Reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament
Blessed Karl lived under the glory of the Blessed Sacrament. The rays of grace from this splendor attracted him, and he loved to visit the tabernacle. Whether stressed by the strains of government or just the ordinary beginning of his day, he sought guidance and solace before Jesus Christ in the tabernacle. Wherever he lived, he sought to have a private chapel where the Blessed Sacrament could be reserved. His devotion to the Eucharist manifested itself even in small details, such as his concern that the sanctuary lamp should never be allowed to go out. Several times a day he would say:
I must go to see if the altar light is still burning.
When he said this, everyone knew that he would be away for some time kneeling and praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
The depths of his prayer and meditation were so great that he was often unaware of what was occurring around him. For instance, he frequently was so caught up in prayer that he did not realize that the collection basket was being passed. In order not to disturb him, Empress Zita talked him into holding his offering in his hand from the beginning of Mass so that she could nudge his arm to drop the money into the basket at the appropriate time.
Father Maurus Carnot, O.S.B., said about Emperor Karl:
In Disentis [Switzerland], it did not matter whether it was snowing or if there were snow drifts, he was always punctual for Holy Mass at the Church of Saint Mary, where he would receive Holy Communion during the masses that Crown Prince Otto, with his boyish curly hair, would serve…
During the Emperor’s fatal illness, he had the strongest longings to frequently receive Holy Communion. Holy Mass was regularly celebrated in the drawing room adjacent to his sick room. At first the door was left ajar so that he could follow the masses without losing privacy or risk infecting others, but he soon requested that the door be left wide open saying:
I do so want to see the altar!
He was so respectful of the Eucharist that he was not going to receive because he was afraid that his constant coughing might profane the host, but remarkably, during the holy rites his coughing stopped completely and he was able to take Communion. It was as if he were compelled by the Lord to receive Holy Communion. When he asked the Empress to tell the priest that he wished to receive Communion, she told him that it was not possible because Countess Mensdorff was going to receive the only host consecrated. Emperor Karl could not be dissuaded, so Empress Zita went to the priest and saw that he too must have had an inner voice because he had consecrated an additional host for the Emperor.
As Emperor Karl lived, so did he die. In life he was united with our Eucharistic Lord, and the Blessed Sacrament was the center of his life when he died. Half an hour before he died he wished to receive Holy Communion. Although his face was pale and drawn from his long, tiring struggle with illness, his face radiated with joy as he received the Eucharist. This radiance remained on his face after his death. During the Emperor’s final moments, Father Zsámboki held the Blessed Sacrament before his eyes, and in the presence of the Eucharist he said his final words:
Thy Will be done, Jesus, Jesus, come!
With his final breath, he whispered:
He now entered that eternal light, which is symbolized by the sanctuary lamp he had so carefully attended in his chapel.
My Lord and God, according to the marvelous example of Your servant, Emperor Karl, I will visit You in the tabernacle frequently, and receive You with joy and longing in the most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist. Hear my petitions and grant my request [mention your intention here] through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl of Austria. Amen
Ave Maria. Pater Noster. Gloria Patri.