Archive for November 2017

Feast of Jackson Kemper (May 24)   3 comments

Above:  Jackson Kemper, 1855

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-cwpbh-01884



Episcopal Missionary Bishop

Jackson Kemper was the first missionary bishop in The Episcopal Church.  He held various titles during his ministerial career.  Perhaps the most appropriate one was “Bishop of All Outdoors,” which he applied to himself.  Also apt was “The Bishop of the Whole Northwest,” given his importance to The Episcopal Church in the Old Northwest of the United States.

Kemper, who spent most of his life in the Midwest and the Old Northwest, came from the East.  He, born on February 24, 1789, hailed from Pleasant Valley, New York.  He studied at Columbia College, where John Henry Hobart (1775-1830), who became the Bishop of New York in 1816, became his mentor.  Kemper, who graduated in 1809, joined the ranks of Episcopal deacons two years later and became a priest in 1814.  From 1811 to 1831 he was one of the assistants serving under William White (1747-1836).  White was a major figure in The Episcopal Church.  He was an assistant priest at Christ Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1772-1779); the Rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia (1779-1836); the Chaplain of the Second Continental Congress (1777-1781); the Chaplain of the Confederation Congress (1781-1788); the Chaplain of the United States Senate (1789-1800); the Bishop of Pennsylvania (1787-1836); and the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (1789 and 1795-1836).  Kemper was White’s agent in western Pennsylvania, traveling in the wilds on behalf of the Diocese of Pennsylvania and the new Society for the Advancement of Christianity in Pennsylvania while keeping track of Episcopal Church work on the frontier of that state.  He also traveled into western Virginia (now West Virginia) and Ohio in that capacity.  Kemper convinced the 78-year-old White to embark on a 800-mile long journey into western Pennsylvania, to pay pastoral visits in 1826.

Kemper was also a pioneer in the Sunday School movement in the United States.  In 1814 he and another assistant, James Milnor, founded a Sunday school immediately north of Philadelphia.  This was the first Sunday school in The Episcopal Church and the United States.

Kemper left the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1831.  For four years he was the Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Norwalk, Connecticut.

On September 25, 1835, Kemper acquired another title and a different set of responsibilities when he became the Bishop of Missouri and Indiana.  He, a high churchman, became the first missionary bishop in The Episcopal Church.  In 1836, at St. Louis, Missouri, our saint founded a college for training priests.  Kemper College, as friends called it contrary to his wishes, struggled financially due to the Panic of 1837 and closed in 1845.  Despite his title, Kemper’s work extended far beyond Missouri and Indian.  In 1837 and 1838 he and Bishop James Harvey Otey of Tennessee visited Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

The Diocese of Georgia, organized with three parishes (Christ Church, Savannah; Christ Church, Frederica, St. Simon’s Island; and St. Paul’s, Augusta) in 1823, did not have its own bishop until 1841.  By that time the diocese had grown to six congregations.  The newer churches were Christ Church, Macon; Trinity Church, Columbus; and Grace Church, Clarkesville.  On March 25, 1838, Kemper dedicated the new edifice of Christ Church, Macon, and conducted the first confirmation service in Middle Georgia.  On June 3 of that year our saint dedicated the new building of Trinity Church, Columbus.

The territorial range of Kemper’s episcopal jurisdiction expanded and contracted over time.  After 1838, for example, our saint was also responsible for Iowa and Wisconsin, but Bishop Leonidas Polk’s new territory covered parts of the South.  Over time Kemper became responsible for Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota, also.  Along the way new dioceses elected their bishops.  He visited the East to recruit missionary priests and raise funds.  Two of his recruits were John Henry Hopkins, Jr., and James Lloyd Breck (1818-1876), “The Apostle of the Wilderness.”  These men were some of the founders of St. John-in-the-Wilderness Church, Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 1841, and Nashotah House, Nashotah, Wisconsin, the following year.  Kemper also founded Racine College, Racine, Wisconsin, in 1852.

