romero as well as through women like St. Gianna Molla and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, known more popularly as Edith Stein, who, like Franz Jägerstätter, was murdered by the Nazis, not for being a Christian, which she was, but for being Jewish, which she also was, thus making her a daughter of Israel by birth. In these bright shining stars, who reflect, like their Lord himself, the glory of the Father in the darkness of this world, we see that holiness is for women and men, for laypeople, for religious, as well as for clergy. For such holiness and virtue, let us invoke the communion of the holy ones, of those who, having survived the time of great distress, not with their lives, but with their faith intact, are even now are numbered among the white-robed multitude:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us
St. Gianna Molla, pray for us
Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, pray for us.
Oscar Romero, pray for us
All holy women and men, pray for us

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the info and eloquent words on Blessed Franz. I will invoke his intercession at the first opportunity. As a German he must be close to Holy Father's heart.

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