Rosary recalls royal visit to monastery

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Tuesday 11, January 2011 | Category:  

The chronicle for Nov. 26, 1946 of the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri included this cryptic note: "Arrangements were made also for the Empress Zita who is expected tomorrow afternoon."

“Empress Zita” was Zita von Hapsburg, the last empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and widow of its last emperor, Charles I. Two days after the above entry, having arrived with her daughter at the convent, she went to Thanksgiving Day Mass at the nearby Benedictine Conception Abbey.

What was a deposed member of European royalty doing in northwestern Missouri? Charles, Zita, and their children had been forced to leave Austria-Hungary at the close of World War I. Charles died at the age of 34, leaving behind 7 children and another on the way. When the Nazis invaded Belgium in 1940, Zita and her children had to flee again. Experiencing poverty and war-time suffering firsthand, she sympathized with the poor families of post-war Austria and, settling her family in Quebec, began a two-year trip across Canada and the United States to raise money for Central European war relief.

That explains the reason she was in the U.S. But why Missouri? For many years she had wanted to pray at the grave of Father Lukas Etlin, who had died in an auto accident in December of 1927 and was buried on the convent grounds in Clyde. Born in Switzerland in 1864, Etlin had served as the Clyde sisters' chaplain and had worked to raise funds on behalf of Austria's poor following World War I.

Father Norbert Schappler is the only monk now living at Conception Abbey who was there the day the empress came for Mass in 1946. He told Dana Webster of the Maryville (Mo.) Daily Forum that he remembers Zita wore “dark, drab clothes” (she dressed in mourning for her husband from the time of his death in 1922 until her own death in 1989 at the age of 96). As a momento of her visit, she gave the monks a small rosary, which is still on display at the monastery.

Reprinted with permission from ©TrueQuest Communications.




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