Rupert Mayer

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Blessed Rupert Mayer, SJ
Father Rupert Mayer
The Apostle of Munich
Born (1876-01-23)23 January 1876
Stuttgart, Germany
Died 1 November 1945(1945-11-01) (aged 69)
Munich, Germany
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 3 May 1987, Munich by Pope John Paul II
Feast 3 November

Rupert Mayer, S.J. (23 January 1876 – 1 November 1945) was a German Jesuit priest and a leading figure of the Catholic resistance to Nazism in Munich. In 1987, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II.


Mayer was born and grew up in Stuttgart, one of five siblings. He finished his secondary education in 1894 and studied philosophy and theology in Freiburg, Switzerland; Munich and Tübingen. He was, among other things, a member of A.V. Guestfalia Tübingen and K.D.St.V. Aenania München, two Studentenverbindungen that belong to the Cartellverband der katholischen deutschen Studentenverbindungen. In 1899, he was ordained a priest and served for a year as an assistant pastor in Spaichingen before joining the Society of Jesus in Feldkirch, Vorarlberg, Austria (then Austria-Hungary) in 1900. From 1906, he moved about Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands preaching missions in many parishes.[1] In 1912, he was transferred to Munich, where he ministry was largely to migrants who had come to the city seeking employment.

From 1914, Mayer volunteered as a chaplain in the First World War. He was initially assigned to a camp hospital; but was later made a Field Captain and sent to the fronts in France, Poland and Romania as chaplain to a division of soldiers. His bravery was legendary and he was held in great esteem by the soldiers.[1]

When there was fighting at the front, Fr. Mayer would be found himself crawling along the ground from one soldier to the next talking to them, and administering the Sacraments to them. When he was warned that he was putting his own life in danger through such activities, he replied simply, My life is in God's hands.[citation needed] In December 1915, Fr. Mayer was the first chaplain to win the Iron Cross for bravery in recognition of his work with the soldiers at the front. In December 1916, he lost his left leg after it was injured in a grenade attack.[1] He returned to Munich to convalesce and was referred to as the Limping Priest.

Rupert Mayer's grave in the Burgersaalkirche undercroft

Mayer worked managing a clerical retreat, as a preacher, and as of 1921 as a leader of the Marian Congregation in Munich. In 1937, he found himself in "protective custody" for six months, and for seven months after that, he was in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He was released from there on the condition of a broad ban on preaching. Until the liberation by the US forces in May 1945, he lived in Ettal Abbey. A United States officer returned him to Munich, where he received a hero's welcome.[citation needed] Mayer died on his feet on 1 November 1945 of a stroke, while he was celebrating 8:00 AM Mass, on the feast of All Saints' Day in St. Michael's in Munich. Accompanied by thousands of mourners, Mayer was first buried at the Jesuitenfriedhof in Pullach. Due to the steady stream of pilgrims, his remains were moved to Munich in 1948 and were reburied in the Unterkirche of the Bürgersaalkirche.

Iron Cross medal of Fr. Rupert Mayer, exhibited in the Bürgersaalkirche of Munich

Protest against the Nazis[edit]

In January 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, he showed his true face and began to close church-affiliated schools and started a campaign to defame the religious orders in Germany. Mayer spoke out against this persecution from the pulpit of St. Michael's in downtown Munich and because he was a powerful influence in the city, the Nazis could not tolerate such a force to oppose them. On 16 May 1937, the Gestapo ordered Mayer to stop speaking in public which he obeyed, but he continued to preach in church.

Mayer spoke out against anti-Catholic baiting campaigns and fought against Nazi church policy. He preached that Man must obey God more than men. His protests against the Nazis landed him several times in Landsberg prison (the same jail in which Hitler spent almost six months following the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923), and in Sachsenhausen concentration camp under the Kanzelparagraphen, a series of 19th-century laws that forbade the clergy to make political statements.

From late 1940, he was interned in Ettal Monastery, mainly because the Nazis were afraid that he would die in the concentration camp, and thus become a martyr. Mayer resolutely spoke out against the Nazi régime's evil in his lectures and sermons. Before the Sondergericht – one of Hitler's "special courts" – he declared Despite the speaking ban imposed on me, I shall preach further, even if the state authorities deem my pulpit speeches to be punishable acts and a misuse of the pulpit.

Rupert Mayer's legacy and honours[edit]

Rupert Mayer's hair venerated as a relic in Burgersaalkirche

Since his death in 1945, Mayer's followers called for his beatification. In 1950, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber opened the information process in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising regarding the call to sanctity and virtues. In 1951, Jesuit provincial Otto Faller completed and formally forwarded the beatification information to Rome.

In 1956, Pope Pius XII, who had personally known Fr. Rupert Mayer during his time as nuncio in Munich, awarded him the title Servant of God. Under Pope John XXIII, the beatification process was initiated, the results of which were formally accepted by Pope Paul VI in 1971. Under Pope John Paul II, the decree of 'heroic virtue' was issued in 1983. Mayer was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 3 May 1987 in Munich. His feast day is 3 November.


In Bavaria, numerous streets are named after Father Mayer. In 1954, the Cartell Rupert Mayer (CRM) was founded. It was a further development of the first Christliche Loge (CL) founded in Munich in 1946. The mediaeval Dombauhütten Logen may be considered its forerunner. In Pullach, Bavaria, a public school, a Realschule and a Gymnasium bear his name.

In Cebu City, Philippines, Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu, has a section named after him. Another Jesuit school in the Philippines, Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan, has a high school section that bears his name. Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado dedicated the chapel to him. In 2006 Fordham University dedicated a chapel in his name at their Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan, New York. St Rupert Mayer has a missionary school named after him in Zimbabwe.

Prayer of Rupert Mayer[edit]

The following text come from the song produced by Bukas Palad Music Ministry:

Lord, what You will let it be so
Where You will there we will go
What is Your will help us to know

Lord, when You will the time is right
In You there's joy in strife
For Your will I'll give my life

To ease Your burden brings no pain
To forego all for You is gain
As long as I in You remain

Because You will it, it is best
Because You will it, we are blest
Till in Your hands our hearts find rest
Till in Your hands our hearts find rest


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