Love and conscience

The death of Franziska, the wife of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, killed by the Nazis

"I can assure you that our marriage was one of the happiest in our parish and many people envied us, but our good Lord took different decisions and broke our bond. I will rejoice in the heavens, where no wars will ever separate us". These words were written by Franziska Jägerstätter on September 5 1943 to the military chaplain of the prison where her husband Franz had been beheaded on August 9 of the same year. Franziska died on March 16, she was 100 years old.To die rather than to be on the side of evil. "A peasant, a hero": a conscientious objector, a martyr for having refused to enlist in the Nazi army, Franz Jägerstätter married Franziska in 1936, the woman who changed his life. She was already the mother of their three children Rösl, Maridl e Loisl, when from St. Radegund, a hamlet in Northern Austria, where she was buried close to her Franz past March 23, Franziska wrote him passionate and devoted letters. She had understood that the "Austrian peasant, alien to political movements and with a poor level of education, had a strong Christian conscience that prevented him to fight a barbarian war of aggression, leading him to refuse to be recruited in the Nazi army, well aware that the decision would lead to his execution". With these words Italian writer Claudio Magris describes the tragic story of Franz Jägerstätter. About his wife Franziska, Magris writes: it was she "who brought Franz to lead an unremittingly coherent life, enabling him to face with his bare – albeit powerful – hands the entire Third Reich". "The marriage with Franziska – a union based on true, intense love – had deepened his Catholic faith, leading him to develop a spirituality that would have made him die rather than come to terms with evil".She cherished the message of the husband, now Blessed. Franziska Jägerstätter fulfilled her dream of reconciling herself with Franz in heaven. "For decades she brought into her life and into our present times the message of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter. She exemplified Sequela Christi. After the war she led a hard life. But there was always joy in her heart. All those who met her were enriched". With these words bishop Schwarz, from the diocese of Linz, celebrated the memory of Mrs. Jägerstätter, who lived until a few days after her 100th birthday, with a Requiem Mass. In the funeral Mass, the bishop of Innsbruck, Msgr. Manfred Scheuer, said: "At a time of blindness and misunderstanding she preserved her courage, the joy for life and for faith. She lived with the hope that God renders justice and heals from injustice". "Her past accompanied her throughout her life, but she didn’t seek refuge in the past. She was capable of rekindling the love for her Franz, aware of the needs of others and open to beauty in life". Bishop Scheuer also mentioned the numerous letters exchanged by Franziska and Franz Jägerstätter during his imprisonment. "A touching theology of the sacrament of marriage: marriage was thus lived as a witness to God’s existence. Both spouses were mutually enriched in their faith". Franziska managed to "let her beloved go", with self-renunciation. Initially she had tried to persuade her husband to change his mind, but she then decided to support his decision. "Her love for him was paramount, siding with him even when faced with difficult decisions, supporting him, never abandoning him at a time of need". Tied – but free – hands. In Berlin, in July 1943, Franz wrote in his will: "I am writing with my hands bound together, but I prefer this condition rather than knowing that my will is in chains. Why would God give each one of us reason and free will if blind obedience were sufficient?".On Saturday March 23 Card. Christoph Schönborn celebrated the funerals of Franziska Jägerstätter on the parvis of the small parish church of St. Radegund (Linz), where she served as sacristan for 30 years: she took the role of her executed husband in order to raise her children. The memorial service was attended by a large number of parishioners and priests from the diocese of Linz and other dioceses, the bishops of Linz and Innsbruck, representatives of peace Catholic movements Pax Christi Austria and US, that have adopted the figure of Franz Jägerstätter, proclaimed Blessed by the Catholic Church in 2007, as a role model.

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