As the world sees these things, the emperor’s brief life was a tragedy; his empress’ long wait an exercise in illusion. But the truth is that, devoted to their Faith, their peoples, their children, and each other, they saw far more clearly than those whom fortune or Providence gave more power to – more than Wilson, the kaiser’s generals, Clemenceau, or Lloyd George. The pettiness of the Czernins, the Renners, and the Horthys that line their path merely serve, a century on, to underline their true greatness.
-Charles Coulombe, Blessed Charles of Austria: A Holy Emperor and His Legacy
Praying last night in the Church of Santa Maria dell’Anima, I felt enveloped in a deep serenity. Time, the fleeting world, passed into the obscurity of earthly twilight: the Eucharistic Sun alone remained shining forth His rays to comfort this deeply afflicted world. In this year of crisis, it is easy to fall prey to doubt, to let ” the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choketh up the Word” in our lives. In these moments, the saints show us the path of virtue, guide us to the light of the Sun of Justice. And there in the presence of Our Lady of the Soul, my own soul saw for the first time that the anxiety and turmoil we now face is as nothing to the Eternal Peace which one courageous saint tried to make present in a small way on earth a little over a century ago.
He faced trials as great or far greater than ours with a tranquility of mind which stemmed not from futile optimism or a naïve lack of awareness of the real horror he was witnessing, but rather from Faith in the real and unalterable truth of the Resurrection promised to Mankind by its Divine Saviour. He led his peoples through brutal war and bitter collapse, sacrificing so much seemingly in vain. And yet today he is known the Peace-Emperor because he sought to bring to them, and to our world, Friede, “the freedom of sanctuary,” and Pax “the joining together in sacred harmony.” “Glorious Peace” as he himself said to the mothers and widows of his valiant soldiers, was the “great objective” towards which “all nationalities from the wide expanse of this Monarchy” moved “in full concord.” And while armies fell in blood and dust, while the golden banners bearing the ancient celestial eagle were thrust down and trampled, weapons and even men shattered, still Blessed Karl, the Peace-Bearing Emperor, leads us from on high towards the very Emperor of Heaven, the Divine Lord, the Eternal Lamb of God who takes away our sins and grants us final rest, final joy, Peace.
Peace is, as the Angelic Doctor expounds for us, the tranquility of order. For us on Earth, as human persons, that order is found intrinsically in our personal relations with others, in our actions which are ordered to justice. Justice and order are not principles in tension, to be reconciled to the best of fallen man’s ability. Rather, Justice is the order between human beings as unique persons; even the most regulated society, if it lacks justice, has no order, has no possibility of peace. Blessed Emperor Karl understood that his peoples relied on him to obtain their fundamental and inviolable right to be governed well, to justice, and the promises of peace. He understood that there is no substantial difference between tyranny and anarchy, to prevent one such catastrophe is to prevent the other. Entrusted with the traditions and symbolic heritage of Royalty, Blessed Karl understood the Regalitas inherent in all of the citizens entrusted to his care, and sought to bring them back to the serenity which is the foundation of Man’s common life as swiftly as possible.
He failed. Not within himself, for in him, the virtues were perfectly ordered and his life given over entirely to the grace of God. But for his peoples to truly benefit from the gifts that he by the very grace of God was given to make known to them, he had to be stripped of all that our sinful world calls success. First rule was taken from him, then security, wealth, respect in the eyes of men, even the loyal generosity of his most devoted followers was prevented from ever reaching him. What could he possibly have left to give, especially to world in the tumultuous aftermath of a war, in political chaos, stricken by a global pandemic? The answer is, simply, Peace.
Blessed Karl of the House of Austria, pray for us to our Almighty God.
-Matthew T. Scarince