The Source of Comfort
Moments with Saint Pope John XXIII (1881-1963)
Motives for melancholy are never in short supply – and when were they ever lacking in the history of the world? – because of the inexorable alternation in human life of sadness and joy.
Sometimes, these mix and merge together and when that happens, we would try in vain to separate them.
A wise man, a wise Christian, must do all he can to free himself from sad thoughts and, at all times, have recourse to those sources of comfort, which transform suffering into motives of love, of merit, of present and eternal joy.
The Mother of Jesus, who is our Mother too – oh how I love to associate these two titles! – is one of the richest sources of our consolation, the richest after Jesus, who is, of His very nature, Light and Life! – she, is rich in comfort and joy and encouragement, for all the children of Eve, who have become her own children through the redemptive sacrifice and will of Christ.
This explains, the whole world’s devotion to the Virgin, whom her saintly cousin, Elizabeth, truly hailed as “Blessed,” in reply to Mary’s confession of humility in the Magnificat, which remains the everlasting canticle of mankind redeemed, the song of the past, present ad future.
Thought for the Day – 21 May – “Mary’s Month” – Meditations with Antonio Cardinal Bacci (1881-1971)
“Have you ever experienced the sheer delight of climbing the mountains on a summer’s day and coming across one of those little alpine lakes, a tiny mirror, reflecting the still blueness of the sky? Or have you ever watched an infant smiling in it’s angelic slumber and been held spellbound by this vision of innocence? Finally, on some calm, clear night, surely you have studied the star-spangled sky and have been so overwhelmed by the beauty of the scene, that you could have cried out with the Psalmist: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament proclaims His handiwork” (Ps 18:1). These, are only faint images of the beauty and virginal purity of Mary. Her soul was the purest and most beautiful of the entire human and angelic creation, because, nobody else was ever raised to the dignity of the Motherhood of God. She was conceived free from all taint of original sin and enriched with every grace. In her chaste womb, she conceived the Infant Jesus. Later, she held Him close to her heart; she lived for Him and eventually died for love of Him.
Purity is a virtue which is attractive to everybody, even to those who are evil themselves, or to those, who have lost their own chastity. We love and desire this virtue but, are we prepared to make any sacrifice in order to preserve it, in the manner demanded by our particular state in life? “The kingdom of heaven has been enduring violent assault,” Jesus said “and the violent have been seizing it by force” (Mt 11:12). This is especially true in regard to the acquisition of the virtue of purity. It is not enough to desire it, we must be willing to make sacrifices in order to acquire it.”
Quote/s of the Day – 21 May – Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter and the Memorial of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter OFS (1907-1943) Layman Martyr “The Man Who Would Not Bow His Head to Hitler.”
“If the Church stays silent in the face of what is happening, what difference would it make, if no church were ever opened again?”
His sacrifice was uniformly regarded as foolish by his neighbours and his story almost forgotten but for a book written by an American, Gordon Zahn, who heard of Jagerstatter when researching the subject of German Catholics’ response to Hitler. This book, In Solitary Witness, influenced Daniel Ellsberg’s decision to stand against the Vietnam War by bringing the Pentagon Papers to public attention. The following quote, taken from one of Jagerstatter’s last letters while in prison.
“Just as the man who thinks only of this world, does everything possible to make life here easier and better, so must we, too, who believe in the eternal Kingdom, risk everything in order to receive a great reward there. Just as those who believe in National Socialism tell themselves that their struggle is for survival, so must we, too, convince ourselves that our struggle is for the eternal Kingdom. But with this difference – we need no rifles or pistols for our battle but instead, spiritual weapons – and the foremost among these is prayer…. Through prayer, we continually implore new grace from God, since without God’s help and grace it would be impossible for us to preserve the Faith and be true to His commandments….”
“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.”
“I can say from my own experience how painful life often is, when one lives as a halfway Christian- it is more like vegetating than living.”
