Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Three Giveaways for St. Augustine's Day

The feast of St. Augustine of Hippo is a special day for CTP's general editor, Christopher Zehnder. When he was received into the Catholic Church 30 years ago, he took St. Augustine as his confirmation patron. Reading St. Augustine's Confessions during his teenage years was instrumental in Mr. Zehnder's conversion.  Further, CTP's president, Michael Van Hecke, is also headmaster of a school named after St. Augustine. Therefore, in honor of the great bishop and theologian, CTP is offering three giveaways:

1) St. Augustine and His Search for Faith by Milton Lomask.  (This is an out-of-print children's book from the Vision Series.)
3) CTP history book of your choice with accompanying support materials.

To enter, please leave a comment telling us what your giveaway preference is -- #1, #2, #3 or Any. Entries will be taken until Saturday, August 31st and the three winners will be announced on Monday, September 2nd.

In closing, here is what Louis de Wohl wrote about St. Augustine in his history of the Catholic Church:
When Christ and St. Ambrose triumphed over the fierce pride, the pagan sensualism and the sharpness of intellect of Augustine, the conversion of this intellectual titan produced some of the greatest books of both theology and literature. The Confessions is, next to the Bible, itself, the most permanent of all best sellers. And in the Civitas Dei, the City of God, St. Augustine created a classic which gave Christianity a working philosophy, buttressing the Faith. So far, philosophy had been predominately pagan. Augustine "baptized philosophy" just as St. Thomas Aquinas, eight hundred and fifty years later, may be said to have given it the sacrament of confirmation.
File:Vergós Group - Saint Augustine Disputing with the Heretics - Google Art Project.jpg
St. Augustine Disputing with the Heretics
Few men have equaled the amount of work he did from the time of his conversion to his death. One of his treatises is called "Eighty-three questions." He was the first Christian philosopher to study the problem of Time which, according to him, God created together with the Universe, so that time was relative and not an absolute factor. And he gave much study to the phenomena of dreams and of the secret and hidden processes of the mind -- fifteen hundred years before Einstein and the psychoanalysts.
Yet he always lamented the waste of his young years ("Late have I loved Thee...") and the sins of his past. When he was on his deathbed and the physician forbade him to read the small characters of his beloved scrolls, he gave orders to write the penitential  psalms in large letters on the wall opposite his bed so that he could read them again and again. Among his last words, of Socratic humility, were "My greatest folly was that I wanted to understand everything." But what will be especially remembered by most people was his address to God: "Thou hast created us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee." (Founded on a Rock)

Additional Resources:
On this day you may want to read these words from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as he comments on his special attachment to St. Augustine.
A coloring page of St. Augustine.
Another coloring page
The Restless Flame: A Novel about St. Augustine by Louis de Wohl

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Troubled Wife and Mother

St. Monica -- famous mother of a famous son. We might say her life mirrored the old saying that behind every great man is a great woman. Almost all we know about Monica is from the writings of her son -- St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo and Doctor of the Church.

A story from St. Monica 's youth gives an indication of her strong will and determination to do the right thing:

"She was sometimes sent down to the cellar to draw wine for the family, and fell into the habit of taking secret sips. She developed such a passion for wine that before long she was drinking great draughts of it whenever opportunity offered. One day a family slave who had been spying on the little girl denounced her as a wine-bibber, and Monica, covered with shame, gave up the habit." 

She was married to a violent-tempered and dissolute pagan, but "in the long run, Monica's prayers and example resulted in winning over to Christianity not only her husband, but also her cantankerous mother-in-law, whose presence as a permanent inmate of the house had added considerably to the younger woman's difficulties." It seems that St. Monica would be a sympathetic intercessor for those bearing with difficult in-law relationships as well as those suffering from alcoholism.

