80th anniversary of the Martyrdom of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Bishop Scheuer: Jägerstätter a role model through "discernment of spirits".

Bishop of Linz and former postulator in the beatification process on the 80th anniversary of the death of the conscientious objector: "Spiritual early warning system" made it possible to look "behind the masks of propaganda and behind the rhetoric of seduction" - Church also reaped criticism through beatification for alleged denigration of the war generation

Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector murdered by the Nazis 80 years ago on 9 August 1943 and beatified by the Church in 2007, "realised the power of resistance of faith against barbaric systems of contempt for humanity and godlessness". With these words, the Bishop of Linz and former postulator in the beatification process, Manfred Scheuer, paid tribute to the martyr in the current issue of the weekly newspaper "Die Furche" (3 August). Jägerstätter had distinguished himself with the gift of "discernment of spirits" - a sensorium that made it possible to see "behind the masks of propaganda and behind the rhetoric of seduction" and to recognise undesirable developments at the outset, Scheuer wrote.

With this "spiritual early warning system", which is also important today, Jägerstätter was able to "think through and feel through drives, motives, currents and tendencies in the individual, but also in the political sphere". The Bishop was impressed by this prophetic clairvoyance of the Blessed. "Franz Jägerstätter was and is a companion in the search for reconciliation and peace, for example in the Vietnam War for US-Americans, he is an admonisher for non-violence and disarmament in the times of nuclear armament of the 1980s of the 20th century. He was an advocate in the search for the legal anchoring of civil and peace service," Scheuer referred to the lasting significance of the Innviertel farmer and sacristan.

"Victor" over the war generation?

In 2007, however, there had not only been appreciation for the new Blessed, the Bishop recalled a letter in which the Church was accused of preaching hatred of the war generation with the beatification. "Is he better, and are the others worse? ... Is he now the victor - and are the others now stamped losers by the Church?": Such questions were heard again and again, Scheuer reported.

He countered this: The beatification was "not to be seen in the logic of hatred, of competition, of envy, of revaluation or devaluation". Jägerstätter himself had had to struggle for a long time over the correctness of his decision of conscience, which also massively affected his wife Franziska and his three daughters as surviving dependants. For Scheuer, Jägerstätter, who was sentenced to death for subversion of military strength, is an example of an "educated and mature conscience": Jägerstätter had exposed himself to discussion, advice and correction by others. "His decision certainly did not come out of the arrogance of someone who knows everything better anyway and does not need anyone else."

Don't tell the majority what to say

Jägerstätter, however, was also not someone who talked after the majority, the bishop pointed out. Thus he had become a "lonely witness" of conscience, "which did not allow itself to be suspended for him by the authority of the authorities". In 1943, in his Berlin prison, Jägerstätter wrote: "It is not for any earthly power to subjugate consciences. God's right breaks human right."

In the same "Furche" issue, the historian and Jägerstätter biographer Erna Putz emphasised the current exemplary nature of the Blessed: "When it comes to not running along but standing up for conviction, Jägerstätter's example is essential especially today." Giving oneself an accurate picture of reality is a highly topical demand, he said. "If you show the young what fake news is, then that is also in his sense," said Putz.

Commemorative events on the 80th anniversary of his death

To mark the 80th anniversary of Jägerstätter's death, the annual international commemoration will take place in his Upper Austrian home village of St. Radegund on 8 and 9 August. The programme begins on Tuesday at 6 pm with an evening prayer in the parish church. The following day, on the anniversary of Jägerstätter's death, Andreas Schmoller and Verena Lorber from the Franz-und-Franziska-Jägerstätter-Institut Linz (FFJI) will present the new digital Jägerstätter edition, which makes the complete edition of the couple's writings accessible online, at 9.30 am in the Tarsdorf parish hall. At 11 a.m., asylum expert Herbert Langthaler will provide topical references with explanations on the subject of "Reasons for persecution - conscientious objection". After a pilgrimage on foot from Tarsdorf to St. Radegund, where a prayer service will be held at 4 p.m., Bishop Scheuer will lead a Eucharistic celebration in the parish church at 7.30 p.m., which will lead into a candlelight procession to Jägerstätter's gravesite.


Cathcon: Many years ago, I met his wife in the Church of Saint Radegund.  She had taken over as sacristan on the day that he left the village for the last time.