Blessed Franz Jagerstatter

Franz Jagerstatter was born in 1907 in Austria. His father died in WWI when he was only a child, and his mother remarried. He grew up in a loving family, received a simple education and worked as a farmer most of his life. He was a bit of a dare devil as a young person and was known as the first person is his small town to own a motorcycle. He was also known to be a faithful Catholic who attended Mass regularly. He married Fransisca in 1936, and they decided to go to Rome for their honeymoon, which made a deep impact on their faith. They lived on a farm in their small town, where he was a loving father to his three daughters and a faithful husband who worked hard to provide for his family. They would receive the Eucharist daily at Mass and helped out at the parish in many ways. In the late 1930s, while much of Austria was beginning to follow the tide of Nazism, Franz became ever more rooted in his Catholic faith and placed his complete trust in God. He began questioning the direction the leaders of his country were taking and felt strongly about obedience to God and what is morally correct over anything else. Franz was not part of any resistance movement, but in 1938 he was the only local citizen to vote against joining the Nazi cause. He was called to military service in 1940, but was allowed to stay home because he was a farmer. He became convinced that participation in the war to fight for the Austrian side was a serious sin and decided that if he was called again, he would refuse.

In 1943 Franz was called up again for military service. He presented himself at the induction center and announced his refusal to fight. He was held in custody for two months and then transferred to Berlin, where he stood trial and was sentenced to death. The prison chaplain was struck by Franz’s peace of mind. From prison he wrote to his wife and children saying, “God gives so much strength that it is possible to bear any suffering.. I will surely beg the dear God, if I am permitted to enter heaven soon, that he may also set aside a little place in heaven for all of you.” He was executed on August 9, 1943 for not agreeing to fight in Hitler’s army. He was only 36 years old. In 1971, a movie was produced about his life. In 2007, Pope Benedict declared Franz a martyr and he was beatified by the Catholic Church.