Monica was grieved that her eldest and most gifted son, Augustine, was living an immoral life, filled with love of pleasure and idleness. And he had become an adherent to the popular heresy of Manicheaism, a dualist heresy which believed that the physical world was evil and only the spiritual world was good. A logical conclusion for many Manicheans was that nothing the body did could touch or harm the soul and hence there was no sense in a "virtuous life." Augustine did not refrain from expressing his mind, and St. Monica for awhile refused to have her son live in her house or eat at her table. She relented after having this vision: 
She seemed to be standing on a wooden beam bemoaning her son's downfall when she was accosted by a radiant celestial being who questioned her as to the cause of her grief. He then bade her dry her eyes and added: "Your son is with you." Casting her eyes towards the spot he indicated, she beheld Augustine standing on the beam beside her. Afterwards, when she told the dream to Augustine, he flippantly remarked that they might easily be together if Monica would give up her faith, but she promptly replied: "He did not say that I was with you; he said that you were with me." Her ready retort made a great impression upon her son, who in later days regarded it as an inspiration.(Butler's Lives of the Saints)
Besides inheriting a strong will from his mother, Augustine also seems to have inherited his sharp intellect from her. In his Confessions he speaks of the pious and philosophical conversations he had with friends after his conversion, and that Monica took part in these discussions "displaying remarkable penetration and judgement and showing herself to be exceptionally well versed in Holy Scriptures."

In his Confessions, Augustine asks his readers to pray for the souls of his mother and father, but it is we who have implored Monica's compassionate prayers as the patroness of Christian wives and mothers.

Exemplary Mother of the great Augustine, you perseveringly pursued your wayward son not with wild threats but with prayerful cries to heaven. Intercede for all mothers in our day so that they may learn to draw their children to God. Teach them how to remain close to their children, even the prodigal sons and daughters who have sadly gone astray.  Dear St Monica, troubled wife and mother, many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime; yet you never despaired or lost faith.  With confidence, persistence and profound faith, you prayed daily for the conversion of your beloved husband, Patricius and your beloved son, Augustine. Grant me that same fortitude, patience and trust in the Lord. Intercede for me, dear St. Monica, that God may favorably hear my plea for (mention your petition here) and grant me the grace to accept his will in all things, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

The Life of St. Monica by Frances Alice Forbes (out of print, free ebook here)

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Free Catholic Classical Education Conference Downloads

The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education now has free Mp3 downloads available from its 2013 Catholic Classical Education Conference.

Some of the recorded sessions included are Creating Order in a Chaotic World by Dr Kevin Roberts, president of Wyoming Catholic College; Reflections on Recapturing the Tradition by a panel of headmasters, which included the Catholic Textbook Project's publisher, Michael Van Hecke; Utilizing Primary Sources in History by Danny Flynn and Forming Virtue Through Literature and Great Books by Dr. Andrew Seeley and Headmaster Luke Macik.

To listen to these and other speakers, go here.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

First Saint of the New World

St. Rose of Lima, patroness of South America, was born a mere 54 years after the Spaniard, Francisco Pizarro, arrived in Peru bringing conquest and Christianity with him. Peru and almost half the South American continent was ruled by the Incas, a highly civilized peoples who worshiped the sun and revered their king as the child of the sun. Pizarro brought with him five Dominicans, and while the conquistadors relentlessly pursued gold, the missionaries zealously pursued souls. The Dominicans labored under many obstacles, but they "did splendid and efficient work in Christianizing the natives" (Catholic Encyclopedia) and founded many churches, monasteries, convents, and schools. St. Rose of Lima was educated by Dominicans and became a third order Dominican. From an early age, St. Rose devoted herself to a life of intense prayer and mortification, for which she was often misunderstood by family and neighbors and suffered from their ridicule. But she was also consoled by deep communion with Christ. She died at the young age of 31 on August 24, 1617 and was canonized in 1671 as the first saint of the New World.

St. Rose's short life of severe penance may seem extreme to us and so Fr. Alban Butler in his Lives of the Saints cautions:
The mode of life and ascetical practices of St. Rose of Lima are suitable only for those few whom God calls to them; the ordinary Christian may not seek to copy them, but must look to the universal spirit of heroic sanctity behind them; for all the saints, whether in the world, in the desert or in the cloister, studied to live [sic] every moment to God. If we have a pure intention of always doing His will, as the governing principle of our whole lives, we thus consecrate to Him all our time, even our meals, our rest, our conversation and whatever else we do: all our works will thus be full.

