“…Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.”

By Jean Gaes

Jean is a Secular Franciscan with St.Conrad’s Fraternity in Maryland and gives us the story of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter who is the patron saint of conscientious objectors due to his refusal to serve in the Nazi army.

The grave of Thomas Moore beneath the Church of St. Peter in Chains by the Tower of London is not on the tour. Ask the guard to see it. Light streams down into the small room where Moore is buried. Oblivious to flower pots and spades in a corner grey-robed friars pray unknown to the tourists above. Moore inspired generations of believers and nonbelievers to obey conscience and oppose tyranny. Yet Henry VIII was not the last of the tyrants, nor Moore the last of the martyrs. Christians continue to die daily for their faith and pursuit of justice.

Drawing of Franz Jagerstatter by Lorelei Matics

Drawing of Franz Jagerstatter by Lorelei Matics

Remember Bl. Franz Jagerstatter OFS?  St. Thomas Moore and Bl. Franz, professed as secular Franciscans, lived lives of prayer and penance in the world; they were devoted husbands and fathers.  Each wrote prolific, articulate commentary on the issues of his day.  Neither engaged in violent acts or conspired against the government. Yet both were condemned to death and beheaded.  Why? They lived by the truth and refused to assent to a lie. Thomas, an aristocrat, attended the best schools, considered religious life, practiced law, and was made Lord Chancellor of England. Franz was born to parents too poor to marry.  His father was killed in World War I. His mother married a farmer who adopted Franz. Educated in the village school Franz, an “unruly” teenager, drove a motorcycle, left the village and worked in the mines.

Returning a serious man, Franz married a devout woman, farmed, and had three daughters. He voted against the German annexation of Austria, refused money Nazis sent to farmers.  Sexton of the parish church, he refused customary stipends for funerals. Neighbors respected his kindness but thought he took religion too seriously. Daily he fasted until noon, received communion; called up twice for military training he was brought home by the intervention of the mayor.  His parish priest went into exile opposing the Nazis. Franz agonized over what his conscience told him -that to swear obedience to the Furher was a mortal sin. The penalty for refusing to serve in the Nazi army was death. He sought council and was told he was not responsible for the acts of the party- defiance would do nothing to stop the Nazi war machine but would certainly leave his family fatherless. Yet Franz stood firm.  He was 36 years old when he was executed.

A part of me says, “My favorite martyrs  are safely tucked away on a glossy page between the covers of a dusty book.  I don’t want to know any martyrs;  I especially don’t want to be one.” That’s a problem-likely the same problem that Franz ‘s fellow countrymen had.  Even some clergy felt resistance was imprudent; others judged the Bolsheviks were worse.  Today we have a courageous pope and  bishops who support immigrants, the poor, and a consistent ethic of life. We need to support them. As Franciscan seculars our rule tells us: “Called like St. Francis to rebuild the Church… let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering a trusting dialogue of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.”

Our government asks us to sin against the dignity of human life, a dignity each has from very beginning to natural end. The HHS mandate requires insurance coverage of abortifacient drugs and devices, denying these cause abortion by redefining pregnancy as beginning at implantation  (more than a week after a unique new life begins to grow.) Society says we are waging “a war against women” if we tell the truth. Worse yet companies that refuse to fund such coverage are subject to ruinous fines. Individuals who want to purchase coverage that does not include these cannot. In the midst of ridicule our Bishops have been standing up for the rights of conscience. Let us pray and support them. Let us obey our consciences and stand for life in what  St. John Paul II called “…a war of the powerful against the weak.”  St. Thomas Moore and Bl. Franz lived their lives in obedience to the truth. May their prayers and example help us to do the same

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Published in: on June 30, 2014 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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