Blessed Karl of Austria, Emperor and King: 21st October

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.

imageBlessed 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.


From The Emperor Karl League of Prayer (with a h/t to The Hapsburg Restorationist on ‘The War for Christendom‘)

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.

The wedding of Zita and Charles, 21 October 1911.

The wedding of Zita and Charles, 21 October 1911.

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.

Emperor Karl and Empress Zita with their children while in exile.

Emperor Karl and Empress Zita with their children while in exile.

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.

Beatification Mass of Blessed Karl presided over by Pope Saint John Paul II, 2004. Note the banner of Blessed Karl in the background.

Beatification Mass of Blessed Karl presided over by Pope Saint John Paul II, 2004. Note the banner of Blessed Karl in the background.


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.”

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15 Responses to Blessed Karl of Austria, Emperor and King: 21st October

  1. Toad says:

    Wasn’t Austria particularly noted for its anti-Semitism during Emperor Karl’s day? I might be quite wrong, of course, but weren’t Jews forbidden to go to universities, and so on, which is why so many of them became such notable writers and journalists, and suchlike?
    The Hapsburg Sofa re-upholsterer will know better than Toad.


  2. Toad says:

    “(Karl) died on April 1, 1922, with an almost holy countenance.”
    How do we know it was only “almost” holy?
    How do we calibrate these kind of things?


  3. johnhenrycn says:

    That Michael Timmins narration of The Rescuer was very moving, THR. Thank you for sharing it with us. So sad that Catholics were fighting Catholics in the Alps.


  4. @Toad,
    Austria was known for its philosemitism, just look at how many Jews were ennobled under Bl. Karl’s predecessor Franz Josef alone! To quote ‘The World Reacts to the Holocaust’, “Austria’s Jews came to regard the last half-century of the Monarchy as a golden era in their history.”
    Kindly yours,
    The Hapsburg Sofa Re-upholsterer


  5. JH,
    You’re very welcome! Yes, quite a tragedy that the war brought so many devout peoples into the conflict against each other. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God.”


  6. Toad says:

    “Austria’s Jews came to regard the last half-century of the Monarchy as a golden era in their history.”
    If you say so, reupholsterer – but look what they were comparing it with. (Ugly sentence – sorry.)
    Did the Jews enjoy the same legal rights in Austria, in those days, as they did in England, say?

    “So sad that Catholics were fighting Catholics in the Alps.”
    All right if they were fighting one another somewhere flat – like Belgium, I suppose?


  7. kathleen says:

    A most moving and interesting follow-up post by THR yesterday, “Blessed Karl, the Hope of Austria”, can be read here.


    Anti-semitism is not exclusive to any one country; it is a sorry phenomenon that has waxed and waned over the centuries, and as THR has pointed out, the period before and during the life of Blesses Karl was a golden age for Austrian/Hungarian Jews. See this entry in Wikipedia:

    Between 1848 and 1938, the Jewish Austrian population enjoyed a period of prosperity beginning with the start of regime of Franz Joseph I of Austria as the Emperor of the Austria–Hungary Empire, and dissolved gradually after the death of the emperor up to the annexation of Austria to Germany by the Nazis, a process that led to the start of the Holocaust in Austria.

    Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria bestowed on the Jewish population equal rights, saying “the civil rights and the country’s policy is not contingent in the people’s religion”. The emperor was well liked by the Jewish population, which, as a token of appreciation, wrote prayers and songs about him that were printed in Jewish prayer books. In 1849 the emperor canceled the prohibition against the Jewish population organizing within the community, and in 1852 new regulations of the Jewish community were set. In 1867 the Jewish population formally received full equal rights.

    Sadly, the twisted mindset of Hitler, searching for an easy scapegoat to work up fanatical nationalistic passions and hatred for ‘the enemy’ to recover what was lost for the Germanic people after WWI, brought anti-semitism back with a vengeance!


  8. kathleen says:

    JH @ 19:41 yesterday

    So sad that Catholics were fighting Catholics in the Alps.

    I agree. The wasted blood of millions of fine young Catholic men on the battlefields of Flanders is something later generations of Europeans are still paying the price for today, and will do so for many future generations. It is well known that the inability of Pope Saint Pius X to stop the coming war, and foreseeing the terrible devastation it would bring about mostly to Catholics, his heart was broken, leading to his early death.


  9. GC says:

    kathleen, Toad needs to treat you to tapas & Tio Pepe at the Biff-the-Bull Bar (or whatever it was called) in Palencia for doing his homework for him.


  10. Toad says:

    The drinks for Kathleen will be on Toad, as host, GC.

    “The wasted blood of millions of fine young Catholic men on the battlefields of Flanders ..”
    Why single out Catholics? Don’t Protestants, Muslims and Atheists have any blood to waste?
    Maybe their blood doesn’t matter.


  11. Toad says:

    Dear “Moderators” – you seem to have “overlooked” my exhortation for followers of CP&S not to miss the link provided by Kathleen 22 Oct @ 13.18.
    Look at the main photo. I will say no more, or I will be censored, for some obscure reason.


  12. kathleen says:

    Toad @ 09:42 yesterday

    I presume you are referring to my first link, right?
    Yup, that was a beautiful oration by THR to Blessed Karl, an exceptionally holy and faithful monarch, and the post was illustrated by an amazing photo. Anything wrong, Mr Toad?

    “The wasted blood of millions of fine young Catholic men on the battlefields of Flanders ..”
    Why single out Catholics? Don’t Protestants, Muslims and Atheists have any blood to waste?
    Maybe their blood doesn’t matter.

    You miss the point. Of course the blood of all men spilled in battle is sad, but we are talking of how devout* Catholics were killing each other in WWI – that’s the tragedy. And a very large percentage of the men killed in WWI were Catholic! They had been dragged into a brutal war that could have been avoided if it had not been for the greed and ambitions of certain hubristic politicians.
    (* That these men were “devout” cannot be disputed when you look at the pics of thousands of kneeling soldiers in deep prayer at the Masses celebrated on muddy fields or craggy mountaintops.)

    P.S. For graciously doing your ‘homework” for you (pace GC) I’ll take you up on your invite, Toad, but no Tio Pepe thanks, only fruit juice (I’m a teetotaller)… and yet I’ll not forgo the tapas! 😉


  13. Toad says:

    Yes indeed, Kathleen, no Atheists in foxholes, eh?
    True. If I found myself in one, I’d be praying like mad for God to get me out.
    Maybe my Grandfather did. Didn’t work though.
    He was killed, age 26 and left three children.


  14. johnhenrycn says:

    Not to be clever, but if your grandfather did utter such a prayer, it worked. He would have gone on to his reward by now anyway. He just arrived there sooner rather than later. The thing about trench conversions is we can’t know how serious they were. Thankfully, Jesus does.


  15. kathleen says:

    Toad, I’m sorry to hear of your grandfather’s early death during WWI. There were so many young men, some no more than mere boys, whose lives were cut short in that terrible war. And then came an even more devastating one 20 years later! We post-war babes (baby boomers and younger) have really no idea of the hardships and suffering our ancestors went through. But are we better off because of it?
    In today’s selfish, hedonistic, pampered Western culture that inclines us toward the material, the ‘here and now’, whilst obscuring divine truths, one cannot help but admire that more natural and humble way of former times when men turned towards God for all their needs.

    Perhaps a bit of a ‘shaking up’ is what is in store for us soon to bring us to our senses?


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