|Lord Jesus Christ,
You filled your servant Franz
Jägerstätter with a deep love for you, his family
and all people. During a time of contempt for God
and humankind you bestowed on him unerring
discernment and integrity. . . .
We pray that you
may glorify your servant Franz, so that many people
may be encouraged by him and grow in love
for you and all people. . . .
For yours is the glory
and honor with the Father and the Holy Spirit now
and forever. Amen.
(Diocese of Linz, Austria)
Born: May 20, 1907
Died: August 9, 1943
Feast Day: May 21 (baptismal day)
Beatification: October 26, 2007, by Pope Benedict XVI
When Austrian Franz Jägerstätter
willingly went to the guillotine
in a Nazi prison, he did so with
faith that God would provide for
his wife, Franziska, and their
daughters, Maria, 2, Aloisia, 4,
and Rosalia, 6. While struggling
with his decision, he wrote, "I
have faith that God will still give
me a sign if some other course
would be better."
Jägerstätter was born May
20, 1907, to an unmarried peasant,
Rosalia Huber. His father,
Franz Bachmeier, was killed during
World War I. After the war,
Rosalia married Heinrich
Jägerstätter, who adopted Franz
and reared him in the farming
community of St. Radegund.
As a youth, Franz had a
reputation for being wild—he
owned the neighborhood's first
motorcycle and fathered an out-of-wedlock child—but otherwise
lived the life of an average,
rural young man.
In 1936 he married Franziska Schwaniger. She further deepened
his religiosity, as evidenced by the pilgrimage to Rome the
couple made for their honeymoon. Two years later, their world was
turned upside down by Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria.
In the summer of 1940, Franz was called up and received
military training; however, through the influence of his mayor, he
was declared "indispensable" and allowed to return to farm and
family. Regardless, the young man made it known that he would
not comply if conscripted, viewing the war with Bolshevik Russia
as unjustifiable. "If one were merely fighting Bolshevism," he wrote,
"these other things—minerals, oil wells, or good farmland—would not be a factor."
When called to the military on March 1, 1943, he told
authorities that, because of his religious views he refused to participate
in armed military service. As an act of Christian charity,
he was willing to serve as a medical
However, he was arrested,
tried, and "condemned to death
for sedition." At 4 pm August 9, he
was beheaded at the guillotine.
In his final letter to
Franziska, he speaks beyond
both those issues: "May God
accept my life as expiation, not
just for my sins but also for the
sins of others" and, "Just as those
who believe in National Socialism tell themselves that their struggle
is for survival, so must we, too, convince ourselves that our
struggle is for the Eternal Kingdom."
Beyond a farmer's love for the land, beyond a citizen's love
for country, beyond a husband's love for wife, a father's love for
his children, Franz's final thoughts testified to what Saint John
Vianney remarked, "Our home is—Heaven."
At the head of Franz Jägerstätter's grave and resting on the
wall of his parish church is an Austrian, roadside shrine crucifix
and the inscription: "Whoever wishes to save his life must lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
has taught theology in Catholic high schools and parishes. His MTh is from the University of Notre Dame.