Kemper’s legacy was impressive.  It included seven dioceses–Missouri (1840), Indiana (1841), Wisconsin (1847), Iowa (1853), Minnesota (1857), Kansas (1859), and Nebraska (1868).  From 1859 until his death in 1870 Kemper was simply the Bishop of Wisconsin.  His legacy also included ministry to indigenous people.  Our saint, an advocate of such work, helped to found a mission to Native Americans in Minnesota, in 1859.

Kemper, aged 80 years, died at Nashotah, Wisconsin, on May 24, 1870.





Lord God, in your providence Jackson Kemper was chosen first missionary bishop in this land,

and by his arduous labor and travel congregations were established in scattered settlements of the West:

Grant that the Church may always be faithful to its mission,

and have the vision, courage, and perseverance to make known to all people the Good News of Jesus Christ;

who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 15:22-25

Psalm 67

1 Corinthians 3:8-11

Matthew 28:16-20

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 385


Feast of Mother Edith (May 24)   Leave a comment

Above:  Flag of New Zealand 

Image in the Public Domain


EDITH MARY MELLISH (MARCH 10, 1861-MAY 25, 1922)

Foundress of the Community of the Sacred Name

Mother Edith comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days from the calendar of saints according to The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, which commemorates her life on May 24.

One of the best developments in the corporate lives of Anglican and Lutheran churches in the nineteenth century was the revival of the female diaconate, the order of deaconesses.  That order, merged with the previously solely male diaconate in the Anglican tradition since the late twentieth century, did much to create opportunities for women in Christian service in places from parishes to hospitals.

Edith Mary Mellish, a daughter of English banker-businessman Edward Mellish and his wife Ellen, grew up in a variety of places.  She, born in Mauritius, spent some of her early years in China before moving to England.  There she studied at a boarding school.  Edith’s mother died when she was two years old.  Edward married two more times.  Our saint’s first stepmother was Sarah Waterworth, late of the Church Missionary Society.  She took great interest in our saint’s spiritual development.  That growth led to Edith becoming a deaconess in London in 1891.

Also in 1891, Churchill Julius (1847-1938), then the Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand (and later the Archbishop of New Zealand), wrote Frederick Temple (1821-1902), then the Bishop of London (and later the Archbishop of Canterbury), requesting a deaconess for the Diocese of Christchurch.   Temple agreed, with one condition–that he deaconess build up a community of such women in the diocese.  Certain women in the Diocese of Christchurch were already intent on forming a community of deaconesses.  Bishop Julius admitted the first deaconesses in his diocese in January 1892.  Our saint arrived in August of the following year.  The deaconesses visited prisoners and hospital patients, taught, ministered to orphans, embroidered for churches, and helped unmarried women.  Our saint, dubbed Sister Edith, called the community “The Sisters of Bethany.”  That community became “The Community of the Sacred Name” in 1911, and Sister Edith became Mother Edith.

Despite the deaconesses’ many good works, some opposition to the sisters existed.  Certain Anglicans considered them “popish,” for example.  The transition of the deaconeses’ Sisters of Bethany into a religious order, the Community of the Sacred Name, certainly seemed “popish.”  The nuns grounded their lives in prayer, meditation, and quiet retreats and quiet days.  That was “popish,” yes, but laudable.

Mother Edith, aged 61 years, died on May 25, 1922, after an extended illness.

The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia’s official biography of Mother Edith lists her “outstanding characteristics” as

compassion, humility, fearlessness, and a loving concern for all.

Those are virtues all of us should nurture in ourselves and encourage in others, n’est-ce pas?

The Community of the Sacred Name still exists.





Everliving God, we thank you for Mother Edith and the community she founded;

give us grace to love you above all things and each other in you,

that we may care for those in need and faithfully sing your praise;

this we ask in the sacred name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Jesus, you promise that when two or three of us are gathered together in your name, you will be there;

we praise you for Edith, who left behind all that she loved to found a community in your name;

you have blessed her sisters greatly, bless them now, and into the time ahead.  Amen.