To learn more about Peru and its saints read these excerpts from a supplement (found on our website) to CTP's Light the Nations I and All Ye Lands.

Additional Resources:
St. Rose of Lima by Mary Fabyan Windeatt (for children)
St. Rose of Lima picture to color.
Celebrate with St. Rose of Lima cookies.
Homily of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone at the Shrine of St. Rose of Lima in Lima, Peru
St. Rose of Lima: Patroness of the Americas by Sr. Mary Alphonsus, O.SS.R.
The History of the Conquest of Peru by William Prescott (check your library)

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Friday, August 16, 2013

First King of the Magyars

Six miles from, and 1,000 feet above, my home, there is a monastery of cloistered nuns. In the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph reside 26 canonesses of the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré, also know as the Premonstratensians, but more commonly and informally called "Norbertines," since the order was founded by St. Norbert. This monastery had it's beginnings under St. Michael's Abbey, a community of Norbertine men in California that began with a group of seven priests from the Abbey of St. Michael in Csorna, Hungary. These men had fled from Hungary to escape Communist oppression and the suppression of their religious community.

That there were religious houses in Hungary can be attributed to today's saint -- St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary. Most Hungarians are descended from Magyars, a barbarian tribe that rode out of the steppes of Asia into Eastern Europe in the 9th century. "The Magyars were highly skilled horsemen and fierce warriors. They took control of the Danube plain and raided all the way into the northern fields of Italy. For over 50 years the Germans and Italians suffered from surprise attacks by these wild horsemen. They resisted all attempts at evangelization and remained pagans. They settled in the Hungarian plan along the Danube and cut off travel and trade on the river for 100 years." (Light to the Nations I, pg 222)
The Arrival of the Hungarians
Eventually, Duke Geza, chief of the Magyars and the sole ruler of Hungary, saw the political necessity of Christianity. Hungary was a pagan country surrounded by Catholic countries. Continuing to shut out Christianity was a threat to Hungary's security, and so Geza formed an alliance with the Christian nation of Poland by marrying Adelaide, sister of the Duke of Poland. Under Adelaide's influence, Geza converted and was baptized by St. Adalbert of Prague. Many followed their chieftain's example, but as usual some of the conversions were nominal with many converts still privately worshiping their old gods and practicing pagan customs. However, despite the insincerity of many, the Faith did spread among the Magyar people. 

One person whose conversion was sincere was Geza's son, Vaik -- baptised Istvan (Stephen). He was ten at the time, and his mother took great care that he not adopt pagan habits but fully assimilate the Christian faith. In 995, when he was 20, he married Gisela, sister of Henry, Duke of Bavaria (later known as Emperor St. Henry II), and two years later he succeeded Geza as ruler of Hungary. In his zeal to root out pagan superstition and idolatry, Stephen's conversions were often made at the point of a sword. However, through his wife's family ties, many priests and religious came from Germany to peacefully preach, instruct and water the seed of faith. On their heels and Stephen's patronage, monasteries and schools were established throughout Hungary.

Holy Crown of Hungary
or St. Stephen's Crown
Now the growing Church needed ecclesiastical organization in Stephen's realm. In order to accomplish this with more authority, Stephen petitioned Pope Sylvester II to confer upon him the title of king. The Pope granted his request and sent him a royal crown with which he was crowned the first kind of Hungary in 1001. ("St. Stephen's Crown" has been used to crown every King of Hungary since and is a national treasure of the Hungarian people.) The Pope also confirmed Stephen's plans for regulating and organizing the Church in Hungary. 

