Participating in the processional and recessional along with the clergy and their highnesses were Paul F. Danello, who served as imperial standard bearer, and representatives of various chivalric orders including the Knights of Malta, the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of St. George, and others. The mass used was the First Mass of a Confessor not a Bishop (Os Justi), with Gregorian Propers chanted by the Saint Mary’s Schola and a Mass for Eight Voices by João Esteves sung by the Polyphonic Choir.
His Excellency Bishop Schneider delivered a beautiful homily on the life of the Emperor Blessed Karl, in which he spoke briefly on the example he set as a devout Catholic monarch and explained at length his devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, to whom he consecrated himself and his family, and under whose protection and authority he placed his country.
Directly following the mass, we were given the opportunity to venerate a first-class relic of the emperor.
After the ceremony, a reception was held in the church hall of St. Mary Mother of God Church, during which multiple talks were given about Blessed Karl, his life, his legacy, and the cause for his canonization. Raymond de Souza, Knight of Malta and International Catholic Apologist, emceed the reception talks.
One of the first to speak was Fr. Boniface Hicks, O.S.B., a delegate of the Emperor Karl League of Prayer in the United States, who spoke about a recent meeting which representatives of the League had with Pope Francis, in honor of the centennial of a peace proposition by Pope Benedict XV to end World War I, which only Emperor Karl of Austria accepted unequivocally. Fr. Hicks informed us that all participants at the event had been given an apostolic blessing by the Holy Father.
Following Fr. Hicks was His Highness Prince Dimitri Galitzine, who gave a wonderful speech on the cause for the canonization of his great-grandfather. He spoke about the beautiful and virtuous relationship between Emperor Karl and his wife, Servant of God Empress Zita, who exemplified true Christian love in marriage. He explained that in this day and age, where the traditional family and traditional marriage is being attacked on all sides, the message of the marriage of Karl and Zita is especially powerful today, and we must look to them for inspiration and guidance.
Declan Ganley, an Irish entrepreneur and pro-life advocate, spoke next. His talk addressed the collapse of Christianity, Christian traditions, and Christian values throughout Europe, and he urged us to pray to Blessed Karl and Servant of God Zita to intercede for us and for Christendom in order to bring about a rebirth of the Catholic Faith. He further entreated us to follow the examples set by the Catholic sovereigns Karl and Zita; the cause of re-evangelizing Europe needs new Christian leaders and new saints, he said, and there are no better models to emulate than they.
Paul D. van Wei spoke next, on the establishment of the Kaiser Karl Archive, North America, which owns an impressive collection of many artifacts pertaining to the life and work of Blessed Karl. He brought with him a number of these artifacts, including original official portraits of Blessed Karl, the official engagement photo of Karl and Zita, an original Hapsburg flag, an original 1917 bust of the emperor, and even an original menu from their majesties’ palace, written up by the palace cook.
His Excellency Bishop Schneider spoke again to close the event and gave the audience his blessing.
As the event drew to a close, I was able to spend some time talking to Suzanne Pearson, main coordinator of the event, who graciously answered a few questions I had about the history of the Blessed Karl League of Prayer and their recent meeting with Pope Francis:
Would you tell us something about the history of the Blessed Karl League of Prayer, its foundation, its work, etc.?
