The following remarks were delivered by H.I.R.H Prince Bertrand of Orleans-Braganza, the Prince Imperial of Brazil on October 21, 2014, the feast day of Blessed Karl, after a Mass celebrated at Old St. Mary’s Church in Washington, D.C.
Holy Mother Church gives us the saints not only as intercessors to whom we can have recourse but as examples to follow.
In what ways should Emperor Karl, recently beatified, be seen as a model? He should certainly be seen as both a model head of state and as a model head of a family.
I – Governance and Sanctity
Emperor Karl is the latest in a long series of heads of state elevated to the honor of the altar.
– St. Louis, King of France
– St. Ferdinand of Castile
– St. Stephen of Hungary
– St. Henry of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation
– St. Vladimir of Russia
– St. Olaf
– St. Casmir
– Empress Zita, already declared a Servant of God
– Princess Isabel, my great grandmother, for whose beatification the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro has taken the first steps. During the absence of her father, the Emperor Pedro II, when she was Regent of the Brazilian Empire, Princess Isabel signed the law abolishing slavery in Brazil. Brazilians started to refer to her as The Redemptrix and wanted to raise a monument to pay homage to her. She said: “I do not want a monument in my honor, but for the real Redeemer, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Corcovado mountain top.” Today, this world famous monument, symbol of Brazil, is a World Heritage monument, Christ, The Redeemer.
I could name several others saints.
How many presidents of republics have been canonized? As far as I can recall, only Gabriel Garcia Moreno, President of Ecuador, who could one day be raised to the honor of the altars. Upon hearing that the Ecuadorian president participated in Good Friday processions, barefoot, German Chancellor Bismarck ordered Garcia Moreno’s death. He was, in fact, brutally assassinated on his way from the Cathedral in Quito to the Presidential Palace.
According to Cardinal Pietro Palazzini’s Biblioteca Sanctorum, published in 1988, 21.7% of canonized saints were kings or nobles. If we consider that the percentage of kings and nobles was 1.5% of the population, we see how these data flatly contradict the black image of the nobility spread by revolutionaries…
Indeed, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, founder of the Brazilian Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, always stressed that, according to Church teaching, compliance with the Ten Commandments is required not only of men individually, but also of States.
What is the mission of a King, an Emperor, or any Head of State? It is:
– To be a living symbol of the Nation, the embodiment of the virtue of his people, and an example that supports and inspires everyone.
– To be a protector and a defender of his people. This means being on the front line to defend his people not only in the battlefield but especially to preserve their moral values by opposing initiatives such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and others.
– To know how to listen to the authentic aspirations of his people by employing his long personal experience which comes from his ancestors and thus guide them towards the fulfillment of the glorious designs that Divine Providence has in store for them.
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira used to say that we cannot simply state “Vox populi, vox Dei” (the voice of the people is the voice of God), as this does not correspond to reality. If that were true, Hitler´s election by the German people would correspond to God’s will. However, we can say “Vox populi Dei, vox Dei” (the voice of the people of God is the voice of God), because the King should be able to distinguish God’s designs through the voice of a virtuous people.
In his Encyclical Quanta Cura, Blessed Pius IX teaches that “kingdoms rest on the foundation of the Catholic Faith” and that “the royal power was given not only for the governance of the world, but most of all, for the protection of the Church.”
Today there is much talk of human rights but one forgets that after the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ the primary right of every man is to be governed in a Christian way.
II – Emperor Karl’s Exemplary Life
In his childhood, he was influenced by his mother, the Archduchess Maria Josepha, born Princess of Saxony, a very pious and Catholic lady.
His preceptors were all devout Catholics, including the one who exerted the most influence on its formation, Count Georg Wallis, who was “a practicing Catholic and very pious faithful servant of the Emperor from the bottom of his soul.”
As a child “he would not pass before a church without stopping and saying some prayer.” And he had great devotion to the Mother of God as his Heavenly Mother.
At the age of 16, upon receiving the Order of the Golden Fleece, “he was given the privilege of having a holy Mass celebrated for him anywhere,” a fact that “gave him particular satisfaction.”
As a young officer, before and at the beginning of the Great War, he was particularly zealous for the good of his soldiers, especially regarding religious assistance.
In 1911, Archduke Karl, not yet heir to the throne, but heir to its heir, married Princess Zita of Bourbon Parma, his childhood friend.
The young Princess, before leaving for Austria, went to Rome with her mother to receive the blessing of Pope St. Pius X, who emphatically tells her: “You are going to marry the heir to the throne. So I augur all of [God’s] blessings upon you.” She dared not remind the Pope that the heir was Archduke Franz Ferdinand. And the Pope continued: “I rejoice infinitely, for a great blessing will fall upon your country thanks to him. He will be Austria’s reward for its fidelity to the Church.”
