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NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local diocese, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

~ Peter, Ministry Administrator


Friday, October 1, 2021

Saint of the Month - October 2021: Blessed Karl of Austria


Blessed Karl of Austria
Bl. Karl of Austria
Emperor, Husband, Father, & Holy Man
Memorial: October 21st

On August 17, 1887 a future king was born in the town of Persenbeug to Archduke Otto of Austria and Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony; they named him Karl and he was descended from the long-running royal line of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, which ruled the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire.

From his childhood, there were signs he was destined for greatness - not so much for any earthly feat, but more so, for his spiritual accomplishments.  In fact, while he was still a little boy, a mystic and stigmatic - Mother Vincentia Fauland of the Child Jesus from the Ursuline Convent of Sopron, Hungry - organized a group of pious Catholics to pray specifically for his well-being.  Mother Vincentia foresaw the Archduke would be exceptionally devout and would become Emperor one day (a highly unlikely scenario at the time); that his future would involve attacks from evil forces and great personal sufferings.  All that was prophesied of Karl, sadly, later proved true.

To start, Karl's mother was highly devout and rather than allowing her son to raised and taught by royal appointees, as was the custom, she personally took charge of his upbringing.  Thus, Princess Josepha was able to instill in her son her deep personal faith, which was the foundation of his exemplary conduct.  The young Archduke was notable for his piety and affable personality; a great love for the Eucharist, which he received daily; an intense devotion towards the Sacred Heart and Our Lady; and a kind, generous nature.  Despite the grandeur and worldliness that came with living in a royal court, Karl was not blinded by it all - preferring a life of simplicity and faith.

 ... I have always tried to know the will of God
and to carry it out in the most perfect way.

~ Words of Bl. Karl

At 16, Karl was conscripted into military service before attending the University of Prague.  He was highly intelligent and learned to speak several languages, while continuing to impress his peers with his natural goodness and open expressions of faith.

In early 1911, while visiting the court of Vienna, Karl met and feel in love with Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma; they were soon engaged.  It proved to be a providential match because the beautiful Zita was also a devout Catholic who shared many of the Archduke's personal convictions.  They married on October 21, 1911, in the castle of Schwarzau, and immediately left for the Marian shrine of Mariazell to seek the Holy Virgin's guidance and benediction on their union.  Karl reportedly told her on the day after their wedding: "Now, we must help each other to get to Heaven."  Zita readily agreed and, it was evident based on their model lives, that the pair lived up to their agreement while parenting a succession of eight children in the next ten years.

Bl. Karl and Princess Zita
The Emperor Karl and the Empress Zita
with six of their eight children.

In June 1914, Karl was named heir apparent of the Emperor Franz Joseph (his grand uncle) - ruler of the Austro-Hungarian thrones - after a succession of untimely and unexpected deaths among the Habsburg heirs.  When the Emperor died on November 21, 2016, Karl ascended to the throne; he was also crowned the King of Hungary the following month.

At the time of Karl's coronation, World War I was in full swing.  The new monarch again went on pilgrimage to Mariazell to entrust his reign to Our Lady.  His relatively short period of rule was marked by his efforts to help restore peace in Europe, and the establishment of social programs to help the needy impacted by war.  He was also a staunch opponent of the growing movement of Communism in Russia.

Blessed Karl Coronation
Karl, during his coronation as the King of
Hungary in December 2016.

The end of WWI in November 1918 marked the beginning of the end of Karl's reign.  Turmoil between the various ethnic groups that comprised the Austro-Hungarian kingdom, coupled with the meddling of Allied countries, soon led to the splintering of his empire into smaller republics, despite concessions made by the Emperor to maintain a semblance of unity.  Eventually, to ensure peace in the face of civil unrest, Charles allowed himself to be exiled - he sought refuge in Switzerland in March 1919.

It should be noted that Karl never officially abdicated his throne.  He left the throne with the hope of somehow being reinstated to the Hungarian crown once the political climate in the region stabilized.  Two failed attempts in 1921 to restore the king to the throne resulted in him and Zita being taken prisoners by leaders of the new government.  This time around, the royal couple and their children were forcibly exiled to the small Portuguese island of Madeira, where Karl's only other consolation, besides his family, was the Eucharist enshrined in a small home chapel he was permitted to have.

In exile, the deposed ruler surrendered himself completely to the will of God, enduring poverty, hunger, and chronic illness with uncommon peace.  He offered his privations and sufferings for the good of his former subjects, and spent most of his time in deep prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Blessed Karl in repose
Bl. Karl of Austria in death, which occurred
on Madeira in 2022.

In March 1922, Karl came down with a cold that worsened into pneumonia.  The lack of proper medical care and provisions caused his health to quickly deteriorate.  His ever-faithful Empress Zita**, was his constant prayer partner until he breathed his last on April 1, 1922.  Also present near his deathbed was the Lord, through the Eucharist, which was exposed in the dying monarch's room - Karl never ceased to adore the Lord with humility, resignation, and gratitude.  Among his last recorded words are:

Jesus, I trust in You.  Jesus, in You I live; in You I die.
Jesus I am yours, in life and in death.  Everything, as you want.

Karl of Austria died at the age of 35; his difficult vocation, a total fulfillment of Mother Vincentia's prophecy.  As news of his personal sanctity began to slowly spread beyond Madeira, the association originally inspired by Mother Vincentia to pray for Karl evolved to become the Emperor Karl League of Prayer, which now promotes his Cause for Canonization.  The saintly monarch has since been Beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 3, 2004... but his Cause needs one more validated miracle for the Emperor to be declared a Saint.  This ministry spiritually unites itself with the League in praying for Bl. Karl's speedy Canonization.

Bl. Karl of Austria, pray for us!


** POSTSCRIPT:  The Empress Zita died in 1989, also with a reputation for sanctity!  As such, her Cause for Canonization was opened by the Diocese of Le Mans, France, in December 2009.

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