OCTOBER 21 IS the feast of Blessed Charles of Austria, the saintly emperor of that sacred realm whose life stands as an example of the price of sanctity. Charles worked tirelessly for peace both between the peoples of his own numerous realms and between all the nations, seeking to bring to an end the ceaseless and suicidal slaughter of the Great War, in the midst of which he had ascended to the throne of his fathers. A defender of social order, Charles reminds us of our many responsibilities to each other, even though the spirit of our current age would have us clamor only for our supposed rights. In the face of repeated betrayal and intense pressure, he refused to abdicate and so abandon his peoples to their fates, which were terrible indeed. That terrible cross he bore, the crown, was in fact a penitential grace, the sufferings he bore for the benefit of his – and indeed all – people. His reward was not in this world.
Unlike most saints, whose feast day marks the day of their earthly death, or their die natalis (birthday) in Heaven, in his case October 21 commemorates the wedding of Archduke Karl Franz Josef Ludwig Hubert Georg Maria von Habsburg-Lothringen to Princess Zita Maria delle Grazie Adelgonda Micaela Raffaela Gabriella Giuseppina Antonia Luisa Agnese of Bourbon-Parma.
The Empress Zita was eventually to bear Karl eight children, including Crown Prince Otto (below, with the Emperor), who served for twenty years as a Member of the European Parliament for Bavaria, where he still lives in exile to this day.
The many stories, anecdotes, and details of the life of Charles are far too numerous for us to give any suitable account to you on these pages. However, interested parties might consider reading The Last Hapsburg by Gordon Brook-Shepherd, a biography written with the close coöperation of Empress Zita before her death in 1989 and with unprecendented access to personalities involved and to archives previously unopen.
The Archdiocese of Vienna began collecting testimonials of Charles’ holiness in 1949, beginning the cause for his canonization. In 1954, he was declared Venerable. The scientifically inexplicable healing of a sick Brazilian nun in 1960 was certified as a miracle in December 2003 after the consideration of three medical experts. In October 2004 the Emperor was beatified by the late Pope John Paul II in a ceremony which brought much of the old guard of Europe to St. Peter’s Square. Born Karol Wojtyla, the late pope was named in honor of Kaiser Karl, since his father had served in the Emperor’s army.
His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty
Charles the First
By the Grace of God
Emperor of Austria
Apostolic King of Hungary, of this name the Fourth
King of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, and Galicia, Lodomeria, and Illyria; King of Jerusalem etc.
Archduke of Austria
Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow
Duke of Lorraine and of Salzburg, of Styria, of Carinthia, of Carniola and of the Bukovina
Grand Prince of Transylvania
Margrave of Moravia
Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Auschwitz and Zator, of Teschen, Friuli, Ragusa and Zara
Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca
Prince of Trent and Brixen
Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria
Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg, etc.
Lord of Trieste, of Cattaro, and in the Wendish Mark
Grand Voivode of the Voivodship of Serbia etc. etc.