To be recited each day before the novena:
Heavenly Father, through Blessed Karl You have given the People of God an example of how we can live a discerning and spiritual life in a convincing and courageous way.
His public actions as Emperor and King, and his personal acts as a family man were firmly based in the teachings of the Catholic Faith. His love for the Eucharistic Lord grew in times of trial and helped him to unite himself to Christ’s sacrifice through his own life’s sacrifice for his peoples. Emperor Karl honored the Mother of God and loved to pray the rosary throughout his life.
Strengthen us by his intercession when discouragement, faintheartedness, loneliness, bitterness, and depression trouble us. Let us follow the example of Your faithful servant and unselfishly serve our brothers and sisters according to Your will.
Hear my petitions and grant my request: (mention your intentions here)
Grant Blessed Karl of Austria the honor of the altar as a saint, for the glory of Your Name, the praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and for blessings upon the Church and all those within the Prince of Peace Catholic Church & School community. Amen.
Day 9: The Blessed Virgin Mary
On the day of his death, the Emperor asked his wife which day it was. “The Mother of God’s day,” answered the Empress. “Saturday, then,” he confirmed delighted. After his death, the body of Emperor Karl was placed in the Marian church of Nossa Senhora do Monte on Madeira, where it still rests today.
Throughout his life the protective mantle of Mary shielded Emperor Karl, which can be seen in the major events of his life: “November 19th (his arrival on Madeira) was a Saturday. Many of the most important days in the life of the Emperor occurred on Saturdays. He was confirmed on a Saturday, reached his majority and married on Saturdays, and was crowned King of Hungary on a Saturday. It was on a Saturday that the King returned home to Hungary in his first attempt to restore the monarchy, and a Saturday after the second Hungarian restoration attempt had failed that he refused, with dire consequences, to give up all claims to the throne. It was a fateful Saturday when the family moved to the foggy atmosphere of the Monte, and the final day of the Emperor’s life, April 1, 1922-when God called His faithful servant home-was a Saturday.”
With the rosary in his hand, Emperor Karl spiritually fought the battles of his life. It is exemplary that he faithfully prayed the rosary daily. The beads of the rosary which he received from Pope Saint Pius X, would slide through his fingers as he prayed the familiar prayers. Government business might be urgently demanding his attention, yet the Emperor still made time so that he would have a half-hour to himself to pray a rosary.
As a faithful son of Mary he honored his heavenly Mother through imitation. Modesty, humility, and an open, friendly, and engaging nature were some of the virtues he fostered within himself. Consideration of God’s Will, devotion to a deep prayer life, and Marian devotions were fundamental principles in his life. As a loving monarch and father he allowed his heart to be pierced by a sword of sorrow, just as the Blessed Mother’s heart was pierced standing under the cross of her Son.
My Lord and God, I thank You for the maternal care of Mary in the life of Emperor Karl. Help me, that I may faithfully and devoutly follow his example and pray the rosary daily. Hear my petitions and grant my request (mention your intention here) through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria. Amen.
Day 8: Faithful Fulfillment of the Will of God
Emperor Karl sought the Will of God in everything he did. For him it was the most important principle of his life and all of his actions. Eyewitnesses also tell of his love of chastity, and his absolute refusal to tolerate indecent language in his presence.
Empress Zita relates what he said to her on his deathbed: “‘To be angry? To complain? When you know God’s Will, all things are good’ And after a while: ‘I want to say now very clearly to you, how it is with me: My entire endeavor has always been to clearly recognize the Will of God in all things and to follow it as completely as possible.’ After some time, he repeated: ‘Only let us not complain.'”
The phrase “Thy Will be done!” was.a guiding tenet in the life of Blessed Karl, and one he repeated shortly before he placed his soul into the hands of his Creator. With Christ, Emperor Karl could say, “My food is to do the Will of Him who has sent Me.” His commission to lead his people made him a regent of God and, as such, this noble monarch subordinated himself to Divine Will and gave himself in humble service. He was prepared for heaven, and it is for this reason that the Lord could call Emperor Karl to Himself.
Others always came first for him; he always placed himself last. In this sense, Emperor Karl is a good example of a man devoted to Mary, who gave her “Fiat;’ and said, “Let it be done unto me according to Your Word!” His pure soul mirrored the “Fiat” of the Mother of God.
Even during his final illness and a feverish delirium he thought only of fulfilling his obligations: “Now [he worried] about Viennese children for whom he was trying to get milk, then he worried about a Czech soldier in a military hospital who was parched with thirst. And he was always worried about the neglected evacuation of Transylvania before the Rumanian invasion, a subject which had been the cause of many violent battles of words between him and Count Tisza.”
