Sunday, May 31, 2009

Preparing for martyrdom

Guillotined by the Nazis on August 9, 1943, Franz Jägerstätter was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on October 26, 2007. Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput uses the story of Jägerstätter as the basis for his article, "New Life in Christ: What it Looks Like, What it Demands" (First Things, May 11, 2009). My purpose here is not to relate the story of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, which you owe to yourself to read sometime if you don't know it. All I want is to offer you a few excerpts I liked from Abp. Chaput's article:
I want to quote something Franz wrote in a letter to his godson. He wrote: “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.” Believers today are relentlessly tempted to accept a halfway Christianity, to lead a “double life” -- to be one person when we’re in church or at prayer and somebody different when we’re with our friends or family, or at work, or when we talk about politics.

... Jesus didn’t come down from heaven to tell us to go to church on Sunday. He didn’t die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we’d pray more at home and be a little kinder to our next-door neighbors. The one thing even non-believers can see is that the Gospels aren’t compromise documents. Jesus wants all of us. And not just on Sundays. He wants us to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind. He wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves. In other words, with a love that’s total.

... Love the Church; love her as your mother and teacher. Help to build her up, to purify her life and work. We all get angry when we see human weakness and sin in the Church. But we need to remember always that the Church is much, much more than the sum of her human parts.

... And this is crucial: Know and revere what the Church teaches. What the Church teaches is what Christ wants you and everyone else to know¯for our own good and for our salvation. Know what the Church teaches so you can live those teachings and share those teachings with others.

The leaders of today’s secularized societies like to fancy themselves as true humanists and humanitarians. But these same societies justify killing millions of babies in the womb and dismembering embryos in the laboratory. We dispatch the handicapped and the elderly and call it “death with dignity.” ...

Only the Church stands up against these inhuman trends in our societies. It’s your mission, as lay men and lay women, to ensure that Christ’s teaching is preached and explained and defended at every level of our society¯in politics, in the workplace, in the culture.

... Blessed Franz wrote beautiful letters to his wife from prison. In one of them he talked about the great martyrs of the Church. He wrote: “If we hope to reach our goal some day, then we, too, must become heroes of the faith...."
[Hat tip to E.E.]


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