See also: The collected writings of Franz Jagerstatter by John Dear
Franz “was not only a martyr and a saint but also a prophet, in the biblical sense.”
He exhibited many of the personal traits of the Old Testament prophets such as Elijah, Amos and Jeremiah. For example, he felt an exceptional intimacy with God. He sensed a divine call. He attained an insightful analysis of the cultural, political, religious and social dynamics of his day -- an analysis that generated his predictions about life after the war. He was acutely aware of human sinfulness and divine compassion. And he was ready to suffer and die for the sake of his personal integrity and his vocation.
One cannot read Franz and not come against the question of family responsibility. Franz was a devoted husband and father. He loved Franziska and his four daughters, yet still resisted war and went to his death. We presume that if you love your family, you take no risks. But here is a contradictory lesson. Love for home is connected to love for God. The more we love God, the more our love extends, beyond family ties, to the whole human race, even those foisted on us as enemies....
“We must go courageously on the way of suffering, whether we begin sooner or later,” he concludes. “They may build many beautiful streets today, but they cannot change the way to heaven. This way will always remain rugged and rocky.”
Franz Jagerstatter: Letters and Writings from Prison is a major event. Here is an authentic Christian life -- and martyr’s death -- given to us from God to inspire our own discipleship, to make clear the political implications.
“Discipleship to Christ requires heroism,” Franz wrote. Another German Christian of the era said something similar. Grace isn’t cheap, Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote. But Bonheoffer succumbed to temptation and embroiled himself in a plan to assassinate Hitler. Franz’s witness is therefore the purer. He shows the way to the inner reserve needed to resist nonviolently—according to the example of Jesus and to the very end.
I urge readers to study this important collection. Let Franz inspire you to go the extra mile in your Gospel journey. Though the world is a mess, we are blessed to have such a guide.