BLESSED CHARLES of AUSTRIA (1887-1922), holy man
Today, the Church honors Blessed Charles of Austria, who, as the country’s emperor and apostolic king of Hungary, lived his faith as leader of his people, always drawn to a strong sense of Christian social justice.
Charles was born of royal parents on August 17, 1887, in the Castle of Persenbeug in the region of Lower Austria. He was given an expressly Catholic education, as well as developing a deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As a result, he learned to always turn to prayer before making any important decisions in his life.
On October 21, 1911, he married Princess Zita of Bourbon and Parma. The couple was blessed with eight children during the ten years of their happy and exemplary married life. And it was recorded that Charles declared to Zita on his deathbed: “I’ll love you forever.”
Charles became heir to the throne of the Austro‑Hungarian Empire on June 28, 1914, following the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand. In addition, with World War I already underway and with the death of the Emperor Francis Joseph, on November 21, 1916, Charles became Emperor of Austria. On December 30th in the same year, he was crowned apostolic King of Hungary.
Charles envisioned his duties and responsibilities as a way of following Christ – in the love and the care of the peoples entrusted to him, and by dedicating his life to their needs. He placed the most sacred duty of a king – a commitment to peace – at the center of his preoccupations during the course of the terrible war which encompassed his country. And he was the only one among several political leaders who supported Pope Benedict XV’s peace efforts.
As far as domestic politics were concerned, and despite the extremely difficult times in which his people were living, he initiated far-reaching social legislation, inspired by social Christian teaching.
Thanks to his conduct and political insights, the transition to a new order at the end of World War I was made possible. However, to prevent the outbreak of a civil war, and due to opposing factions within his own government, he allowed himself to be banished from his country in March 1919. Even while exiled on the island of Madeira in Portugal, he never abdicated his office, considering it a mandate from God.
Living together with his family and reduced to poverty, his health deteriorated and he suffered fatally from pneumonia. Yet, he accepted this as a sacrifice for the peace and unity of his peoples.
Charles endured his suffering without complaining, and he forgave all those who conspired against him. He died on April 1, 1922 with his eyes turned towards the Blessed Sacrament. On his deathbed, he repeated the motto of his life: “I strive always in all things to understand as clearly as possible and follow the will of God, and this in the most perfect way.”
Charles was beatified with the title “Blessed” on October 3, 2004 by Pope Saint John Paul II.
We commemorate his feastday on October 21.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com and vatican.va/news_services)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Commons for Holy Men)
“All-powerful God, help us who celebrate the memory of Blessed Charles to imitate his way of life. May the example of Your saints be our challenge to live holier lives.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”