Archduke Karl, just after marrying, said to Princess Zita: “Now we must help each other to get to heaven.”
Their marriage ring had the following engraving: Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genitrix.
Soon after they married, the couple went on a pilgrimage to Mariazell, to venerate the Patroness of Austria-Hungary.
Little did they know that the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had already been decided. The war of 1914, among whose objectives was the destruction of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire as a Catholic power, the creation of new states in Central Europe, and the revolution in Russia was soon to begin.
Indeed, Austria-Hungary, as a country, had to be destroyed in the early twentieth century in order for the Revolution to advance in Europe and throughout the world, because it was the last, great remnant of Medieval Christendom.
In August of 1981, TFP founder Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira told a distinguished American Conservative leader who was visiting him in Sao Paulo, Brazil: “The United States today is what Austria was in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century: a country marked for destruction. Despite all its problems, the United States today is the ultimate bastion of Western and Christian civilization against the chaos that is swallowing the whole world.”
In 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated and the immense tragedy, Il Guerrone, the “Great War”, so feared by Pope St. Pius X, begins. It was certainly the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.
Shortly after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Pope sent Archduke Karl a letter asking him to alert Emperor Franz Joseph to “the danger of a war that would bring enormous calamities to Austria and all of Europe.” This letter was intercepted and only came to the attention of the Archduke Karl in the midst of the conflict.
On November 21, 1916, two years after the beginning of hostilities, upon the death of Franz Joseph, Karl I ascends to the throne, and on December 30 is crowned Apostolic King of Hungary, as Charles IV.
In her testimony in the beatification process of her husband, Empress Zita stated: “For him, the coronation had an extraordinarily great significance, as he considered the investiture that the Church bestowed upon him in God’s Name…. At the coronation, the whole people are entrusted by God to the Sovereign, who must thenceforward live for his subjects, care, pray and suffer for them, and sanctify himself in order to lead them to God.”
Karl I clearly had in mind the words of Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Immortale Dei:
“So, too, is it a sin for the State not to have care for religion as something beyond its scope, or as of no practical benefit; or out of many forms of religion to adopt that one which chimes in with the fancy; for we are bound absolutely to worship God in that way which He has shown to be His will. All who rule, therefore, would hold in honor the holy name of God, and one of their chief duties must be to favor religion, to protect it, to shield it under the credit and sanction of the laws, and neither to organize nor enact any measure that may compromise its safety.”
Thus begins the most difficult and tragic phase of his life. Everything conspired against him. Before making his decisions, he would retreat before the Blessed Sacrament. He prayed the Veni Creator Spiritu daily. He always kept with him a rosary given by St. Pius X.
As soon as he ascended to the throne, he not only strove to mitigate the atrocities of war, but to seek peace by every possible diplomatic avenue.
He did this not out of a pacifist mentality (he obviously knew, as the Holy Church teaches, that there are circumstances that impose a just war) but because he saw that, whatever the outcome of that war, its results would be tragic for Christian Civilization, as indeed they were.
Churchill said that the greatest geopolitical disaster of the First World War was the end of the Austro Hungarian Empire.
All of Emperor Karl’s efforts to attain peace, which he started when German troops were at the gates of Paris, were frustrated. The same forces that conspired to bring about the war now intervened to block his attempts to obtain peace. And that, despite repeated calls for peace by Pope Benedict XV!
He flatly refused to have any participation in the German maneuver to take Marxist leaders to Russia, including Lenin, to carry out Communist subversion against the Czar and thus relieve the western front.
His righteousness was so widely recognized that Anatole France, a French writer of the radical left, said: “Emperor Karl is the only decent man during the war to occupy a position of leadership, but he was not heeded. He sincerely wanted peace and thus was despised by everyone; a splendid opportunity was missed.”
During his short reign, amid all the tragedies resulting from the war, he manifested his Christian zeal in a series of initiatives for the good of his people:
– He abolished duels;
– He promulgated laws protecting youth against immoral literature;
– He organized soup kitchens to mitigate the misery resulting from the war;
– He prohibited arbitrary requisition of residences in the vicinity of battlefronts;
– He severely punished those who took advantage of their positions to seek personal benefits.
Because of these and many other measures he came to be called the “Patron of the Defense of Homes.”
The final debacle came in late 1918.
Emperor Wilhelm II abdicates and flees Germany; his troops defect and disperse.
In Austria, amid political chaos and military debacle, everyone leaves Karl I. A touching fact: at that moment, without any soldiers to stand guard in the Emperor’s palace, cadets of the Military Academy present themselves and assume the defense of the Imperial Family.
Whenever the Viennese people saw the Emperor accompanied by the Empress in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace, they cheered and shouted: “Don’t leave, stay with us!”
