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God Before Everything - Weekday Homily Video

God Before Everything - Weekday Homily Video

Strengthening family unity  |  Return to the Church

“Lord, we have sinned, done evil, rebelled, and departed from your laws. We have not obeyed your servants, the prophets.” - Daniel 9:5

Behold Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, a rebellious, sinful young man, whose wife, by God’s grace, helped him to repent and become a model husband, father, and heroic disciple of Christ, putting God first even before family, friends and country.

Franz Jägerstätter was born in Austria in 1907. He was an out-of-wedlock son of a maidservant and was raised by his grandmother, a deeply pious woman.

Young Franz had a reputation for being a bit wild, bolstered by the fact that he fathered a daughter out of wedlock in 1933. The leader of a local motorcycle gang, he was arrested with other members in 1934 for a street brawl.

Turning Point

But on Holy Thursday in 1936, he married Franziska, a devout Catholic woman. This marriage proved to be the turning point in his life.

The two began praying together and he began studying the Bible and taking a particular interest in the lives of the saints. He later wrote that the Bible became the couple’s guide for everyday life: “We helped one another go forward in faith.” Franz began serving as the sexton in the parish church and attending daily Mass while working as a full-time farmer.

He openly rejected the Nazi annexation of Austria in March 1938.

He also declared that he would not stand for Hitler’s suppression of the Church and the Nazi euthanasia program to eliminate some 300,000 mentally or physically disabled people, including children.

A Firm Stand

Called up for military service in the Wehrmacht on February 23, 1943, he refused to take an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler. He was immediately arrested and transported to a holding cell in Linz, where he remained until May 4, 1943, at which time he was transferred to Berlin to await trial.

A priest from his village visited him while he was in jail and tried to talk him into taking the oath and serving in the military. Franz refused to submit. When word reached him that Austrian priest, Franz Reinisch, had been executed for refusing to take Hitler’s loyalty oath, he was more determined than ever to hold firm.

Jägerstätter was subsequently court-martialed and sentenced to death on July 6, 1943.

According to a court document from his hearing, Jägerstätter informed military officials “that, due to his religious views, he would be acting against his conscience were he to fight for the Nazi State … that he could not be both a Nazi and a Catholic.”

He added “that there were some things in which o­ne must obey God more than men.”

After his trial, Jägerstätter was executed by guillotine in the afternoon of August 9, 1943. After the war, his ashes were buried at the local cemetery in St. Radegund.

A Model of the Faith

In 1997, the Austrian Bishops voted unanimously to support his cause for beatification. The Vatican officially confirmed Jägerstätter’s martyrdom on June 1, 2007, and his wife and three daughters gathered at Linz Cathedral on October 26, 2007, to observe his official beatification by Pope Benedict XVI.

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, pray for us.

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About Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C.

Father Wilfred J. Raymond, C.S.C. (Father Willy), a native of Old Town, Maine, is the eighth of 12 children. He joined the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1964 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1971. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Stonehill College in 1967 and a master’s in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 1971. He served in ministry at Stonehill College (1979-1992), Holy Cross leadership (1994-2000), National Director of Family Theater Productions, Hollywood (2000-2014), and President of Holy Cross Family Ministries (2014-2022). In addition to English, he is conversant in French and Spanish. He remains a diehard fan of the Boston Red Sox, even though he has served as Chaplain for the Los Angeles Dodgers.