Beatification of Franz Jägerstätter
Franz Jägerstätter was an Austrian farmer, husband and father of three whose courageous faith led him to refuse military service in the Nazi army. As I noted in an August post on the anniversary of his execution by the Nazis in 1943, Jägerstätter resisted not only the coercion of the Nazis, but the bland reassurances of an Austrian bishop and priests that service in the führer’s army was not a violation of the tenets of Christianity. Yesterday, 5000 people, including his 94-year-old widow Franziska and his daughters, joined 27 cardinals and bishops to celebrate the beatification of Franz Jägerstätter in the cathedral of Linz, Austria.
In his beatification sermon, Cardinal Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said that Blessed Jagerstatter’s decision represents “a challenge and an encouragement” for all Christians who want to “live their faith with coherence and radical commitment, even accepting extreme consequences if necessary.” His courageous faith is an important example in modern times, when people face “conditioning and manipulation of consciences and minds, sometimes through deceitful means.”
John Dear described the importance of Jägerstätter’s beatification in beautiful column for the National Catholic Reporter in February, shortly after it had been announced:
To my mind, this is an astonishing turn of events. In his time, church officials had heaped ridicule upon Franz’s insistence that Jesus forbids us to kill. Now this turnabout, a kind of judgment against the “devout” German and Austrian Catholics who cheered the war and fought for Hitler. But more than that, the turnabout is a sign. It’s a sign that points to the nature of sanctity, a sign of the future of sanctity.
In a world of total war, a world on the brink of destruction, only one kind of sanctity bears fruit — the one that Jesus embodied and Franz embraced. Daring nonviolence that refuses to kill no matter the pretext. Willingness to die without a trace of retaliation. Divine, universal love for everyone, even the enemy. And public, prophetic, outspoken defiance of patriotic militarism and state violence.
In an insane world, Franz points the way: refuse to fight, refuse to kill, refuse to be complicit in warmaking, refuse to compromise — and pit your very self against structures of violence with all the nonviolence in your soul.”