But despite all the threats and confiscation of his property, Karl I, conscious of the sacredness of his mission, does not abdicate. “He did not resign the throne. From his point of view, his kingship had been bestowed on him by the grace of God as a duty which he could not dodge. He temporarily forfeited the actual exercise of his sovereign rights by accepting all that was inflicted on him as being the will of God.”
On November 11, the Emperor retires to Eckartsau Castle on the banks of the Danube.
In March 1919, the republican government that assumed power on November 12, frustrated in its efforts to obtain a document of abdication from Karl I, bans the Imperial Family from Austria.
On Sunday, March 23, 1919, the Emperor, surrounded by his family and faithful followers, attends Mass and hears for the last time the traditional anthem composed by Haydn, “May God keep and protect our Emperor.” The nearby populations flock to express their loyalty and watch in desolation as the Imperial Family departs into exile…
Upon his departure, the Emperor leaves a document stating: “That which the Austro-German government, the provisional National and Constituent Assemblies decree, is null and void and does not proceed from me and my House.”
In Switzerland, where he was welcomed as an exile, certain political forces, considering the chaos in Austria, offer to restore him to throne as long as he accepts a set of liberal norms incompatible with the Catholic Faith. He absolutely refuses.
Even under the threat of losing his property, which eventually happened, he continued to refuse any idea of abdication.
After two failed attempts at restoration in Hungary, he was finally arrested and taken by British ships to be confined to the island of Madeira, where he spent the last months of his life.
The time has come to say a quick word about Karl I as the head of his family.
Reduced to poverty in his exile in Madeira, he dedicated himself not only to answer his correspondence but especially to raise and form his children with a keen notion of their duties as Catholic princes so as to fulfill their mission and give continuity to the dynasty.
– He consecrated his family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus;
– He went to Communion daily;
– He prayed the Rosary together with his family;
– All of his children had Mary and Joseph in their names.
– They all dressed in blue and white up to the age of 5, in honor of the Blessed Virgin
On April 1, 1922, after a painful illness, the denouement takes place. That day he said to his wife: “Now I want to tell you, with my usual absolute candor: my whole commitment has always been to clearly recognize God’s will in everything and follow it in the most perfect way.”
Upon receiving Extreme Unction, he wanted his firstborn son Otto to be present, “to have a souvenir and example for life and also to know one day what to do in this circumstance, as a true Catholic and Emperor.”
After receiving the Viaticum, he peacefully surrendered his soul to God muttering ejaculations: “Jesus, in Thee I live; Jesus, in Thee I die.”
III – Conclusion
What is the great example bequeathed by Emperor Karl?
It is the notion that each one of us, in God’s plan, has a mission to accomplish. We are militant Catholics. And that, however great the difficulties may be, one does not abdicate from this mission.
What is our mission amid the contemporary chaos and the systematic destruction of Christian values in society?
It is to proclaim Catholic principles more forcefully than ever. Amid the frenetic intemperance of today’s world, it is to proclaim more than ever that the only solution is a return to Christian order. For us it is to entirely assume the motto that the great Saint Pius X left us: Instaurare omnia in Christo: To restore everything in Our Lord Jesus Christ.
And to do this in the certainty of victory, as Our Lord Jesus Christ assured us that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church, and, at Fatima, his Blessed Mother promised that finally Her Immaculate Heart will triumph.
But just as Our Lord Jesus Christ wanted the collaboration of his apostles and disciples to spread the Faith, so also the Blessed Virgin wants our cooperation in this battle to restore Christendom and bring about the triumph of her Immaculate Heart.
We are now living in a declining, chaotic, filthy and polluted world, which proudly sought to organize itself by opposing God and turning its back on Him. However, if we look at the present reality through the eyes of our Faith and from an historical perspective, we can see the early lights of the dawning new era, which Our Lady announced at Fatima.
The facts confirm this rebirth. For instance:
– The fact that this feast day is being celebrated here in the Capital of the United States, and similar celebrations are taking place around the world. In my beloved Brazil, commemorative Masses are being held in seven cities.
– The spread of the Tridentine Mass throughout the world…
– The quantity and quality of the people participating every year in the March for Life, in Washington. Having been present in at least half a dozen of these, I am impressed by the determination to end abortion, “no ifs, ands or buts.”
– The American TFP’s “Rosary Rallies,” 12,629 of them, eleven days ago
– The extraordinary expansion of Catholicism in China
– The “Manif pour tous” in France, against homosexual “marriage” and gender “identity”
This is far from a comprehensive list of all the signs of this rebirth.
Let us turn to Blessed Karl I and ask him to intercede for us with She who is Terribilis ut acies ordinata – “As terrible as an army in battle array.” And let us ask the Blessed Virgin to obtain for us from Her Divine Son the grace that, Fortis in Fide – Strong in the Faith – we will never abdicate from our mission and never become discouraged in our struggle for the Restoration of Christendom, in the certainty that Christus vincit (Christ triumphs).