1 Samuel 1:21-28

Psalm 20 or 96

Philippians 3:7-11

Mark 9:33-41

–The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia


Feast of St. Ivo of Chartres (May 23)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Ivo of Chartres

Image in the Public Domain



Bishop of Chartres

Alternative feast day = December 23

St. Ivo, Bishop of Chartres, lived his faith during treacherous political times.  Our saint, born into French nobility in Beauvais circa 1040, studied in Paris then at the Abbey of Bec, Normandy.  In 1080 his Bishop appointed him to be the Prior of St. Quentin, Beauvais.  In that capacity St. Ivo became one of the best teachers in France.  He transferred to Chartres in 1090.  There our saint succeeded one Geoffrey, the previous Bishop of Chartres, deposed for committing simony.  St. Ivo, an opponent of simony, was also a consultant in the fields of theology and canon law.

Two great controversies confronted St. Ivo.  King Philip I (reigned 1059-1108) created one of these in 1092, when he married Bertrada de Montfort, wife of Fulk, the Count of Anjou.  Not only was Bertrada married, so so was Philip I.  His wife (until her death in 1094) was Queen Bertha.  Pope Urban II (in office 1088-1099) excommunicated the French monarch, lifted the order Bertha died, then reimposed it several times.  Pope Paschal II (in office 1099-1118) lifted the excommunication on the condition that Philip I have no more relations with Bertrada.  St. Ivo, like the Popes, opposed Philip I.  Our saint, unlike the Supreme Pontiffs, went to prison.

The other great controversy related to the lay investiture of bishops and abbots.  Popes and monarchs argued about this matter for a long time.  St. Ivo proposed a moderate position that presaged the Concordat of Worms (1122), concluded after his death.  In that agreement monarchs retained the right to attend consecrations and to invest bishops and abbots with symbols of temporal authority, but relinquished the right to invest bishops and abbots with symbols of spiritual authority.  Monarchs also agreed to guarantee free and canonical elections.

Pope Pius V beatified St. Ivo in 1570.

The status of St. Ivo’s canonization seems to be in doubt.  CatholicSaints.Info lists our saint as “Blessed Ivo of Chartres” and lists Pope Benedict XIV (in office 1740-1758) as having added him to the martyrology.  Omer Englebert, in The Lives of the Saints (1951), lists our saint as “St. Ivo of Chartres.”





O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your servant Saint Ivo of Chartres,

to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit,

that they may minister in your household as true servants of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 719


Feast of Frederick Hermann Knubel (May 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logo of the United Lutheran Church in America

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor



President of The United Lutheran Church in America

This post depends almost entirely upon The United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962, begun by E. Theodore Bachmann, who died before he completed the process of writing the volume.  His wife, Mercia Brenne Bachmann, finished the book, which Paul Rorem edited.  The Fortress Press, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, published the volume in 1997.

Lutheran history interests me.  I find that learning about various strands of that tradition enriches my life.  I am glad to know about Frederick Hermann Knubel and to write about him.

One strand of Lutheranism in the United States dates to the colonial era, predating the founding of the Ministerium of North America (later renamed the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States) in 1748.  Subsequent Lutheran history reveals the formation of offshoot synods and other synods, most of them defined by state lines or by regions.  One can also read of the formation of the federation (as opposed to denomination) called The Evangelical Lutheran General Synod of the United States of America in 1820 and of the continuing formation of synods, not all of which affiliated with the General Synod.  Lutheran history also tells of the defection of the synods comprising The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Confederate States of America in 1863, known as The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America from 1866 to 1886, when the addition of the Holston and Tennessee Synods created The United Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the South.  Furthermore, one can read of the split of the synods comprising the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America from the General Synod (1820) in 1867.

Frederick Hermann Knubel hailed from the Synod of New York and New Jersey, affiliated with the General Synod (1820).  Our saint, born in Greenwich Village, New York, New York, on May 22, 1870, grew up in a devout German Lutheran family.  He was the fourth child and first son of Frederick Knubel (a successful businessman) and Anna Knubel (Knubel), each of whom came from a different branch of the same family in Bremerhaven, Bremen, Germany.  Frederick the elder, a pillar of the church, was a trustee of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, just two blocks away from the family’s home.  Young Frederick, a second-generation American, grew up in a bilingual home.