“We are not dealing with a small matter but the great (apocalyptic) life and death struggle has already begun. Yet in the midst of it, there are many, who still go on living their lives as though nothing had changed … “
“I am convinced that it is still best that I speak the truth, even though it costs me my life. For you will not find it written in any of the commandments of God or of the Church, that a man is obliged under pain of sin, to take an oath committing him to obey whatever might be commanded him by his secular ruler. “
“Since the death of Christ, almost every century has seen the persecution of Christians, there have always been heroes and martyrs who gave their lives – often in horrible ways – for Christ and their faith. If we hope to reach our goal some day, then we, too, must become heroes of the faith.”
“I cannot believe that, just because one has a wife and children, a man is free to offend God.”
“I believe it is better to sacrifice one’s life right away, than to place oneself in the grave danger of committing sin and then dying.”
Blessed Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943)
“Called-up to a Higher Order”
Martyr of Conscientious Objection
One Minute Reflection – 21 May – “Mary’s Month” – Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, Readings: Acts 18: 1-8, Psalms 98: 1, 2-3, 3-4, John 16: 16-20 and the Memorial of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter OFS (1907-1943) Layman Martyr “The Man Who Would Not Bow His Head to Hitler.”
“A little while and you will see me no longer” … John 16:16
REFLECTION – “The Ascension of Christ into heaven is in accord with reason – firstly, because heaven was due to Christ by His very nature. It is natural for someone to return to the place from whence they take their origin. The beginning of Christ is from God, who is above all things. Jesus says to the Apostles (Jn 16:28): “I came from the Father and have come into the world and now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” … The just ascend into heaven but not in the manner that Christ ascended, namely by His own power, for they are taken up by Christ – “Draw me, we will run after thee.” (Sg 1:3) Or indeed, we can say that no-one but Christ has ascended into heaven, because the just do not ascend, except, insofar as they are members of Christ who is the head of the Church. … Secondly, heaven is due to Christ because of His victory. For He was sent into the world to combat the devil and he did overcome Him. Therefore, Christ deserved to be exalted above all things – “I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne” (Rv 3:21)
Finally, the Ascension was owing to Christ because of His humility. There never was humility so great as that of Christ who, although He was God yet wished to become man and although He was the Lord, yet He wished to take the form of a servant and, as Saint Paul says: “He was obedient even unto death” (Phil 2:7) and descended even into hell. Therefore, He deserved to be exalted even to heaven, to God’s throne, for humility leads to exaltation. “For whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11) and, “the one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens” (Eph 4:10).” … St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Doctor Angelicus/Doctor Communis – Commentary on the Apostle’s Creed
PRAYER – Lord God, You bestowed the Holy Spirit on Your Apostles while they were at prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Fill us too with the gift of Your grace in the Holy Spirit, that we may live our lives both in prayer and action and grant, that by Mary’s prayer, and the prayer of Your loving Martyr, Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, we may give You faithful service and spread abroad the glory of Your name, by word and example and thus ascend to You, to live forever in Your Light. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord, Your divine Son, in union with the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, amen.
Our Morning Offering – 21 May – “Mary’s Month” – Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
We shouldn’t really be praying this prayer right now in this Eastertide of Alleluias but, after so many weeks of this virus tyranny, my heart is sad, we were not able to celebrate Easter, we are beleaguered in every way and our hearts ache with longing for the Sacraments. Then today’s Saint, Blessed Franz Jägerstätter’s devotion to the Cross of Christ, his own courage and passion, seems so very appropriate for these times too. May he inspire us and pray for us. And may our Merciful Lady accept us too, the servants in place of the Master. Let us Pray!
What Can I Say, Merciful Lady? St Anselm (1033-1109) Marian Doctor / Magnificent Doctor
My most merciful Lady,
what can I say about the fountains
that flowed from your most pure eyes
when you saw your only Son before you,
bound, beaten and hurt?
What do I know of the flood
that drenched your matchless face,
when you beheld your Son, your Lord
and your God,
stretched on the cross without guilt,
when the flesh of your flesh
was cruelly butchered by wicked me?