Stephen, as befitted his Magyar blood, was a strong leader and not hesitant to go to battle to quell rebellion and protect the welfare of his people. However, he was also merciful and just:
He was of easy access to people of all ranks, and listened to everyone's complaints without distinction of preference, but was most willing to hear the poor, knowing them to be more easily oppressed and considering that in them we honor Christ who, being no longer among men on earth in His mortal state, has recommended to us the poor in His place and right. The good King provided for their subsistence throughout his kingdom, and took them, especially helpless orphans and widows, under his special protection. Not content with his general charities and care for the indigent, he frequently went about privately to discover the necessities of any that might be overlooked by his officers. (Butler's Lives of the Saints)
Stephen prepared his only son Emeric to take over the reigns of government as a pious Christian king:
...dearest son, even now in our kingdom the Church is proclaimed as young and newly planted, and for that reason she needs more prudent and trustworthy guardians lest a benefit which the divine mercy bestowed on us undeservedly should be destroyed and annihilated through your idleness, indolence or neglect. 
Beloved son, delight of my heart, hope of your posterity, I pray, I command, that at every time and in everything, strengthened by your devotion to me, you may show favor not only to relations and kin, or to the more eminent, be they leaders or rich men or neighbors or fellow countrymen, but also to foreigners and to all who come to you... Be merciful to all who are suffering violence, keeping always in your heart the example of the Lord who said: I desire mercy not sacrifice. Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak. 
St. Stephen' s right hand
Unfortunately, in the autumn of 1031 Emeric was killed while hunting boar. In grief, heirless, and suffering physical illness, Stephen's last years were embittered with family disputes about who would succeed him to the throne. Some of these disputes ripened into cloak and dagger plots and assassination attempts. St. Stephen died at the age of 63 on the feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1038, and was buried beside his son at Stuhlweissenburg. His right hand remains incorrupt and is treasured at the Basilica of St. Stephen in Budapest as the most sacred relic of Hungary. 

Additional Reading:
For a taste of Hungarian life and culture, read these books by Kate Seredy:
The Good Master
The Singing Tree
The White Stag

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century

St. Maximilian Kolbe
A year before Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) was killed at Auschwitz, another martyr met death there. At the age of 47, St. Maximilian Kolbe was given a lethal injection after suffering two weeks of dehydration and starvation. 

On a Catholic calendar marking the saints' feast days, today we see "St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Pr., F., M., Pt. of printers and publisher, drug addiction sufferers and political prisoners." "Pr" denotes he was a priest and "F", a Franciscan Friar. The "M", of course, marks his martyr's death, and the manner of his death -- through lethal injection of carbolic acid -- makes him a sympathetic intercessor for those who suffer from drug addictions. Fr. Kolbe is claimed as a patron of political prisoners because he himself was imprisoned for aiding World War II Polish refugees and sheltering thousands of Jews in his friary during the Nazi invasion of Poland. A political prisoner is generally defined as someone who is imprisoned because his activity shows opposition to the ruling government. Not only did Fr. Kolbe defy the Nazis through his work of protecting the persecuted, but earlier in his life he had used newspaper, magazine, and radio to speak out against the enemies of the Catholic Church and the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Hence, he is also the patron of printers and publishers. Interestingly, when Fr. Kolbe was a young man, his father was hanged for his participation in the struggle against Russia for Polish independence.

Like Edith Stein, Fr. Kolbe was a scholar and earned a doctorate in both philosophy and theology. He used his education to teach and catechize through his work in the media. In his student days he founded the movement Militia Immaculata (the army of the Immaculate), dedicated to the the Blessed Virgin Mary. Through total consecration to Mary, the movement sought to evangelize the world and convert sinners. In his short life, Fr. Kolbe also spent six years in Japan as a missionary and built a monastery near Nagasaki. Through his untiring work, he showed his great love for neighbor; but ultimately it was his death that gave the strongest evidence of how great this love was. 

