Thursday, July 21, 2016


Recently I did the Blog on. Alfred Delp, SJ. In the biography it mentions BL. RUPERT MAYER one of Father Alfred’s mentors. He was born on 23 January 1876 in Stuttgart, Germany. On completing his secondary education he told his father he wanted to be a Jesuit. His father suggested he get ordained first and enter the Jesuits later, if that was still his wish. Rupert took this advice studying philosophy and theology before completing his final year at the seminary in Rottenburg. He was ordained on 2 May 1899 and celebrated his first Mass two days later.

He served for a year as a curate in Spaichingen before entering the Jesuit novitiate at Feldkirch in Austria on 1 Oct 1900. Following his novitiate, he went to the Netherlands for further studies between 1906 and 1911. He then traveled through Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, preaching missions in many parishes. 

Bl. Rupert’s real apostolate began when he was transferred to Munich in 1912. There he devoted the rest of his 31 years to migrants who came to the city from farms and small towns looking for a job and a place to stay. He was totally committed to their needs- collecting food and clothing, looking for jobs and places for them to live. He also helped them preserve their Christian faith in a city which was rapidly becoming secular. 

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Bl. Rupert at first offered his services to a camp hospital. But later was made Field Captain and travelled together with his men to France, Poland and Romania which brought him to the front line of battle. His courage and solidarity with his men became legendary. He was with them in the trenches and stayed with the dying to the very end. His courage was infectious and gave hope to his men in appalling conditions. In Dec. 1915 he was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery, a rare honor for a chaplain. His army career ended abruptly in 1916 when a badly broken leg had to be amputated. 

Military Chaplain

By the time he had fully recovered the war was over (1918) and he returned to Munich doing all he could to help people get back to a normal life. In November 1921 he became director of a Marian Congregation (Sodality of Our Lady) for men and within nine years its membership had grown to 7,000, coming from 53 different parishes. This meant that Bl. Rupert had to give up to 70 talks a month to reach all of them. For the convenience of travelers, he introduced Sunday Masses in 1925 at the main railway station. He himself would celebrate the earliest Masses, beginning at 3.10 a.m. In time, it could be said that the whole city of Munich had become his parish.

With huge social problems developing in Germany after World War I, Munich saw the rise of Communist and other social movements. Bl. Rupert took a close interest in these. He attended their meetings and even addressed them. His aim was to highlight Christian principles and to point out the fallacies in other speakers’ ideas which could mislead people. He was one of the first to recognize the dangers of  Hitler and Nazism challenging Nazi policy with Christian principles. It was inevitable that he would come in conflict with the Nazi movement.

When Hitler became chancellor of the Reich in 1933, he began to shut down church-affiliated schools and began a campaign to discredit the religious orders. Preaching in St Michael’s Church in downtown Munich, Bl. Rupert denounced these moves. As a very influential voice in the city, the Nazis could not allow him to continue his attacks on them. On 16 May 1937, the Gestapo ordered Bl. Rupert to stop speaking in public places. This he did but continued to preach in church. Two weeks later he was arrested and put in prison for six weeks. At his trial he was found guilty but given a suspended sentence. He then obeyed his superiors’ orders to remain silent but the Nazis took advantage of this to defame him in public. His superiors then allowed him to preach again in order to defend himself against the Nazis’ slanderous attacks. He was arrested six months later and served his formerly suspended sentence in Landsberg prison for five months. Then a general amnesty made it possible for him to return to Munich and work quietly in small discussion groups.

However, he was still seen as a threat and so was arrested again in November 1940 on the pretext that he had cooperated in a royalist movement. Now 63 years old, Rupert was sent to the notorious Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. After a few months, his health had deteriorated so badly that it was feared he might die in the camp and be seen as a martyr. So he was sent to stay in the beautiful Benedictine Abbey in Ettal, in the Bavarian Alps. Bl. Rupert spent his time there in prayer, leaving his future in the Lord’s hands. He remained in the abbey for almost six years until freed by American forces in May 1945.

He at once returned to Munich, where he received a hero’s welcome, and took up his pastoral work at St. Michael’s. However, the years in prison and the camp had undermined his health. On 1 Nov 1945 Bl. Rupert was celebrant at the 8 a.m. Mass on the feast of All Saints in St Michael’s. He had just read the Gospel and began preaching on the Christian’s duty to imitate the saints, when he had a stroke and collapsed. Facing the congregation,”The Lord… the Lord… the Lord…” were his last words. He died shortly afterwards. He was 69 years old. He was buried in the Jesuit cemetery in Pullach, outside Munich but his remains were later brought back to the city and interred in the crypt of the Burgersaal, the church next to St Michael’s, where the men’s sodality regularly met.

With St. Benedicta of the Cross

In 1956, Pope Pius XII, who had personally known Rupert Mayer during his time as papal nuncio in Munich, awarded him the title Servant of God. Rupert Mayer was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 3 May 1987 in Munich. His grave was visited by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, whose parents had venerated him. He is remembered for his staunch opposition to Nazi inhumanity and for his selfless dedication in helping the poor.

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