How can I judge what sobs
troubled your most pure breast
when you heard,
“Woman, behold your son,”
and the disciple,
“Behold, your Mother,”
when you received as a son
the disciple in place of the Master,
the servant for the Lord?
Saint of the Day – 21 May – Blessed Franz Jägerstätter OFS (1907-1943) Married Layman Martyr, Father of 3 daughters, Conscientious Objector, Farmer, Third Order Franciscan – born as Franz Huber on 20 May 1907 in Sankt Radegund, Oberösterreich, Austria and died by being beheaded on 9 August 1943 in Brandenburg an der Havel, Brandenburg, Germany. Patronage – Conscientious Objectors.
Franz Jägerstätter was born on 20 May 1907 in St Radegund, Upper Austria, to his unmarried mother, Rosalia Huber and to Franz Bachmeier, who was killed during World War I. After the death of his natural father, Rosalia married Heinrich Jägerstätter, who adopted Franz and gave the boy his surname of Jägerstätter in 1917.
Franz received a basic education in his village’s one-room schoolhouse. His step-grandfather helped with his education and the boy became an avid reader.
It seems Franz was unruly in his younger years; he was, in fact, the first in his village to own a motorcycle. However, he is better known as an ordinary and humble Catholic who did not draw attention to himself.
After his marriage to Franziska in 1936 and their honeymoon in Rome, Franz grew in his faith but was not extreme in his piety.
Besides his farm work, Franz became the local sexton in 1936 and began receiving the Eucharist daily. He was known to refuse the customary offering for his services at funerals, preferring the spiritual and corporal works of mercy over any remuneration.
In the mid to late 1930s, while much of Austria was beginning to follow the tide of Nazism, Franz became ever more rooted in his Catholic faith and placed his complete trust in God.
While carrying out his duties as husband and bread-winner for his wife and three daughters, as a farmer, this ordinary man began thinking deeply about obedience to legitimate authority and obedience to God, about mortal life and eternal life and about Jesus’ suffering and Passion.
Franz was neither a revolutionary nor part of any resistance movement but in 1938 he was the only local citizen to vote against the “Anschluss” (annexation of Austria by Germany), because his conscience prevailed over the path of least resistance.
Franz Jägerstätter was called up for military service and sworn in on 17 June 1940. Shortly thereafter, thanks to the intervention of his mayor, he was allowed to return to the farm. Later, he was in active service from October 1940 to April 1941, until the mayor’s further intervention permitted his return home.
He became convinced that participation in the war was a serious sin and decided that any future call-up had to be met with his refusal to fight.
“It is very sad”, he wrote, “to hear again and again from Catholics that this war waged by Germany is perhaps not so unjust because it will wipe out Bolshevism…. But now a question: what are they fighting in this Country – Bolshevism or the Russian People?
“When our Catholic missionaries went to a pagan country to make them Christians, did they advance with machine guns and bombs in order to convert and improve them?… If adversaries wage war on another nation, they have usually invaded the country, not to improve people, or even perhaps to give them something but usually, to get something for themselves…. If we were merely fighting Bolshevism, these other things – minerals, oil wells or good farmland – would not be a factor.”
Jägerstätter was at peace with himself despite the alarm he experienced witnessing the masses’ capitulation to Hitler. Mesmerised by the National Socialist propaganda machine, many people knelt when Hitler made his entrance into Vienna. Catholic Churches were forced to fly the swastika flag and subjected to other abusive laws.
In February 1943 Franz was called up again for military service. He presented himself at the induction centre on 1 March 1943 and announced his refusal to fight, offering to carry out non-violent services – this was denied him.
He was held in custody at Linz in March and April, transferred to Berlin-Tegel in May and subject to trial on 6 July 1943 when he was condemned to death for sedition. The prison chaplain was struck by the man’s tranquil character. On being offered the protestant New Testament, he replied: “I am completely bound in inner union with the Lord and any reading would only interrupt my communication with my God.”
On 9 August, before being executed, Franz wrote: “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, less than their concern for my wife and children.
But, I cannot believe that, just because one has a wife and children, a man is free to offend God.”