Emperor Karl followed the example of his Lord and Savior, who suffered alone at the Mount of Olives, and amidst his greatest trials drank with Christ from the cup of suffering. He accepted the Will of his Father in the midst of his greatest afflictions-all of which exceeded normal standards-yet through it all, Blessed Karl could still say, “I am grateful to our loving God for all that He sends.”
My Lord and God, I thank You for the “Fiat” of Emperor Karl in all his life’s situations. Help me to recognize Your Will in my life and to follow it. Hear my petitions and grant my request (mention your intention here) through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria. Amen.
Day 7: The Sovereign
Eyewitnesses praise Blessed Karl’s profound sense of duty. He understood the obligation of emperor given to him as a sacred trust, and saw himself as a father to his peoples. In a conversation with Count Polzer-Hoditz on April 28, 1917, the Emperor said, “It comes down, however, to simply help as much as one can help. As Emperor I must set a good example. If everyone would only practice his Christian duty, there would not be so much hate and misery in the world.” His love for neighbor was exemplary. To ease the suffering of his war-weary peoples, Emperor Karl ordered that the palace horses and wagons be put into service to deliver coal to the Viennese population, donated much of his private fortune to the poor, and even gave away clothes from his own closet to the needy.
In 1914, at the beginning of the war, the future Emperor declared to a crowd which had gathered at Hetzendorff Palace in support of the war: “Everyone who knows me knows how much I love Austria and Hungary. I cannot stand back at their hour of need. Everyone who knows me, also knows how much I am a soldier and trained as such for warfare. Nonetheless, how people can welcome this war-however just-with such jubilation, I simply cannot understand. Warfare, after all, is something appalling.”
Dr. Friedrich Funder wrote about Emperor Karl in 1938: “He was the only head-of-state to continuously seek ways to end the war … he did so using his entire being, with friend and enemy. Would it have gone according to the will and efforts of Emperor Karl, millions of lives lost in battle-and not just Austrians-would have been saved, the dreadful degradation of the German people would have been avoided, and Europe could have enjoyed a lasting peace to our day.”
Emperor Karl had the innermost conviction that God had entrusted the crown to him. Because of this certitude, the royal coronation in Hungary had great meaning for him. Fifty years after the event, Empress Zita spoke about the coronation: “The thing that impressed both of us most about the whole ceremony was the moving liturgical side of it all – especially the oaths that the King took at the altar before his anointing to preserve justice for all and strive for peace. This sacred pledge given in the cathedral was exactly the political programme he wanted to carry out from the throne. We both felt this so strongly that hardly any words were necessary between us” (Excerpt from: Gordon Brook-Shepherd: The Last Habsburg, Weybright and Talley, New York, 1968).
The coronation rite itself is described by Dr. Maria Holbacher: “Through the sacred rite, which is liturgically administered ‘through the Grace of God’ as a sacramental, he becomes sovereign and imbued with Divine Grace for the specific station of his high calling, in order that he might govern the peoples entrusted to him in peace and prosperity for their salvation. The ceremony of the coronation takes place before the offertory of the Holy Mass, and is similar to solemn professions, the ordination of priests, the blessing of abbots and the consecration of bishops, in that the candidate lies face-down on the floor before the altar while the litany of the saints is prayed. The Primate of Hungary, the Archbishop of Esztergom, confers the coronation-rite and celebrates the Mass. After a long prayer, the coronation-candidate, who stands throughout, is anointed with sacred chrism and invested with the royal regalia and insignia while his sacred obligations are cited individually. This is so the candidate clearly understands that the standards and expectations of ethical obligations and moral actions are so high that human power alone cannot accomplish them without the help of God.”
The fidelity of Blessed Karl as an anointed monarch is distinctive. He chose to be misjudged, slandered, banished, and reduced to complete poverty, rather than be disloyal to his coronation oath. It was his personal conviction that he could never abdicate because he had received the crown irrevocably from the hands of God, through the representatives of the Church.
Fr. Maurus Carnot, O.S.B., who pastorally cared for Emperor Karl while he was in exile in Switzerland, heard him emphatically state, “But I will never renounce my coronation oath. The crown of Saint Stephen is sacred to me. You can take my life, but never, never, never can you take away my oath and sacred crown.”
Empress Zita followed the example of her husband throughout her life, and was steadfast in her refusal to abdicate.
My Lord and God, I thank You for Emperor Karl’s fidelity to his vocation. Help me, that I too may faithfully fulfill my responsibilities. Hear my petitions and grant my request (mention your intention here) through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria. Amen.
