Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Franz Jägerstätter

The life of Franz Jägerstätter was the ordinary life of an Austrian farmer in the village of St. Radegund. He was a devout Catholic, a daily communicant who prayed the rosary while doing farm chores. Sexton of his parish church, he was married and had three children. But, on August 9, 1943 Franz Jägerstätter’s life became other than ordinary, when he was legally killed by the German Military for refusing to kill for the German Military.

At the hour of his death few people knew him and no one who did know him supported him in his refusal to engage in homicide for the Führer. Legions of Christians of all ranks told him to do his duty and go to war like the other Christian men. His bishop, pastor and spiritual advisors endeavored to persuade him that his conscientious objection was a wrong and futile course, even possibly sinful and contrary to Church teaching. He was looked upon as the embarrassing, if not mentally unstable, polar opposite of the heroic Aryan warrior. However, with a courage that, even on an exclusively human plane, was noble, heart-rending and eminently inspiring, he gently stood firm and said, "No," to joining the German military. So it can be said with certitude, that when the blade of the guillotine fell at Brandenburg Prison near Berlin at 4 p.m. on August 9, 1943, Franz Jägerstätter was totally alone, almost totally unknown and destined to be totally forgotten.

However, as a manifestation of how the mystery and power of God’s plan for the redemption of all people through Jesus Christ inexorably advances in history, on this coming October 26th throughout the world millions of people will stop, think about and be touched by this man. They may disagree among themselves about historical details of his life but no one will doubt that the finger of God was operative here – and operative not just for the salvation of Franz Jägerstätter but also for the good of the Church and through the Church for the good of all people. For on October 26, 2007, the Catholic Church will formally Beatify Franz Jägerstätter as a martyr of the Christian faith. His Beatification will close forever for all Catholics, and hopefully for all Christians, any thought that they can obey the laws of a nation or the orders of an agent of a state if what is required to obey is doing that which is not in conformity with the Will of God as revealed by Jesus, the Word (Logos) of God "made flesh." The Beatification of this "destined to be forgotten" man will be the incarnational and liturgical underlining in blood-red of one of the most ignored tenets of Gospel morality and one of the most ignored text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (§2242):

The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directions of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, the fundamental rights of persons or the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s" (Mt 22:21). "We must obey God rather than man" (Ac 5:29).

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