Entrance to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp
"No one has greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends." In 1941 when Fr. Kolbe was held at the Auschwitz concentration camp, three prisoners escaped. To discourage further attempts, the Nazi commander chose ten men to starve to death. Fr. Koble was not selected, but when one of the chosen men -- Franciszek Gajowniczek -- cried out, "My wife! My children!" Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of the young husband and father. The switch was permitted, and he and his nine companions were led to the starvation bunker. Over a two-week period, the nine died, leaving Fr. Kolbe, who gave them spiritual comfort and encouragement during their agony, as the last survivor. To clear the cell, Fr. Kolbe was given the lethal injection on August 14, 1941. Franciszek Gajowniczek was liberated from Auschwitz in 1944 and lived to the age of 94. He declared that "so long as he ... has breath in his lungs, he would consider it his duty to tell people about the heroic act of love by Maximilian Kolbe."

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Coat of Arms of Poland
Maximilian Maria Kolbe was canonized by his compatriot Pope John Paul II in 1982, who declared him the "Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century."

Additional Resources: 
Sermon by Pope John Paul II at the canonization of Maximilian Kolbe
Saint Maximilian Kolbe: Mary's Knight (Encounter the Saints Series) 
Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz - DVD of one-man drama by actor Leonardo Defiilippis
A Man for Others : Maximilian Kolbe, Saint of Auschwitz in the Words of Those Who Knew Him by Patricia Treece. This is out of print, so check your library.
Coloring page for St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Textbook Discount Deadline

Remember: You have until August 20th to take advantage of the discount on group orders of textbooks.

If you are you part of a homeschooling group or co-op, combine orders and receive a 10% discount and free shipping on orders of five or more textbooks (any combination of our four books) shipped to the same address.* Contact your family, friends and neighbors and place an order before August 20. 

This special offer is not available on the CTP website so call 661-823-9380 (Monday - Friday, 9am - 6pm PST) or email  to place your order. 

*This offer is limited to homeschooling families and excludes retail businesses and schools. 

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Friday, August 9, 2013

An Outstanding Daughter of Israel

Edith Stein
One good brought out of the senselessness and horror of war is that it provides the circumstances wherein many are called to exercise heroic virtue, often to the point of martyrdom. These extraordinary people give inspiration and hope in the midst of terrible evil. Today's saint - Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, gassed at the Auschwitz concentration camp - was described as "a witness to God's presence in a world where God is absent." 

She was born Edith Stein into a large Jewish family, but as a young adult ceased to practice her religion. A highly intelligent woman, she devoted herself to the study of philosophy under the German phenomenologist Edmund Husserl, and after earning her doctorate became his teaching assistant. During this time her studies were interrupted by World War I and her service as a nurse in an Austrian field hospital, where she saw much suffering and death. Her academic and scholarly circle of friends included many Christians and she gradually was drawn to their faith. A pivotal point in her journey was reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. "When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth!" She was baptized into the Catholic Church on January 1, 1922, the feast of the Circumcision of Christ, and confirmed on the feast of the Purification of Mary. She now felt that she not only belonged to Christ spiritually, but that she also belonged to Him through her blood - "I had given up practicing my Jewish religion when I was a fourteen-year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God." Twelve years later she joined the Carmelite Convent at Cologne and eight years after her profession, she was a prisoner in Auschwitz. The year before she had written to a friend, "One can only gain a knowledge of the cross if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart 'I welcome you, Cross, our only hope.'"

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
You can read a short biography of her fascinating life at the Vatican website.

Other resources: 

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Riches of Classical Education for Today's Catholic

The Catholic Textbook Project is one of the many projects sponsored by The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. On July 11th - 14th, the Institute held its first conference in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Described as a teacher's academic retreat, the ICLE invited attendees to discuss Catholic classical education and learn from the experience of other Catholic educators. President of the Catholic Textbook Project, Michael Van Hecke, MA, was one of the scheduled speakers and spoke on the place of textbooks in classical education.  Mr. Van Hecke is also the headmaster of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California, and hosted the Headmaster Roundtable at the conference. To sign up to receive the ICLE newsletters go here.

Catholic Classical Schools Institute Poised to Expand Work
 First Conference Highlights Growing Demand

Headmasters field questions at the Catholic Classical Schools Conference
Andrew Seeley, Luke Macik, Dan Guernsey, and Mary Pat Donoghue
field questions during the Headmasters' Panel

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y., August 1 - The first national conference for educators who seek to renew the Catholic Church's tradition of classical liberal arts education revealed a growing tide of enthusiasm among teachers and administrators from across the U.S. and Canada.

