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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Early note for 9 August - remembering Franz Jägerstätter

With travel for work taking me away over the next few days I wanted to get up a posting on Franz Jägerstätter who I remember every year on 9 august, the date of his execution by the German authorities for his unwillingness to take up arms on behalf of the Nazi regime.

The true Christian is to be recognized more in his works and deeds than in his speech. The surest mark of all is found in deeds showing love of neighbour. … Let us love our enemies, bless those who curse us, pray for those who persecute us. For love will conquer and will endure for all eternity. And happy are they who live and die in God’s love.
From a reflection by Franz Jagerstatter quoted in Gordon Zahn In Solitary Witness: : The Life and Death of Franz Jägerstätter (Revised edition, Templegate Publishers, 1986)

Franz Jägerstätter teaches us the way of Jesus. Give your life for others, even for your enemies. Surely this is a powerful witness, and one that challenges every one of us here tonight to give up war, to give up hatred, to give up killing, to follow the way of Jesus
. (Bishop Gumbleton - Homily on the beatification of Jägerstätter 23 September, 2007)

"The crucial lesson to be learned," Gordon Zahn declared, "is that, however hopeless the situation or seemingly futile the effort, the Christian need not despair. Instead he can and should be prepared to accept and assert moral responsibility for his actions. It is always possible, as Jägerstätter wrote, to save one's own soul and perhaps some others as well by bearing individual witness against evil." (John Dear SJ "On the Road to Peace" 30 October 2007)

I have found myself increasingly movedin recent years by power of the witness of Franz Jägerstätter as much as I have by that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

It is worth remembering that they did not seek death and they both affirmed the goodness of God’s world and hoped despite their imprisonment that they might be able to live to enjoy it. Bonhoeffer’s final poem from prison, dating from December 1944 and smuggled out from the Gestapo Prison at Prinz Albrecht Strasse speaks again in a voice that echoes the sentiments of many of Jägerstätter’s letters from that same prison to his family.

By kindly powers surrounded, peaceful and true,
wonderfully protected with consolation dear,
safely, I dwell with you this whole day through,
and surely into another year.

Though from the old our hearts are still in pain,
while evil days oppress with burdens still,
Lord give to our frightened souls again,
salvation and they promises fulfil.

And shouldst thou offer us the bitter cup, resembling
sorrow, filled to the brim and overflowing,
we will receive it thankfully, without trembling,
from thy hand, so good and ever-loving.

But if it be thy will again to give
joy of this world and bright sunshine,
then in our minds we will past times relive
and all our days be wholly thine.

Let candles burn, both warm and bright
which to our darkness thou hast brought,
and, if that can be, bring us together in the light,
thy light shines in the night unsought.

When we are wrapped in silence most profound,
may we hear that song most fully raised
from all the unseen world that lies around
and thou art by all they children praised.

By kindly powers protected wonderfully,
confident we wait for come what may.
Night and morning God is by us faithfully
and surely at each new born day.

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