Day 6: Devoted Father
One of the biggest hardships for Emperor Karl was the separation from his children as he and Empress Zita were sent into exile on Madeira. The children remained in Switzerland until Empress Zita, with many restrictions, could travel there and bring them back with her to Madeira.
The following is an account of the family’s reunion: “On February 2, [Emperor Karl] met Empress Zita and the children – Archduke Robert excluded (because he was recovering from appendicitis)- to accompany them and Archduchess Maria Theresa into Funchal. Emperor Karl stood on the pier. The joy of the children was indescribable when they greeted him with exuberant embraces when he boarded the ship. Tears ran down the Emperor’s cheeks as he carried the little Archduke Rudolf in his arms down the gangway. The attendants who had come with the children were startled to see how tired and aged their sovereign had become. But it was impossible to see any sign of bitterness in his face, or hear him say anything uncharitable.”
During his final illness, the Emperor received considerable pleasure when he could hear from his sickbed the voices of his children through the window, and if they could hear him when he called out to them.
Throughout his fatal illness he was considerate and concerned for the well-being of others because of the danger of infection, and for his children because of the possible trauma of seeing him so ill. Of all the children, only Otto, as his heir, was called to his deathbed because he wanted to give the young archduke the example of how a monarch and Catholic faces death. As Otto sobbed loudly seeing his father struggling with death, he received comfort from his mother. The Emperor wanted to save the rest of the children from contagion and trauma.
One of the last prayers the Emperor uttered shortly before he died was for all of his children, whom he mentioned by name, placing them under the special protection of the Lord. Archduchess Maria Theresa overheard the Emperor praying for the children. She gives the following account: “‘Dearest Savior protect our children, Otto, Madi, Robert, Felix, Karl Ludwig. Who comes next?’ The Empress helped him, ‘Rudolf,’ and he continued, ‘Rudolf, Lotti, and, especially, our newest little one ( the Empress was pregnant with Elisabeth, who was born after the Emperor’s death). Preserve them in body and soul, and let them die rather than commit a mortal sin, Amen! Thy will be done. Amen.'”
My Lord and God, I thank You that Blessed Emperor Karl loved his family and entrusted them to Your Will and Divine Plan, which he loved so very much. Hear my petition (mention your petition here) through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria. Amen.
Day 5: Love Your Enemy
The Emperor heroically practiced the commandment to “Love your enemy.”
Throughout his life he continually, and in exemplary ways, pardoned others. Emperor Karl suffered greatly throughout his life from lies, slander, and many hardships. Yet, the ultimate example of his pardoning others were the words he uttered on his deathbed, “I forgive all my enemies, all who have slandered me, and all who have worked against me.”
On April 5, 1925, Rudolf Brougier, former aide-du-camp, wrote in his memoirs about Emperor Karl before his ascension to the throne in 1916: “[He had] an authentic faith in God, was generously good-hearted, charmingly affable, untiringly faithful to duty, and had an exceptional aptitude for military leadership. His naturally humble and unaffected disposition was strengthened by his proper upbringing. He lacked airs, and the need to ‘play to the gallery.’ With all natural cheerfulness he accepted his heavy burden, although its weight was already pressing down upon him. The Archduke’s courage and fearlessness for his own personal safety was already well known and acknowledged; the disdain for his own personal danger remained characteristic of him as Emperor, which he preserved throughout the worst of times.
On the other hand, Blessed Karl felt completely responsible for the welfare of his subordinates. His demeanor of pure charity in association with his deep faith formed the great mainspring of his persistent striving for peace. In 1916, as Heir-Apparent, he already considered his chief goal to be the attainment of a quick and honorable end to the war; from the very first day of ascending to the throne he started to put all of his efforts towards this goal: to protect the peoples of his empire from further sacrifices, and to rule as a peace emperor over a rejuvenated Austria.”
It is hard to believe that a man with such virtues and noble character could be so bitterly opposed and slandered in order that his reputation might be destroyed. Not only did the Emperor suffer from the confiscation of his personal property, but his good name was destroyed by lies and falsehoods.
Sacred Scripture teaches that the standard of holiness can be measured by one’s capacity to love your enemy. In light of this criterion, we can grant that Blessed Karl had a high degree of virtue.
My Lord and God, You teach us in the “Our Father,” to forgive the sins of others, so that our sins may be forgiven. Help me to imitate the example of Emperor Karl so that I might forgive all injustices done against me. Hear my petition and grant my request (mention your intention here) through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria. Amen.
