Persecuted Christians // Josef Myer Nusser

For all the saints who from their labors rest, who Thee by faith before the world confessed; Thy name, Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong. Alleluia, Alleluia!

For in secret the holy children of good people offered sacrifices, and with one accord agreed to the divine law, so that the saints would share alike the same things, both blessings and dangers; and already they were singing the praises of the ancestors.Wisdom 18:9

Italian layman Josef Mayr-Nusser was a Catholic husband and father. He was a member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul and was actively involved in Catholic Action. He focused his efforts in serving the poor, providing them with both material and spiritual support. He dedication to serving the poor and disadvantaged came from his desire to imitate Christ’s charity. When World War II broke out in 1939, Mayr-Nusser joined an anti Nazi movement. Years later when the Germans occupied Italy, the Nazi Regime established a protective squadron that called on local men to join, Mayr Nusser was among those drafted into the SS unit. However, when it came time for the SS members to swear an oath to Hitler, Mayr-Nusser refused, telling the general

“I cannot take an oath to Hitler in the name of God. I cannot do it because my faith and conscience do notallow it.”

Mayr Nusser stood firmly in the truth that the Nazi ideals could not be reconciled with his Christian ethics and values. As a result he was jailed, put on trial and sentenced to death for treason. He was ordered to march to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was to be shot by firing squad. camp. Joseph fell ill with dysentery before he reached Dachau, and died Feb. 24, 1945. When his body was discovered, he had both a Bible and a rosary with him.

Christians all over the world and throughout time has been tortured and killed for their beliefs. There is costs of following Jesus as his disciples. Christ willingly embraced his cross because he knew it would achieve victory over evil and death. 

Josef Mayr-Nusser counted the costs of saying yes to God and willingly took up his cross, what incredible faith this man had in God’s love for him and God’s plan for eternal life with him! Most of us do not face the threat of physical torture and death as Christians, but I would argue that our souls are under threat, constantly. Our world has succumbed to greed, lust, gluttony, pride, envy, wrath and slothfulness and our Catholic ideals are at odds with many of the shared ideals and beliefs that motivate our society. So what is the way of the cross for us? 

To stay firm in our love for our Church and Christ. When it feels too exhausting to stay strong and defend our beliefs, remember that it is His will, notour will be done. We have to be willing to make sacrifices daily for Christ and to choose what or who will be first in our lives. We cannot place money, drugs, success, power or fame above our love for God. When we feel alone and as though we are swimming against the current, we can look to our saintly role models like Josef Mayr-Nusser for encouragement.

While some in our society might suggest that Saint Mayr-Nusser , a lay husband and father, wasted his life, he threw it away, Luke 12:4 reminds us

“ I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more.”

Saint Mayr –Nusser knew that his life on earth was only temporary and he bravely rejected passivity and embraced responsibility. His life was not thrown away, it was given away, invested in something worth investing. He lived the way of the cross.

Friends, it is my prayer that however long or short our lives may be that we choose to live a life of meaning and not a waste.

To Jesus through Mary-Amelia Maness-Gilliland

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