Today, June 7th, the universal Church celebrates Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, Catholic husband, father, and martyr for Our Lord Jesus Christ, for His Catholic Faith.
Franz was born in St. Radegund in Upper Austria in 1906. His father died in World War I. His mother, Rosalie Huber, married Heinrich Jägerstätter who thereafter adopted Franz. He was a rowdy young man, enjoying riding his motorcycle since he lead a gang. In 1934, he was arrested for “brawling.” He worked in a mine for three years and then returned to St. Radegund. Franz married Franziska, became a farmer and changed his life around, wherein he lived his Catholic Faith with passion and great love.
In 1938, Franz opposed in public Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria, known as the Anschluss. In 1939, he was drafted into the Austrian army and after seven months, received a deferment. In 1940, once again he was called to serve in the army, but at the behest of the mayor, he was able to return home. Between October 1940 and April 1941, he once again was called to active service; but, he was again deferred.
In February of 1943, he was ordered to report to serve in the Nazi army in Enns, Austria. However, Franz refused to take the oath of loyalty to Hitler. Accordingly, he was imprisoned in Linz. He volunteered to serve in the medical corps, but that request was denied.
While Franz suffered imprisonment, he wrote this tender message to Franziska: “Easter is coming and, if it should be God’s will that we can never again in this world celebrate Easter together in our intimate family circle, we can still look ahead in the happy confidence that, when the eternal Easter morning dawns, no one in our family circle shall be missing – so we can then be permitted to rejoice together forever.”
In May, he was sent to a prison in Berlin. There, he once again wrote Franziska: “Dear wife and mother: I thank you once more from my heart for everything that you have done for me in my lifetime, for all the sacrifices that you have borne for me. I beg you to forgive me if I have hurt or offended you, just as I have forgiven everything. My heartfelt greetings for my dear children. I will surely beg the dear God, if I am permitted to enter heaven soon, that he will set aside a little place in heaven for all of you.”
On August 9, 1943, Franz was beheaded and on August 10th, he was cremated. In 1946, his ashes were reburied in St. Radegund near a memorial inscribed with his name and the names of approximately 60 village men who died serving in the military.
On October 26, 2007, in Linz, he was beatified. His clear testament and witness is now in Rome’s St. Bartholomew Church, as part of a shrine to many 20th century martyrs who died for their Catholic Faith. During his beatification Mass, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins quoted Giorgio La Pira, 20th century mayor of Florence, as follows:
“The holiness of our century will have this characteristic. It will be a holiness of laypeople. We encounter on the streets those who within 50 years may be on the altars–along the streets, in factories, in parliament and in university classrooms.”
Dear Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, we admire your courage and conviction, your absolute love of Our Lord, His Catholic Faith and His people, laying down your life for the Truth, refusing to participate in Hitler’s demonic activities. We will always remember your example and try to live our Faith, in spite of severe opposition and persecution. Blessed Franz, please pray for us and assist us!
Respectfully and with Love,
Sources: Vatican website; Franciscan Media