Day 4: Greatness in Suffering
Although Emperor Karl was forced into exile and had move his family into a crowded villa at the top of mountain near Funchal, he kept a positive attitude and cheerful disposition. He would say to those who asked, “We are undeservedly fine.” Following Christ’s example, he willingly took up his own cross for the sake of his peoples. He offered his sufferings to Christ crucified: his exile, his concern for the well-being of his homeland and peoples; and his concern for his family, who lacked food, medical supplies, and were living in a damp, unheatable, barely furnished house.
As Christ bore the soldiers’ mockery with the crown of thorns, purple cloak, and reed, so too did Blessed Karl suffer the derision of his enemies. He mystically participated in wearing the emblems of Christ’s Passion through the suffering caused by the condemnation from his own ministers and his banishment. Even betrayal by those closest to him was not spared him. Yet, through all of this, Emperor Karl could still say, “I am grateful to our loving God for everything that he sends.”
Just as Jesus sweat blood at the Mount of Olives, so too did the Emperor suffered terribly from sweating during his final illness. During one particularly bad outbreak, he said to Archduchess Maria Theresa, “I beg you Grandmama, to help me not sweat so much.”She replied, “The doctors say that it is good for you.” Emperor Karl responded, “But I am afraid that I can no longer stand it.” The Archduchess then pointed to the crucifix in his hands and stated, ” … For us, He has sweated blood.” His eyes followed her gesture. He gave a lingering gaze at the crucifix, and then he nodded his head several times. From that time on Blessed Karl never mention this affliction again, despite suffering from the sweats until his death.
His illness worsened and his sufferings included gasping for breath, infections in his arms from the many injections he was given, burns from the mustard plasters, and four large burns on his neck and shoulders where they had cupped his back. His head had to be propped up because the Emperor had become too weak to hold it upright on his own. Despite these personal sufferings, he was still considerate and concerned about others-especially his children-and the possibility that his afflictions could be contagious.
The attending doctors stated that they had never experienced such strength of will power as that which they saw in the Emperor. He practiced remarkable self-control throughout his illness, and his mental powers remained steadfast despite the fevers and intense pain. They noted that only once did the Emperor slip and greet them in German rather than in their common language, French.
Blessed Emperor Karl prayed constantly until the very end. The doctors, who had became quite fond of their imperial patient, cried like children when they realized that they could not prevent the Emperor’s death, or ease his pain and suffering. Before he died, he stated, “I declare that the November Manifest is null and void because it was forced. No man can deny, nor take away the fact, that I am the Crowned King of Hungary.”
At ten in the morning, the Emperor said, “I have to suffer so much, so that my peoples may come together again:’ Then just after noon, at 12:23 p.m., the Emperor’s sufferings were over forever.
My Lord and God, Emperor Karl humbly walked the way of the cross with You. Help me to follow his example and in love for You to carry my daily crosses. Hear my petitions and grant my request (mention your intention here) through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria. Amen.
Day 3: A Life of Sacrifice
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
By the time Blessed Emperor Karl was exiled to the island of Madeira his life was already one of making sacrifices for others.
He lost his homeland, empire, and throne. His own people confiscated his private money and possessions. Penniless, friendless, and unable to earn a living, he had a wife and seven children, with another one on the way, to support. He was forced to live under foreign control on a far away island in a disagreeably damp house that was not inhabitable. Yet, despite all of these trials he was heroically ready to make sacrifices for others.
The only sacrifice finally remaining to Emperor Karl was to offer his life. Through his prayers, he became convinced that God wanted him to make the ultimate sacrifice of his life for the salvation of his peoples.
Throughout his life and during his tribulations the Emperor went to daily Communion whenever possible. Even at the end of his life he continued this custom and in conjunction with the host on the paten, which becomes the Holy Sacrifice of the Divine Lamb of God, he offered himself up completely to the Will of the Father for the salvation of his peoples.
The Emperor’s favorite church on Madeira was Nossa Senhora do Monte, which could be seen from miles away. Once he was speaking to his wife while the church was in their view. He stated that God demanded that he give his life for the good of his peoples. The stunned Empress was speechless, but with resolve in his eyes the Emperor looked at the church and said, “I will do it!”
Soon thereafter, God accepted the Emperor’s vow when he suddenly became ill and suffered an early death. The prophetic words uttered by Pope Saint Pius X upon meeting Karl when he was just a young archduke, were fulfilled: “I bless Archduke Karl who will be the future Emperor of Austria and who will help lead his countries and peoples to great honor and many blessings-but this will not become obvious until after his death.”
Prayer: My Lord and God, I thank You for the sacrifice Emperor Karl made of his life. Help me to follow his selfless example and not refuse You any sacrifice You may require of me. Hear my petitions and grant my request (mention your intention here) through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria. Amen.
