Sharing in Christ’s Passion—Greatness in Suffering
Although Emperor Karl was forced into exile and had to move his family into a crowded villa at the top of a mountain near Funchal, he kept a positive attitude and cheerful disposition. He would say to those who asked: “We are undeservedly fine.” Following Christ’s example, he willingly took up his own cross for the sake of his peoples. He offered his sufferings to Christ crucified: his exile, his concern for the well-being of his homeland and peoples; and his concern for his family, who lacked food, medical supplies, and were living in a damp, unheatable, barely furnished house.
As Christ bore the soldiers’ mockery with the crown of thorns, purple cloak, and reed, so too did Venerable Karl suffer the derision of his enemies. He mystically participated in wearing the emblems of Christ’s Passion through the suffering caused by the condemnation from his own ministers and his banishment. Even betrayal by those closest to him was not spared him.
Yet, through all of this, Emperor Karl could still say: “I am grateful to our loving God for everything that he sends.”
As Jesus sweat blood at the Mount of Olives, the Emperor suffered terribly from sweating during his final illness. During one particularly bad outbreak, he said to Archduchess Maria Theresa: “I beg you Grandmama, to help me not sweat so much.” She replied: “The doctors say that it is good for you.” Emperor Karl responded: “But I am afraid that I can no longer stand it.” The Archduchess then pointed to the crucifix in his hands and stated: “…for us, He has sweated blood.” His eyes followed her gesture. He gave a lingering gaze at the crucifix, and then he nodded his head several times. From that time on, Blessed Karl never mention this affliction again, despite suffering from the sweats until his death.
His illness worsened and his sufferings included gasping for breath, infections in his arms from the many injections he was given, burns from the mustard plasters, and four large burns on his neck and shoulders where they had cupped his back. His head had to be propped up because the Emperor had become too weak to hold it upright on his own. Despite these personal sufferings, he was still considerate and concerned about others—especially his children—and the possibility that his afflictions could be contagious.
The attending doctors stated that they had never experienced such strength of will power as that which they saw in the Emperor. He practiced remarkable self-control throughout his illness, and his mental powers remained steadfast despite the fevers and intense pain. They noted that only once did the Emperor slip and greet them in German rather than in their common language, French.
Blessed Emperor Karl prayed constantly until the very end. The doctors, who had became quite fond of their imperial patient, cried like children when they realized that they could not prevent the Emperor’s death, or ease his pain and suffering. Before he died, he stated: “I declare that the November Manifest is null and void because it was forced. No man can deny, nor take away the fact, that I am the Crowned King of Hungary.”
At ten in the morning, the Emperor said: “I have to suffer so much, so that my peoples may come together again.” Then just after noon, at 12:23, the Emperor’s sufferings were over forever.
My Lord and God, Emperor Karl humbly walked the way of the cross with You. Help me to follow his example and in love for You to carry my daily crosses. Hear my petitions and grant my request [mention your intention here] through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria.
[Hail Mary. Our Father. Glory Be.]