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Apostolic Movement

Franz Reinisch – A Martyr of Our Time

By: Schoenstatt Chile

Franz Reinisch

He is the only Catholic priest executed during the time of the “Third Reich”. As a decision over a matter of conscience, he refused to swear allegiance to Hitler after being drafted to the army. He was imprisoned, sentenced to death, and beheaded on August 21, 1942.

“Schoenstatt’s Apostle in life and death”

Father Reinisch, an Austrian-born Pallottine priest, had his first personal experience of Schoenstatt of the day the remains of the hero sodalists, the first Schoenstatters who lost their lives in World War I, were repatriated from France to Schoenstatt in 1934.

He worked actively in the Schoenstatt Movement, especially with the men’s branches. His decision to refuse to pledge allegiance confronted him with the dilemma faced by every radical Christian – his decision meant losing his life and he knew it, causing pain to his parents, family and community.

It also endangered Schoenstatt and his own Pallottine community and would call into question every other priest and Christian who had taken the oath. Still, as a result of many inner struggles, Reinisch felt called to fulfill his special vocation and set an example of fidelity to his conscience and Personal Ideal in a matter of life and death.

Under Mary’s protection

Under Mary’s protection he began to put it into practice: he would never swear allegiance to Hitler. He intentionally reports to the barracks a day late. Everyone tries to dissuade him from his attitude, since so many priests have already taken the oath of allegiance to the flag. Father Reinisch realizes that his position does not coincide with the attitude taken by representatives of the Church. In prison he spends terrible hours where he is seized by serious doubts of conscience; there is no lack of fear and anguish in the face of death. The Blessed Virgin did not abandon him in these circumstances, and he struggled for holiness in those days, carrying out his spiritual daily order.

His Personal Ideal

Thus, he reformulated his personal ideal: “I want to live and die in ardent love, as a Schoenstatt apostle”. In those days the Church was entering a decisive struggle, and from this battle would emerge a strengthened community, fiercely united and made up of personalities who had been purified in difficult trials. Father Reinisch wants to cooperate in this task of saving the personality. He realizes that this is the mission entrusted to him by the Blessed Mother and he places his life in her hands as an offering for the renewal of the personality and of the world in Christ.

He knows that he is contributing in this way to the emergence of great saints in the Church. “My life’s sacrifice must be a great hymn to the dignity of man: inner freedom, maturing towards the freedom of God’s children.” He was sentenced to death and beheaded on August 21, 1942. Father Reinisch calls us to strive: “Always work according to God’s will and only according to it! That will is made known to you by the voice of your conscience, formed according to eternal Catholic principles. Become a free and strong personality! Unmovable as the mountains of my homeland!

Source: Schoenstatt Chile

On the 80th anniversary of the death of Father Franz Reinisch, we will be publishing short videos about his life and his person with different testimonies to get to know and to imitate him better.


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