Day 2: Devotion to the Most Sacred Heart
“Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, form our hearts to be like Your Heart.” On October 2, 1918, Blessed Karl consecrated himself and his family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Through being misjudged, slandered, persecuted, risking his life for his peoples, exile, and his painful final illness, Emperor Karl allowed his heart to be conformed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Even in exile and sickness the Emperor took his duties as monarch and father to his peoples very seriously. Because of his illness, Empress Zita read newspapers to him, but she felt that the articles worked him up and made him worry too much. She urged him not to ask her to read to him because it was not good for his health, but Emperor Karl replied, “It is my duty to be informed, not my pleasure. Please, read!”
His devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus strengthened the Emperor during his painful, last illness. On his deathbed he said to the Countess Mensdorff, “It is so good to have faith in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Without it, the hardships would be impossible to withstand.”
Blessed Karl kept an image of the Sacred Heart under his pillow throughout his life, and during his fatal illness. Once when Empress Zita wanted him to get some much-needed rest, she brought the picture out from under the pillow and held it before the Emperor’s eyes. She said that it was absolutely necessary for him to sleep, and that he should ask the Lord for it. He gazed at the image and urgently, yet devoutly, said, “Dearest Savior, please, grant me sleep.” He was then able to fall asleep and rested for three, much-needed hours.
Prayer: My Lord and God, according to the marvelous example of Your servant, Emperor Karl, I too wish to consecrate myself to Your Most Sacred Heart. Hear my petitions and grant my request (mention your intention here) through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria. Amen.
Day 1: Reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament
Blessed Karl lived under the glory of the Blessed Sacrament. The rays of grace from this splendor attracted him and he loved to visit the tabernacle. Whether stressed by the strains of government or just the ordinary beginning of his day, he sought guidance and solace before Jesus Christ in the tabernacle. Wherever he lived, he sought to have a private chapel where the Blessed Sacrament could be reserved. His devotion to the Eucharist manifested itself even in the small details, such as his concern that the sanctuary lamp should never be allowed to go out. Several times a day, he would say, “I must go to see if the altar light is still burning.” When he said this, everyone knew that he would be away for some time kneeling and praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
The depths of his prayer and meditation were so great that he was often unaware of what was occurring around him. For instance, he was frequently so caught up in prayer that he did not realize the collection basket was being passed. In order not to disturb him, Empress Zita talked him into holding his offering in his hand from the beginning of Mass so that she could nudge his arm to drop the money into the basket at the appropriate time!
Father Maurus Carnot, OSB said about Emperor Karl, “In Disentis (Switzerland), it did not matter whether it was snowing or if there were snow drifts, he was always punctual for Holy Mass at the Church of Saint Mary, where he would receive Holy Communion during the masses that Crown Prince Otto, with his boyish curly hair, would serve…”
During the Emperor’s fatal illness, he had the strongest longings to frequently receive Holy Communion. Holy Mass was regularly celebrated in the drawing room adjacent to his sick room. At first, the door was left ajar so that he could follow the masses without losing privacy or risk infecting others, but he soon requested the the door be left wide open saying, “I do so want to see the altar!” He was so respectful of the Eucharist that he was not going to receive because he was afraid that his constant coughing might profane the host, but remarkably, during the holy rites his coughing stopped completely and he was able to take Communion. It was as if he were compelled by the Lord to receive Holy Communion. When he asked the Empress to tell the priest that he wished to receive Communion, she told him that it was not possible because Countess Mensdorff was going to receive the only host consecrated. Emperor Karl could not be dissuaded, so Empress Zita went to the priest and saw that he too must have an inner voice because he had consecrated an additional host for the Emperor.
As Emperor Karl lived, so did he die. In life, he was united with the Eucharistic Lord, and the Blessed Sacrament was the center of his life when he died. Half an hour before he died, he wished to receive Holy Communion. Although his face was pale and drawn from his long, tiring struggle with illness, he radiated with joy as he received the Eucharist. This joyful countenance remained even after his death. During the Emperor’s final moments, Father Zsamboki held the Blessed Sacrament before his eyes, and in the presence of the Eucharist he said his final words, “Thy Will be done, Jesus, Jesus, come!” With his final breath, he whispered, “Jesus!” He now entered that eternal light, which is symbolized by the sanctuary lamp he had so carefully attended in his chapel.
My Lord and God, according to the marvelous example of Your servant, Emperor Karl, I will visit You in the tabernacle frequently, and receive You with joy and longing in the most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. Hear my petitions and grant my request (mention your intentions again here) through the intercession of Blessed Karl of Austria. Amen.