The relics of Blessed Karl, the Last Emperor of Austria, will come to Galway Cathedral on Thursday November 21. Holy Mass in honour of Blessed Karl of Austria will be celebrated in Galway Cathedral at 7:30pm. Blessed Karl is one of the very few official saints of the Church who was also a husband and father.
Bishop Brendan Kelly will be the chief celebrant. After Mass, the great grandson of Blessed Karl, Archduke Imre de Habsbourge-Lorraine and his wife Archduchess Kathleen will speak on the life of Blessed Karl. The veneration of Blessed Karl’s relics will take place after the talk.
Karl became the last Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1916, during the First World War. During his brief reign, he continually worked to make peace between all of the belligerents. He was socially aware, creating many human services for the welfare of his people. In this regard, he was ahead of his fellow heads-of-state. By the time the fighting was over, the empire was collapsing, and Karl would soon be forced to withdraw from governing.
He was then sent into exile in Switzerland. From there he made two attempts to regain his Hungarian crown, with the support of the Vatican, the French Prime Minister, and many loyalists in Hungary, however both attempts ended in vain. He was then sent to the island of Madeira, where he died within five months on April 1, 1922, at the age of 34.
From a young age and throughout his life, Karl of Austria demonstrated an awareness of God’s presence and Christian duty. As a child, he loved praying at daily mass with his mother, Archduchess Maria Josefa, and was known for his charitable acts. He knew all the prayers a typical Catholic youth would learn, and loved praying them, particularly the rosary. As a youth and later as an adult, he loved making pilgrimages to Marian shrines.
As a young child, he was concerned about the poor and needy, so he did odd jobs around his home in order to earn money to give to them. There are records from when he was 18 years old recording his almsgiving, and even as Emperor he continued his private charitable giving. There is testimony from one of his aides who was in charge of distributing the Emperor’s alms from his personal household. The aide informed him there was no more money left, and Karl said: “The need is so great, find the money from somewhere else and distribute that.”
Blessed Karl loved to pray throughout his life. He received Holy Communion daily, and at the end of mass prayed “Veni Creator.” He prayed Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and the rosary daily. He frequently prayed the Litanies of the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph; he was a member of Our Lady’s Confraternity and wore the scapular. Karl was devoted to adoring the Blessed Sacrament, and could happily spend hours in adoration. He was routinely found praying wherever he was, at home, in the office, and on the battlefield. He encouraged all of his soldiers to pray and frequently asked those around him to join him in prayer to begin a meeting or some action. Furthermore, the Emperor had a devotion to the angels, especially Saint Michael the Archangel, whom he made patron saint of the imperial army.
Karl of Austria was obedient to the Holy Father, acknowledging him to be the Vicar of Christ; and he treated bishops and priests with respect. He was known as a loyal, kind, generous and jovial comrade, who lived and practiced his faith without artifice. From the testimony of those who knew him well, it is clear that Blessed Karl took his faith seriously and fostered his relationship with God, devoutly following the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.