Friday, May 6, 2011

One Last Day in Bavaria: Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, A Beacon of Peace

Friday greetings to all. Today marked the final day of the army chaplains' retreat at the Ettal Abbey. Mass was celebrated this morning and the principal celebrant was Father John McLaughlin. John was the president of my senior class at Woburn High School in my home town in Massachusetts. John was ordained in his thirties, after having been a successful businessman for a number of years. He is just finishing up a stint as the vocations director for the Archdiocese of Military Services in the United States. This position was created three years ago and John was the first director. John has travelled the world for the past three years talking with men in the active military who have expressed an interest in a vocation to the priesthood. Did you know that 10% of priestly vocations in the United States are current or former military personnel?

Here's a photo of Fr. John McLaughlin (center), Fr. Tim Hubbs (my seminary classmate who is the army chaplain who arranges the retreats-on the right), and yours truly:

It was tough to say goodbye to these fine priests; it was great hanging out with them during our free time this week.

I wanted to share the story about the Ettal abbey with you. In the early fifteenth century, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was traveling through Bavaria and he had a statue of the Madonna and child with him. When he arrived at the Ettal area, he was inspired by a vision. That heavenly vision dictated that he build an abbey at the site and enshrine the statue there. It's so amazing to me that this entire abbey and entire town was constructed around a very tiny statue. Here are some photos I took of the statue this morning, enshrined in the abbey Church where we celebrated Mass this morning. The statue is in the gold area on the high main altar.

And here are some close-ups. It strikes me as a very tender scene.

After leaving the Abbey, I decided to visit one of the most personally inspiring Catholic sites for me; the parish church in Saint Radegund, Austria. This is the parish where Franz Jagerstatter was the sacristan; the parish church in his home town. Franz was beatified by Pope Benedict a few years ago. Blessed Franz refused to join Hitler's army, because of his Catholic beliefs. He was killed by the Nazi regime because of his refusal. If you ever have a chance to read my late friend Gordon Zahn's book, In Solitary Witness, do so. This is an inspiring story that will leave you humbled and awed at the devotion of this young husband and father who gave his life for the Catholic faith. The book is out of print, but it can be found on Ebay and Amazon. Visited his home in Saint Radegund today, as well as the parish church where he served as sacristan and worshipped the Lord at Mass. Some photos, first of his home, then the parish church, as well as his grave.

His parish church:

A photo of the church's interior:

And finally, Blessed Franz's grave (his wife and children are still living and attended his beatification). Folks, this is one of the most sacred places on earth for me; in this time of war and killing, this blessed man's story preaches the Catholic message of peace in a voice clearer and stronger than any other voice today.

Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, pray for us.

One more incredible Catholic pilgrimage site was visited today, but I will wait until tomorrow morning to share that with you.

It's home to Chicago tomorrow afternoon. This week has been just what I needed; wonderful prayer with great priests; awe-inspiring scenes of God's natural wonders displayed on this planet; great German food and beer; great music-making; and inspiring Catholic sites. Maybe it's time for Doctor Jerry to lead another catholic pilgrimage; this time through northern Italy and Bavaria! Anyone interested?

God is so good.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Important to remember that both Jagerstatter's pastor and his bishop claimed that it was his DUTY as a Catholic to serve Hitler's war machine... thank God he did not abdicate his conscience to ecclesiastical authority and the command to be "obedient".... Another great example that the Church often later beatifies/canonizes those whom it once persecuted.... So I guess there is hope for us who are less than happy with the upcoming Missal! :)