Franz Jägerstätter: Martyr for the Faith

Franz Jägerstätter was born in 1907 in St. Radegund, in Upper in Austria. His parents were not married, and his father died during WWI. His mother met and married Heinrich Jägerstätter, who adopted Franz and gave him his last name. Franz received his education in a one room schoolhouse in his village and was an unruly young man, being the first in his town to have a motorcycle. At the age of 20, Franz left home to work in the iron ore industry, and the experience deepened his faith and belief in God. At 26, he fathered a child out of wedlock, and separated ways with the mother. In 1936, he married his wife, Franziska, and became a changed man. They prayed together, the Bible became his daily guide, and he became the sacristan at St. Radegund. He never believed that marriage could be so wonderful. He and Franziska had three daughters together.

In 1938, as much of Austria began to go the way of Nazism, Jägerstätter was the only citizen in his locality to vote against Nazi annexation of Austria. Twice, in 1940 and 1941, he was called to military duty for the Nazis, and served, but by the intervention of his mayor, was released both times. Over this period he became convinced that to serve under the Nazis was serious sin and could not be reconciled to faith in Christ. When he was called to service a third time in 1943, he appeared at the military offices and refused to enlist and offered to perform non-violent services instead. Denying his request, he was thrown into prison for sedition. On July 6, 1943, he was sentenced to death by the Nazis. The prison chaplain was reportedly surprised at his peace and tranquility amidst such a tragic sentence. When offered a New Testament, Jägerstätter replied, “I am completely bound in inner union with the Lord, and any reading would only interrupt my communication with my God.”

On August 9, before being executed, he wrote some of these last words:

If I must write… with my hands in chains, I find that much better than if my will were in chains. Neither prison nor chains nor sentence of death can rob a man of the Faith and his free will. God gives so much strength that it is possible to bear any suffering…. People worry about the obligations of conscience as they concern my wife and children. But I cannot believe that, just because one has a wife and children, a man is free to offend God.

Jägerstätter refused to bow his head to Hitler and the Nazis, and would only bow to Jesus Christ. And bow his head he did, and then the guillotine came down. Franz Jägerstätter died a martyr, refusing to compromise his faith to serve an unjust cause. He is an example for us all to follow our consciences and do what is right, even in the face of evil.

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, pray for us and pray for world peace through Jesus Christ. Amen.

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