Mayer, Rupert, Bl.

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Priest of the Society of Jesus noted for his anti-Nazi activities; b. Stuttgart, Germany, Jan. 23, 1876; d. Munich, Germany, Nov. 1, 1945.

The son of Kolumban, a prosperous merchant, and Maria (Schäurer) Mayer, Rupert studied in the universities of Fribourg, Munich, and Tübingen before entering the seminary at Rottenburg. He was ordained a priest May 2, 1899, and the following year entered the Jesuits, making his novitiate in Lichtenstein and taking further theological studies at Valkenburg in the Netherlands. Mayer gained a reputation as a preacher of parish missions in Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. During World War I he volunteered to be a chaplain, was wounded and lost his left leg.

In 1921 Mayer was appointed chaplain of the Men's Sodality, a position he held until his death. He cofounded and was spiritual director of the Sisters of the Holy Family, a community that works among the very poor. In 1925, he inaugurated the Banhofsmission, a ministry to travelers.

Mayer was one of the first to recognize the incompatibility of Nazism and Christianity. The Nazi rejection of the Old Testament and the Jewish element in Christianity seemed to him intolerable and absurd. He regarded Hitler as "hysterical." These views made him an object of police attention after the Nazi accession to power in 1933. The Ministry of Justice gave him a warning because of his anti-Nazi position. In April 1936 Mayer was forbidden to preach throughout Germany and later arrested, but released on the condition that he should confine himself to the sacramental ministry and service of the poor. Although he accepted the condition under duress or "obedience," on Nov. 3, 1939, Mayer was again arrested. Confined first to the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, he spent the duration of the war in Ettal Abbey. On May 11, 1945, he returned to Munich, only days after World War II ended in Germany and began to preach again, but he died six months later at the age of 69. His tomb in the crypt of the Sodality Chapel on Neuhauserstrasse in Munich soon became a place of pilgrimage.

Pope John Paul II beatified Mayer on May 3, 1987, in the Olympic Stadium in Munich.

Feast: Nov. 3 (Jesuits).

Bibliography: a. kÖbling, ed., Father Rupert Mayer: A Modern Priest and Witness for Christ (Munich 1950; 1975). o. grittschneder, ed., Ich Predige Weiter: Pater Rupert Mayer und das Dritte Reich (Rosenheim, Germany 1987). v. a. lapomarda, The Jesuits and the Third Reich (n.p.). L'Osservatore Romano, Eng. ed., 22 (1987) 2, 3. j. n. tylenda, Jesuit Saints And Martyrs (Chicago 1998).

[p. hebblethwaite]