06 December 2007

Franz Jaegerstaetter, Martyr.

George Weigel on the newly beatified Franz Jaegerstaetter:

Franz Jaegerstaetter's own trial came soon enough. Called to military service in 1943, he refused induction, not on pacifist grounds (he wasn't a pacifist), but on the basis of what we would now call selective conscientious objection. Hitler's war was an unjust war being waged by a fatally wicked regime; therefore, conscience would not permit serving as a soldier in the Wehrmacht.

Jaegerstatter's pastor and bishop tried to talk him out of his objections; his responsibilities to his wife and family weighed heavily on him; his offer to serve as a military paramedic was refused by the Nazi regime.

In a prison cell in Berlin, Jaegerstaetter suffered intensely at the thought that he might be acting irresponsibly toward his family. But as he wrote his wife on the day of his execution:

"It was not possible for me to spare you the pain that you must now suffer on my account. How hard it must have been for our dear Savior when, through his sufferings and death, He had to prepare such a great sorrow for His Mother -- and they bore all this out of love for us sinners. I thank our dear Jesus, too, that I am privileged to suffer and even die for Him...May God accept my life in atonement not only for my sins but for the sins of others as well."

Franz Jaegerstaetter was executed by guillotine on August 9, 1943 -- one year to the day after Edith Stein, now St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz/Birkenau. The brilliant Carmelite philosopher and the simple Austrian peasant shared an unshakeable faith that, as Blessed Franz put it, "Neither prison nor chains nor sentence of death can separate [us] from the love of God...[for] the power of God cannot be overcome."

Given the life-and-death choice between what Dietrich Bonhoeffer (the Lutheran martyr executed by the Nazis in 1945) called "cheap grace" and "costly grace," Edith Stein and Franz Jaegerstaetter embraced the costly grace of the cross -- and now share the glory of the Resurrection.

What an insight from Blessed Franz into the suffering of our Lord - the knowledge that his own suffering brought about suffering for his Mother, making her Mater dolorossa.
Here's the whole thing.


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