Syracuse, N.Y., Oct 18, 2007 / 06:19 am
“Let us love our enemies, bless those who curse us, pray for those who persecute us. For love will conquer and will endure for all eternity.” — Franz Jagerstatter
Franz Jagerstatter was a rare soul and could be compared to the great contemplatives and saints. He was a simple Austrian farmer who stubbornly refused to serve in the armies of the German Third Reich and to support the Nazi party and was executed as a consequence. Jagerstatter became one of the outstanding figures of Christian resistance to National Socialism.
On June 1, Pope Benedict XVI authorized Jagerstatter’s beatification, which will take place Oct. 27 in Lintz, Austria. Jagerstatter was born in 1907 in St. Radegund, a community by the River Salzach in the western part of Upper Austria where everyone was a farmer. After Jagerstatter’s father was killed in World War I, his mother married Herr Jagerstatter, who adopted him. In 1936 Jagerstatter married Franziska Schwaninger and adopted the life of a peasant. A strong and ardent believer, Jagerstatter began serving as sexton of the parish church. He was known for his diligent and devout service.
Jagerstatter was also known for his opposition to the Nazi regime. The thought of fighting in Hitler’s war was unconscionable to him and he regarded it as a matter of personal guilt and serious sin. When Jagerstatter was called to active duty in the military, he sought counsel from at least three priests and his bishop. Each tried to assure him that military service was compatible with his Christianity. Jagerstatter knew that bishops and priests would be arrested if they said anything other than what the government permitted. Yet he asked, “If the church stays silent in the face of what is happening, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?”