Our saint planned originally to follow in his father’s footsteps, but changed his mind at the age of 19 years.  The vocation to ordained ministry led young Knubel away from the City College of New York and Packard’s Business College to Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg College) then to the seminary, both in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  He spent six years in Gettysburg, starting in 1889.  The theological position of the seminary was a mild confessionalism that emphasized the catholic, not the exclusive, nature of Lutheranism.  That stance, which defined the General Synod, also marked Knubel’s theology subsequently.

The seminary graduate married in 1895 then spent a year with his wife in Leipzig, Germany.  Knubel married Christine Ritscher, of Jersey City, New Jersey, in June.  Our saint’s parents helped generously with finances as our saint studied theology at Leipzig University.  Decades later Knubel recalled,

When I left Gettysburg, I felt I had the answers.  But after a year at Leipzig I had a far deeper appreciation of the questions.

Back in the United States Knubel built up a new congregation.  He, ordained in New York City on October 17, 1896, became a mission developer for the Synod of New York and New Jersey.  From 1897 to 1918 he was pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement, a mission of St. John’s, Greenwich Village.  (Since 1927 the congregation has been Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church, due to a merger with the Church of Our Saviour.)  Atonement was Knubel’s only pastorate.  In 1907 it had about 1,000 baptized members, ranging from the rich to the poor.  A decade later that number had increased to about 3,500.  At Atonement Knubel demonstrated his support for the deaconess movement.  Deaconess Jennie Christ, who became our saint’s second wife decades later, arrived in the parish in 1903.

The Knubels had two children, both of whom spent their lives in Christian service.  Frederick Knubel Ritscher (1897-1957), a minister, served as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation, Rochester, New York, from 1921 to 1944 then as the President of the Synod of New York and New England (in The United Lutheran Church in America) from 1945 to 1957.  Helen Knubel (1901-1992), who contracted polio at the age of 16 years and spent the rest of her life confined to a wheelchair, became the greatest Lutheran archivist in North America.

Our saint was an ecumenist.  He belonged to Koinonia, a group of Lutheran clergymen in New York City founded in 1896.  The members hailed from various synods–Missouri, Joint Ohio, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, and affiliates of the General Synod (1820) and the General Council (1867).  At each meeting a member presented a paper, which the group discussed.  Sometimes the ministers took communion, despite the policy of closed communion in some of the synods.  In January 1916 Knubel was a General Synod delegate to an American regional missionary conference related to the Faith and Order movement, a precursor of the World Council of Churches.  Some other U.S. Lutheran bodies, distrustful of unionism, boycotted the gathering, however.

1917 and 1918 were eventful years in U.S. Lutheranism.  1917 was the four hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  It was also the year the United States entered World War I.  That conflict stirred up intolerance domestically.  German Americans and other groups of foreign origin became suspect to many.  Danish, Swedish, German, and Norwegian Americans, among others, became targets of state laws that banned church services in foreign languages.  Vigilantes attacked churches of Christian Reformed, ethnic Lutheran, and other affiliations.  This period expedited the transition to the English language in more than one denomination.

The member synods of the General Synod were among the oldest of the U.S. Lutheran bodies, and were therefore more culturally assimilated than the two Danish-American synods, for example.  Nevertheless, even the General Synod Lutherans had to defend their American patriotism in 1917 and 1918.  Outside pressure on Lutherans from nativists, combined with the anniversary of the Reformation, spurred on inter-Lutheran ecumenism.  The National Lutheran Commission for Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Welfare formed on October 19, 1917; Knubel became its president.  Also, the Lutheran Brotherhood of America formed on November 6, 1917, and the National Lutheran Council came into being in September 1918.  In 1917 three Norwegian-American synods, which had already produced The Lutheran Hymnary (1913), reunited to constitute the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, later renamed the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Meanwhile, the reunion of the General Synod, the General Council, and the United Synod of the South, which had produced the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (1917), was proceeding according to schedule.