Oh definitely! Yes, I certainly can. When Karl was 8 years old, his family was living in Sopron, Hungary, which is Ödenberg in German…and there was a convent, and the head of the convent was a stigmatized nun, a mystic nun, that everybody loved and respected. So one time (Bishop Schneider referred to this too), this nun referred to the tutor that the family had hired for Blessed Karl and said, “People must pray much for this little archduke, because he will become emperor, he will have to suffer greatly, and he will be a special target of Hell.” The importance of this was that Karl was not expected at that time to inherit the throne, because Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the throne, and…there was no reason for people to believe it except for the fact that people had a lot of respect for this stigmatized nun. So the parents of the children of the school…of that convent started praying for little Karl just because of Mother Vincenzia and their respect for her. But then…it turned out just as she said: one by one, the people in head of him in line died, or were killed…and he became the heir to the throne. …More and more people joined the league, and by the time Karl was actually emperor, they had members from all the different nations of the empire. So it then spread…and they noticed how the prophecy was being fulfilled; he had to suffer greatly, it was just one terrible thing after another…and it all culminated in his early death at the age of 34…So when he died, the members of the prayer league decided that, we won’t disband, that we will continue to pray in reparation for the sins and offenses committed against legitimate authority, whether God or man. …Then, after Karl died, one year after he died, a man – his name was Wilhelm Miklas – who worked for him…petitioned Cardinal Piffl, the archbishop of Vienna, to start a cause for canonization for the emperor, because he was known as a saint, even by his enemies…they recognized him as such…and he did. And…the organization [chosen] by the Church to promote the cause of Emperor Karl, [was] the League of Prayer, because it was already focused on him. They were already praying for him, since he was a little boy, so they would naturally know about him already. So then it grew and grew and grew until World War II; at the time World War II broke out, they could report 10,000 favors in answers to prayers. But then disaster struck. Nazis invaded Austria, they arrested all the heads of the Emperor Karl league of Prayer, they threw them in prison, and some were killed, because they were a monarchist threat. Even though they weren’t pursuing monarchy – it was a prayer league – nevertheless, you can understand it; they were a threat. So in the process, they had a member who famously died…and he was killed at…Dachau. About that time, the secretary who was holding all those files tried to preserve the lives of all the rest of the members of the league, and burned all the records that they had of miracles and so forth. There are still records of them in their yearly magazines, which I have all of, but the records as such were destroyed, and they had to pretty much start over again after the war. When they started over, in 1949, they dedicated the cause for canonization of Emperor Karl to Our Lady of Fatima…and then Rome accepted the cause…and the rest is history.
So how did you yourself get involved in the cause?
Because I worked with politics all my life. Even though I was a music major, I had my “money-job” at Capital Hill, so I was associated with politicians all my life, and when I heard that…well, a newspaper headline said, “Austrian Emperor Moves Close to Beatification,” I thought, “Who’s that? I have to find out about this person.” So that’s what led me to…research. I took three months to find anyone who knew anything about him! …I can’t describe it in any other way, it was like I was being sucked, like a vacuum cleaner, into this cause. It was like an irresistible pull. So that was how it was; the more I read, the more I wanted to know. I studied German in order to read those books, I studied Hungarian in order to read those books…
Fr. Hicks mentioned your meeting with the pope, who bestowed his Apostolic Blessing; could you say something about how that meeting got arranged. How did it go?
Well that’s an interesting point. I was kind of concerned about it at first. I thought maybe Pope Francis was going to tell us, “It’s not expedient to have this cause for Emperor Karl right now.” This was what I was afraid of! Or, “It’s not ‘opportune’” …but no, it wasn’t bad. So apparently, the Archbishop who is the head of the League – he’s not the literal head, that would be Cardinal Schönborn, but he has appointed (because he’s busy administrating to the Archdiocese…)…he appointed Archbishop Fernand Franck of Luxembourg, to be the leader…He thought that…since it’s been one hundred years exactly since Pope Benedict XV was working so hard for peace and Emperor Karl was the only one who supported him (in fact, went beyond him)…it would be a good time to make our case and just make our presence known…So, it was fine. There was nothing said that was problematic in any way, which was a great relief for me…everything he said about us, our cause, was fine. There were no problems…so everyone went up front, and I presented to him one of the icons, like I did today, and he smiled a big smile…So anyway, it went well.
At this point, what are some future plans that the cause for Blessed Karl’s canonization is focusing on?
The cause is basically finished…He’s been proven to have been heroically virtuous in every virtue by every member of the committee, so that’s done. He needs one more miracle. The miracle that we’re currently submitting is in Rome now…it’s just about done!
Well, I see you are in high demand, people are waiting to talk to you; so thank you so much for giving us your time and help!
Thank you for doing this! I was thrilled!