 "This is everything I believed that education could and should be," said Anne Muntz, a 20-year veteran public school teacher who recently joined the faculty of St. Agatha Academy in Winchester, Kentucky, as it makes a transition to a classical model.  "[It] renews my faith that I was called to be a teacher and that we can make a difference in children's lives."

More than 70 educators from 35 different institutions and dioceses in the U.S. and Canada gathered here in mid-July for a conference that established ties among dozens of Catholic schools that have adopted a classical model or are exploring ways to move in that direction. Sponsored by The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE) the conference will be held next year in the Washington, D.C., area in response to clear demand for support of the growing movement.  Designed to be both inspirational and practical, the program offers formation for administrators, teachers, board members, and superintendents.

"This conference is the start of something important for the Church," said Dr. Kevin Roberts, founder of John Paul the Great Academy in Lafayette, Louisiana, and now President of Wyoming Catholic College.  In his opening address, "Creating Order in a Chaotic World", Roberts emphasized the benefits of classical education on the young while giving 12 tips for succeeding in what can at times be a difficult process.

Dr. Andrew T. Seeley, Executive Director of The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, said his organization is poised to help Catholic schools join the wider classical school movement, which includes the 230 member Association of Christian Classical Schools and the burgeoning Great Hearts' charter school network.

Seeley expressed his excitement in his closing remarks to the conference.  "Non-Catholics in classical education ask me, 'Where are the Catholics?  This is your tradition.'  Now I can say, 'Here we are!'  And we're bringing the full tradition of the Church, her liturgical life and her educational experience to enrich the classical model."

ICLE plans to expand its services to offer more in-service programs, drawing on experienced teachers from established Catholic classical schools, according to Seeley. Collaborative relationships with institutions like the Circe Institute and the Institute for Excellence in Writing will help provide specific training where needed.  Planned upgrades to the website will offer further resources and a job posting page.

"I believe our Institute will be an important instrument in forming school communities with a clear Catholic educational vision, whose examples will be a blessing for all Catholic schools and parishes," Seeley said.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ninety-nine Years Ago

File:Kardinál Sarto.jpg
Pope Saint Pius X
August 4th marked the 99th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Pius X was reigning in the See of Peter and, while he feared that the fierce nationalism of the European countries would explode into a great conflict, he hoped that Christians would not resort to killing Christians. "I would gladly give my life if I could ransom the peace of Europe," he declared and died heartbroken eighteen days after the outbreak of war. While the "Great War" was senseless and led to the loss of a whole generation of young men, it also witnessed the actions of great men such as Benedict XV and his papal nuncio, Eugenio Pacelli (later Pius XII), and Blessed Karl of Austria.

The following is an excerpt from CTP's Light to the Nations II relating the event which ignited the conflagration.

Europe at War

File:Zofia von Hohenbergzmężem.JPG
Archduke Franz Ferdinand
and his wife Sophie
y 1914, Franz Josef had reigned for 65 years over Austria-Hungary—the third-longest reign in European history. Having come to the throne after the 1848 revolutions, Franz Josef had been a determined opponent of Liberal parliamentarian government. And though he eventually established a parliament for Austria and approved universal suffrage, Franz Josef remained what he called himself—the last of Europe’s traditional kings.

In his private life, Franz Josef had suffered many tragedies. In 1867, Mexican revolutionaries had executed his younger brother, Ferdinand Maximilian, who had become emperor of Mexico with the help of Emperor Napoleon III of France. Then, in 1889, Franz Josef’s only son and heir, Archduke Rudolf, committed suicide. Eight years later, an Italian anarchist assassinated the emperor’s wife, Elisabeth of Bavaria. To Franz Josef, a shy, lonely man with few friends, Elisabeth had given companionship, affection, and support. Suddenly, she was gone. “The world does not know how much we loved one another,” said Franz Josef.

Read the rest here.

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