Leon Bloy once wrote, “The only real sadness, the only real failure, the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”
Why? Because to be anything less than holy is to remain unactualised. To be called to life is to be called to sanctity.
All men and women, in every age, wherever we live, whatever status we achieve in life, every single person is born with an immortal soul, created in the Image and Likeness of God. Everyone, without exception therefore, has the potential for sanctity, for holiness, which is, simply stated, the full flowering of our personality.
Blessed Karl knew this. In like manner of many holy kings before him, he devoted his life to humble obedience and imitation of the King of Kings, Christ, our Sovereign Lord. He did not allow either riches or honours to stand in his way or blur his vision of where his first duty to God lay. In leading his people during a short reign lived in the turbulent times of World War I, and whilst caring for their needs, their spiritual welfare was his first and foremost preoccupation. He was well-loved by the vast majority of his subjects, and greatly mourned at his early death.
The Emperor Karl League of Prayer promotes the canonization of Blessed Karl of the House of Austria who, as Emperor Karl I and King Karl IV, reigned in Austria-Hungary from 1916-1918. The League invites new members.
Karl was conscientiously given a Catholic education and supported from childhood by the prayers of a group of people, because the religious sister and stigmatist, Sr. M. Vincentia Fauland, prophesied that he would suffer greatly and be attacked. After Karl’s death this group developed into the Emperor Karl League of Prayers for Peace Among Nations, which introduced his cause for beatification in 1949, and has had ecclesiastic recognition since 1963 as a prayer society. Through his life and dying, Emperor Karl has encouraged and strengthened the faith of many people. Inspired by his spirituality, the Emperor Karl League of Prayers continues to pray today.
Karl of the House of Austria was born on August 17, 1887, at Schloss Persenbeug in Lower Austria. His parents were Archduke Otto and Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony, daughter of the last king of Saxony. Emperor Franz Joseph I was Karl’s great uncle.
From an early age, Karl fostered a great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He used prayer to guide him in making all important decisions.
On October 21, 1911, he married Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma. During the ten good years of their happy and exemplary marriage, the pair were given eight children. While on his death bed, Karl said to Zita: “I love you unceasingly!”
On June 28, 1914, because of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Karl became the heir apparent of the throne of Austria-Hungary. In the middle of the First World War, the death of Emperor Franz Joseph on November 21, 1916, made Karl the Emperor of Austria. On December 20, 1916, he was crowned Apostolic King of Hungary.
Karl also saw his duty as a way to follow Christ: by loving his people and being concerned and devoted to improving their lives.
The most sacred obligation of a king – to provide peace – became the primary focus of Karl’s efforts during this horrific war. The only world leader to do so, he support the peace proposals of Pope Benedict XV.
During a most difficult time domestically, he offered extensive assistance to his people and gave example to them by passing social legislation in conformity with Catholic social teachings.
His stance prevented civil war from occurring during the post-war transition of government. Yet still he was banished from his homeland.
At the request of the pope, who feared that communism would overtake Central Europe, Karl attempted to restore his government and return to the throne of Hungary. Two attempts failed because he wanted to avoid civil war at all costs. Karl was then sent into exile on Madeira. He saw his abandonment there as a commission from God, a duty he could not put aside.
He lived with his family in poverty, in a damp house. There, Karl contracted a fatal illness, which he accepted as a sacrifice to make for the peace and unity of his people. Karl endured his suffering without complaint, forgave everyone who had treated him unjustly, and died on April 1, 1922, with an almost holy countenance. The motto of his life, which he even said on his deathbed, was: “My entire endeavor has always been to clearly recognize the Will of God in all things and to follow it as completely as possible.”
On October 3, 2004, Pope Saint John Paul II beatified Emperor and King Karl.
THR: “[Below is the] brilliant recounting of an important day for the Imperial-Royal soldiers on the Italian Front, written by author Christopher Reibold. The story itself is based on a true event in Blessed Karl’s life, attested to in the biographies prepared for his beatification.”