Blessed Franz is recognized in Rome as one of the 20th century martyrs for their faith.
Born in Upper Austria, he lost his father during World War I. He was later adopted by Heinrich Jägerstätter and grew up loving motorcycles and, to be honest, raised a bit of hell. He and his gang were arrested in 1934 for brawling.
Leaving his native town, he worked in the mines and did not return for three years. Upon that return, he seemed to turn a new leaf and became a farmer, married, produced three daughters and lived a life committed to his faith.
Though he vehemently opposed the German Anschluss’s annexation of Austria, he was drafted in 1939. He received a deferment after a year. Subsequently he was drafted and deferred two more times. Finally, in 1943 he was called upon again and refused to pledge loyalty to Hitler. He was imprisoned and offered to serve in the medical corps but was denied that post.
Transferred to a prison in Berlin, his own attorney challenged him using other Catholics who were serving as an inducement to reverse his position. Franz reportedly said, “I can only act on my own conscience. I do not judge anyone. I can only judge myself.”
And he trusted God to reward him and take care of his family.
As punishment for his betrayal of the state, Franz was beheaded and cremated. 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. He was beatified in Linz on Oct. 26, 2007.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini from www.franciscanmedia.org