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Saint of the Day: Pope St. Martin I

Meet the 11-year-old martyr of our own time

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 08/14/17

Her name is Brigitte Irrgang, and she’s been immortalized with an oratorio that just debuted in her native Germany.


Brigitte Irrgang was only 11 when she was attacked and murdered more than six decades ago. But since her death, a chapel and a monument have been erected in her memory and Pope John Paul II named her a Catholic martyr. The latest honor is a new oratorio to commemorate her short life and its tragic end. “Brigitte. Musikalisches Leuchten” (Brigitte. Musical Beacon) premiered in Brigitte’s home town of Loitz in northeastern Germany this past weekend, with subsequent performances in Greifswald and Berlin.

About her life and death:

Born in 1943 in a German-settled area of Slovakia, Brigitte Irrgang was the fifth of six children and the only girl. Her parents were both teachers and devout Catholics. After World War II, ethnic Germans living in Eastern Europe became a target for anger and violence. Though Brigitte’s family had lived in the region for centuries, her parents were forced to flee west in 1946. They settled in Loitz in Western Pomerania, not far from the city of Greifswald in what would become East Germany. Her father became a headmaster and the family lived on the school grounds. They continued to practice their faith in defiance of the German Democratic Republic’s anti-religion communist regime. Brigitte was described as “the sunbeam of Loitz” because of her joyful and caring nature. Her teacher said she was “passionate about everything good and beautiful, always ready to help, pure in her desires and ambitions, hungry for knowledge and seeking catharsis of the soul.” But, her brother Peter says, Brigitte was far from prim. “She was feisty – she played football with the boys.” Shortly before she was to be confirmed, Brigitte chose Maria Goretti, who was canonized in 1950 as a virgin-martyr, as her patron saint. Two weeks before her confirmation, she went out early one evening to buy flour, butter and sugar for her mother. On the way back, she was sexually attacked. Though she fought back bravely, she was strangled to death just meters from her home. Her murderer was swiftly arrested.

Read the rest. Brigitte Irrgang, pray for us!

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