Franz Jägerstätter, who would not bow his head to Hitler, bowed his head to God and the guillotine took care of the rest. He was obviously called up to serve a higher order. … Vatican.va
Franz Jägerstätter was 36 years old on the day that he returned to God.
In June 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic exhortation declaring Jägerstätter a Martyr. On 26 October 2007, he was Beatified in a ceremony held by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins at the New Cathedral in Linz. His feast day, today 21 May, is the day of his Baptism.
Franz was beheaded and cremated the following day. In 1946, his ashes were reburied in St Radegund near a memorial inscribed with his name and the names of almost 60 village men who died during their military service.
The documentary, Franz Jaegerstaetter – A Man of Conscience, was released in 2011. A film about Jägerstätter, A Hidden Life, written and directed by Terrence Malick, premiered in May 2019 at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival and was given a general release in the US on 13 December 13, 2019. The film is inspired by the book titled Franz Jägerstätter – Letters and Writings from Prison.
Martyrs of the Mexican Revolution (Optional Memorial): The 1917 Mexican constitution was pointedly anti-clerical and anti-Church, and its adoption instituted years of violent religious persecution including expulsion of foreign priests, closing of parochial schools and the murders of several priests and lay leaders who work to minister to the faithful and support religious freedom. 25 of them who died at different times and places but all as a result of this persecution were celebrated together. They each have separate memorials but are also remembered as a group.
• Saint Agustin Caloca Cortes
• Saint Atilano Cruz Alvarado
• Saint Cristobal Magallanes Jara
• Saint David Galván-Bermúdez
• Saint David Roldán-Lara
• Saint David Uribe-Velasco
• Saint Jenaro Sánchez DelGadillo
• Saint Jesús Méndez-Montoya
• Saint Jose Isabel Flores Varela
• Saint José María Robles Hurtado
• Saint Julio álvarez Mendoza
• Saint Justino Orona Madrigal
• Saint Luis Batiz Sainz
• Saint Manuel Moralez
• Saint Margarito Flores-García
• Saint Mateo Correa-Magallanes
• Saint Miguel de la Mora
• Saint Pedro de Jesús Maldonado-Lucero
St Bairfhion of Killbarron
St Berard of Bèze
St Collen of Denbighshire
St Constantine the Great
St Donatus of Caesarea
St Eutychius of Mauretania
Blessed Franz Jägerstätter OFS (1907-1943) Layman Martyr
The first video is from the author of a biography of Blessed Franz. His life of “Conscientious Objection” is very appropriate for the times we find ourselves in right now! The second video contains an interview and details of the Film made about Blessed Franz “A Hidden Life.”
St Genesius of Bèze
St Godric of Finchale
Bl Hemming of Åbo
St Hospitius of Cap-Saint-Hospice
Bl Hyacinth-Marie Cormier
St Isberga of Aire
Bl Jean Mopinot
Bl Lucio del Rio
St Mancio of Évora
Bl Manuel Gómez González
St Nicostratus of Caesarea Philippi
Bl Pietro Parenzo
St Polieuctus of Caesarea
St Polius of Mauretania
St Restituta of Corsica
St Rodron of Bèze
St Secundinus of Cordova
St Secundus of Alexandria
St Serapion the Sindonite
St Sifrard of Bèze
St Theobald of Vienne
St Timothy of Mauretania
St Valens of Auxerre
St Victorius of Caesarea
Martyrs of Egypt: Large number of bishops, priests, deacons and lay people banished when the Arian heretics seized the diocese of Alexandria, Egypt in 357 and drove out Saint Athanasius and other orthodox Christians. Many were old, many infirm and many, many died of abuse and privations while on the road and in the wilderness. Very few survived to return to their homes in 361 when Julian the Apostate recalled all Christians and then many of those later died in the persecutions of Julian.
Martyrs of Pentecost in Alexandria: An unspecified number of Christian clerics and lay people who, on Pentecost in 338, were rounded up by order of the Arian bishop and emperor Constantius and were either killed, or exiled, for refusing to accept Arian teachings. 339 in Alexandria, Egypt.