The United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA), a denomination, although not a relatively decentralized one, formed in New York City on November 14, 1918.  Knubel, who had served on the Deaconess Board and the Inner Mission Board of the General Synod (1820), became the first president of the new body.  He served a consecutive series of two-year terms until December 31, 1944.  Knubel presided over the consolidation of ULCA, formed with overlapping magazines, agencies, and synods.  He also shepherded ULCA through good times and bad times, from the Roaring Twenties through the Great Depression, and into World War II.

Knubel was an advocate of ecumenism.  He favored the Federal Council of Churches, a predecessor of the National Council of Churches.  He, a mildly Confessional Lutheran, laid the foundation for greater Lutheran unity as he led his denomination into dialogues with more conservative bodies, including the Missouri Synod and the 1930-1960 iteration of The American Lutheran Church.  They objected to, among other facts, ULCA’s rejection of Biblical inerrancy.  ULCA’s position was that the Bible is authoritative because it communicates the Word of God, defined as the saving message of God.  During World War II U.S. Lutheran denominations cooperated in providing pastoral care to German prisoners of war and increased their collaboration in domestic missions.  Knubel approved of this ecumenical activity.

On the personal front, Christine Ritscher Knubel, our saint’s wife since 1895, died in December 1923.  He married Deaconess Jennie Christ in 1925.  In 1944 Knubel, whose health was failing, did not seek another term as president.  The convention elected Franklin Clark Fry (1900-1968), to succeed him.  Knubel’s retirement was brief; he died on October 16, 1945.  His children and second wife survived him.

From the beginning of Knubel’s tenure to the end thereof, membership in ULCA had increased from 1.1 million to 1.7 million.

At Knubel’s funeral, held at Our Saviour’s Atonement Church, New York City, Fry said of his predecessor,

God gave our father a marvelous degree of wisdom….By his gracious Christian churchmanship, loving and shepherding men of various views, many a breach was prevented and many a wound never occurred.  This was what made our Church strong.  Indeed, it has gone far to make it possible….There need be no turning back for the United Lutheran Church, there can be a steady going forward into the future.  It will be a natural outgrowth of our late president’s judgment and his vision.

Frederick Hermann Knubel served God faithfully during his 75 years.





Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Frederick Hermann Knubel,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60


Feast of Blesseds John Forest and Thomas Abel (May 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain



English Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

Alternative feast day = December 1 (as one of the Martyrs of Oxford University)



English Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr

His feast transferred from July 30


These two saints died because they refused to recognize the supremacy of the Crown over the English Church.

Blessed John Forest, born in Oxford, England, in 1471, was a member of the Friars Minor of the Regular Observance, or the Observants.  He joined that Franciscan order at Greenwich when he was 20 years old.  Forest went on to study theology at Oxford University then to become the confessor of Queen Catherine of Aragon.  In 1525 our saint began to serve as the Observant Provincial in England.  Six years later King Henry VIII suppressed the order.  In 1532-1534 Forest preached against Henry VIII and the government.  This activity led to government surveillance then to his arrest in 1534.  Incarceration in Newgate Prison followed.  In prison Forest corresponded with Catherine of Aragon and Blessed Thomas Abel, a prisoner in the Tower of London.

Abel, born in England circa 1497, also became a chaplain to Queen Catherine of Aragon.  First, however, he earned his Doctor of Divinity degree at Oxford University and served as a priest.  In 1532 he publicly opposed the annulment of the marriage between King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon.  This led to a brief period of incarceration in the Tower of London.  Abel’s alleged involvement in the Holy Maid of Kent Affair led to a second period of imprisonment, starting the following year.  Sister Elizabeth Barton, a Benedictine nun at Kent, apparently taught in favor of the Mass in particular and the Roman Catholic Church in general whenever she saw an image of St. Mary of Nazareth.  That was sufficient to lead to Barton’s execution in 1534.  Abel got off relatively lightly; he spent 1533-1539 in the Tower of London.  The warden released him in 1539.  Our saint’s freedom was brief, however.  Authorities rearrested him and turned the warden into an inmate.

