New Shrine Dedicated to Blessed Karl by Canning Liturgical Arts

There is always good news coming from the church of Saint Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota. The parish has long been a beacon of liturgical arts and devotion, spirituality and piety.  On Sunday, October 20th, the parish unveiled a new shrine to Blessed Karl (1887-1922), designed and decorated in subdued Austrian baroque motif by our good friends at Canning Liturgical Arts, experts in sacred decoration, beautification, restoration, conservation, and creative expression. Below is a watercolor rendition of the final project. 

The shrine is located on a side wall of the rear chapel, on the left of the main entrance, in a cozy corner devoted to Maria Hilf (Our Lady Help of Christians). The shrine incorporates the best elements of the life and legacy of Blessed Karl and is a beautiful addition to the southern niche of the chapel wall, fittingly decorated in the style of the Viennese Habsburg tradition.  The decoration of the wall includes a large painting of Karl with his wife Zita, their eight children, and members of the Empire representing different nations. In the background is Muri Abbey in Switzerland, a favored burial place of the House of Habsburg, where the hearts of Karl and Zita are buried together in the family crypt in the Loreto Chapel. At the bottom is painted a rendition of Karl's arms with a list of his various titles, including King of Jerusalem.  

The actual painting was done in marouflage technique with the artistic work painted in a studio and later attached to the wall.  The wall decoration includes a hand-painted portrait of the Emperor that was specially commissioned for the project. In addition, there is a first-class relic. The stained-glass window that bathes the chapel with light fittingly depicts a Marian monogram in honor of Our Lady: Maria.  

Saint Agnes parish was founded by Austro-Hungarian immigrants in the year 1887 and has maintained its strong roots with Austria and ties with the Habsburg dynasty. On March 8, 1974 Archduke Otto von Hapsburg, the last crown prince of Austria-Hungary, came to visit in conjunction with a lecture he delivered at the nearby University of St. Thomas. Otto was the eldest son of Blessed Karl, the heir of the throne.  

When the present St. Agnes church was constructed in 1912, two balconies were included in the sanctuary plan, a nod to the Emperor, where in theory he would sit if he came for an imperial visit.  In celebration of the event last October, the imperial balcony was decorated with red and white bunting, a festive decoration made of fabric with the colors of the Austrian flag.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire was the world's first modern multi-cultural state, later sadly dissolved by mainly anti-Catholic machinations in the wake of World War I. 

Blessed Karl and his wife Zita are terrific role models for the Catholic youth of today, preeminent exemplars of Christian marriage. They both point the way to grow in holiness within the vocation of Holy Matrimony. At the top of the painting is Karl's heartfelt declaration to his wife after they were wed in 1911: "Now we have to help each other get to heaven." Karl died at age 34 on the island of Maderia, where he is still interred today. His wife Zita lived to a ripe old age and is buried in Vienna. At the time of Karl's untimely death in exile, Zita was pregnant with their eighth child. They are remembered as the last reigning Imperial Catholic couple before the fall of Christendom in the aftermath of World War I. 

In 2004 Karl was beatified by Pope John Paul II. He is today revered as a Confessor of the Faith. His feast day is October 21 - not the day of his death, but the day of his marriage. The author of this article, a lifelong parishioner at Saint Agnes, was honored to attend his Beatification in the Vatican on October 3, 2004. As a Christian statesman, Charles of Austria, despite the challenges of his day, kept the Faith and never compromised his morals or the truths of the Catholic Faith.  He was the last of the Holy Roman Emperors. May his memory be eternal.    

It was fitting the shrine should be dedicated in the year 2022, the 100th anniversary of his passing.  For the celebration, his family was represented by Her Imperial and Royal Highness Princess Maria-Anna Galitzine, who traveled to St. Paul for the solemn dedication of the shrine and installation of the reliquary in honor of her grandfather (her father was Karl's son Rudolph; her parents were married by Bishop Sheen). For the ceremony, the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale accompanied by an orchestra sang Joseph Haydn's glorious Lord Nelson (Nelsonmesse, 1798). Blessed Karl, a model of fidelity to God, faith, wife, family and countrymen, pray for us!   

Many thanks to Neal Abbott Film & Photography for the splendid images. And many thanks to the priests of St. Agnes for making this happen. To our good friend Fr. Mark Moriarty and Fr. James McConville, THANK YOU!  Monsignor Schuler would be very proud. Many graces will be felt at this shrine, a consolation to many and a pilgrimage site for the future. Beate Carole e Domo Austriae, ora pro nobis!

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