This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21 -- Feast of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Blessed Draftee
On the Feast of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, a patron of conscientious objectors, I find it appropriate to take a look at the status of military conscription around the world.

Nineteen (19) countries do not have standing military forces, or have such minimal forces that they are considered to be negligible.  For example, Vatican City does not have a standing military force, but it does have Swiss guards and I wouldn't mess with them.

There are 103 countries without conscription (mandatory service).  The USA is among those countries, as are Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Rwanda, and both Congos.  We should not confuse reliance on volunteers for the military with a pacifist or even pacific posture.  Countries that require registration for conscription but are not currently drafting (e.g. the USA) are included in this list.

 Benny and Addie: Honeymoon in Rome
Thirty-six countries have peculiar systems which may be selectively compulsory, mixed compulsory and volunteer, or mixed military and civilian service.

That leaves 62 countries with some form of compulsory military service, though they range from the heavily militarized (e.g. Myanmar, Syria, Israel, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) to the reasonablly peaceful (Austria, Finland, and Mongolia).  All these data are according to Wikipedia, of course.

Blessed Franz
Blessed Franz Jägerstätter was born in Austria, as was Adolf Hitler.  Millions of others were too, but the Beatus and the Fuhrer make an interesting contrast.  Blessed Franz inherited his adoptive father's farm in 1933, the same year that Hitler took over his adopted fatherland, Germany.  In 1936, Blessed Franz married Franziska Schwaninger and for their honeymoon, the couple went on a pilgrimage to Rome.  In 1938, Hitler wedded Austria to Germany in the Anschluss and also went to Rome a month later, though hanging around with Il Duce could hardly be considered a pilgrimage.

The congruence of their paths to this point has been debatable, but from here out they are divergent.  While Hitler drove Europe into the most destructive and lethal war in history, Blessed Franz joined the Franciscan tertiaries.  As the war progressed, Franz was trained for military service, but received a waiver from service as a farmer.  When that waiver was revoked and he was drafted, he let the officials know of his conscientious objection, offering to be a paramedic instead of a soldier.  They countered with prison and a charge of Wehrkraftzersetzung (undermining military morale).  He could have spared his life by agreeing to serve in the Army, but he refused.  He was tried and convicted; on August 9, 1943, he was guillotined.  His countrymen, especially the Catholics who had served, refused to honor his memory for many years, but eventually his courage and virtue were recognized.  He was beatified in 2007, with May 21 (the date of his christening) designated as his feast.

Sixty-two countries currently force men (and women, in some of them) to serve in the military.  Pray for peace.  While praying for peace, enlist the support of Blessed Franz to strengthen those whose consciences will not let them serve in the military.  Then pray a little more for peace.  Pax nobiscum.  

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