Forest, sentenced to death for refusing to recognize the supremacy of King Henry VIII over the English Church on April 8, 1538, died by hanging and burning at Smithfield on July 22 of that year.  He was 66 or 67 years old.

Abel, guilty of the same offense, died by handing, drawing, and quartering at Smithfield on July 30, 1540.  He was about 43 years old.

Pope Leo XIII declared moth men Blessed on December 29, 1886.






Almighty God, who gave your servants Blesseds John Forest and Thomas Abel

boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of their world,

and courage to die for this faith:

Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the faith that is in us,

and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2 Esdras 2:42-48

Psalm 126 or 121

1 Peter 3:14-18, 22

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 713


Feast of St. Julia of Corsica (May 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of Western Europe in 600 C.E.

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)



Martyr at Corsica

Eastern Orthodox feast day = July 16

St. Julia came from a noble and Christian family of Carthage, in modern-day Tunisia.  In 616 Vandals invaded Carthage and abducted our saint.  They also sold her into slavery.  A pagan named Eusebius purchased her.  One day no later than 620 Eusebius ordered St. Julia to participate in a pagan festival.  She refused.  Eusebius then order her beaten, her hair ripped out of her head, and her crucified at Cape Corso, Corsica.

St. Julia is the patron saint of torture victims, of Corsica, and of Brescia, Leghorn, and Livorno in Italy.






Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your love

in the heart of your holy martyr Saint Julia of Corsica:

Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love,

that we who rejoice in her triumph may profit by her example;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 15:15-21

Psalm 124 or 31:1-5

1 Peter 4:12-19

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 715


Posted November 21, 2017 by neatnik2009 in May 22, Saints of 600-699

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Feast of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter (May 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  Poster of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Image in the Public Domain



Austrian Roman Catholic Conscientious Objector and Martyr


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.

–Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, writing to a god-child


Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, a man of lowly social origin, became a martyr because he insisted on obeying his principles.  His parents were Franz Bachmeier and Rosalia Huber, servants who did not marry because they could not afford to do so.  Our saint, born in Sankt Radegund, Austria, on May 20, 1907, lost his father at the age of ten years, during World War I.  Then Rosalia married farmer Heinrich Jägerstätter, who adopted young Franz.  Our saint’s stepfather and step-grandfather took great interest in him.  Franz, educated in a one-room school, learned much from these men.

Franz sowed some wild oats during his early twenties.  During that phase of his life he worked in the iron ore industry.  At the age of 23 years, however, he became serious about faith, married, and became a peasant farmer.  In 1936 Franz married Franziska, with whom he had three daughters.  He also worked as the sexton in his parish, to take the Holy Eucharist daily, to assist at funerals, and to minister to the grieving.

Everyone tells me, of course, that I should not do what I am doing because of the danger of death. 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, on resisting the military draft

The intersection of Nazism and Franz’s conscience led to his martyrdom.  In 1938 he openly opposed the Anschluss with Germany.  Our saint also answered “Heil Hitler” with “Pfui Hitler,” thereby becoming an outlier in his town.  Then military conscription became a problem.  Franz, drafted on June 17, 1940, served briefly before his mayor intervened.  Our saint returned to the farm.  Yet Franz was back in active service from October 1940 to June 1941.  The mayor intervened again, and our saint returned to the farm again.  Franz, who had once considered non-combatant service morally acceptable, changed his mind.  Any service in the cause of the Third Reich was immoral, he concluded.  When the Nazi regime called him to service again in February 1943, our saint refused to obey.  This led to incarceration and to a death sentence.

In prison our saint wrote:

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.

Franz, sentenced to die on July 6, 1943, went to the guillotine at Brandenburg on August 9 that year.  He was 36 years old.

Pope Benedict XVI declared our saint a Venerable then a Blessed in 2007.






Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyr

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter triumphed over suffering and was faithful even to death:

Grant us, who now remember him in thanksgiving,

to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,

that we may receive with him the crown of life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 51:1-12

Psalm 116 or 116:1-8

Revelation 7:13-17

Luke 12:2-12

–Adopted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 714