Faithful Widow

       The program set for widows by Saint Francis de Sales in his Introduction to the Devout Life, whether the Servant of God knew of it or not, is absolutely striking in that she truly followed it to the letter:
“that the widow be one not in body only, but in heart also; that is to say, that she be fixed in an unalterable resolution to continue her widowhood.... If the widow indeed chooses to confirm her widowhood by offering herself by a vow to God, she will adorn that widowhood, and make her resolution doubly sure.... Moreover, she who would be a widow, indeed, must voluntarily cut herself off from all worldly pleasures.... A widow who takes pleasure in dressing, perfuming and adorning herself, may be a widow in the body, but she is dead in her soul.... The lamp which is fed with aromatic oil sends forth a yet sweeter odor when it is extinguished; and those women whose married love was true and pure, give out a stronger perfume of virtue and chastity when their light (that is, their husband) is extinguished by death. Love for one’s husband while he is living is a common matter among women, but to love him so deeply as to refuse another one after his death is a level of love that belongs only to true widows. Hope in God while having the support of a husband is not so rare; but to hope in Him when left alone and desolate is a trait worthy of great praise: and thus it is that widowhood becomes a test of the perfection of the virtues displayed by a woman in the married life.

The widow who has children requiring her care and guidance, above all in what pertains to their souls and the shaping of their lives, cannot and ought not in any way forsake them. But if her children do not need her care, then the widow should gather together all her affections and thoughts, in order to devote them more wholly to making progress in the love of God.”

       The Empress always showed her widowhood during the 67 years she lived without her husband, by wearing black on all occasions, even for joyous ones, such as the weddings of her children. This mourning was not in her case a sign of sadness, although it took her time and courage to face alone a very precarious situation; the mourning was a sign that her heart remained faithful to her husband and to God who would reunite them. Through a private revelation from Mother Virginia, to whom the deceased Emperor had appeared near the altar during his Requiem Mass at the Monte Church, she knew that this was the wish of her husband: not to remarry so she could best attend to her children. On that score, one cannot imagine that she would have had a different opinion. She could always recall to her mind the memory of the Emperor: “During all those years and also lately in Madeira, he told me many times: ‘I cannot imagine that there be on Earth a couple who love one another more than we do’. The parting words of the Emperor were ‘I love you infinitely! In the heart of Jesus, we will meet again!” The Servant of God never forgot the date of their wedding anniversary, as evidenced by the notes taken by her nurse. She also celebrated the nameday of her dear husband, November 4, the feast day of Saint Charles Borromeo.

       To express her love, she kept the heart of her husband with her throughout all her travels, not in a morbid way as her ancestor Joanna the Mad did with the coffin of Philip the Handsome, but so that she could be in the efficacious presence of her husband. She naturally prayed to him and he sometimes answered her with miracles (such as a healing of a child who had been given no medical hope that occurred on Corpus Christi in 1932). Shortly after she was permanently settled in Zizers, Switzerland, work was begun to establish a new crypt for the dynasty and her family in the monastery of Muri in Aargau, and it is there where she had her husband’s heart enshrined in 1971. In 1989, her own heart was joined with his.

       Having dedicated herself to the education of her children, a priority she had set for herself and to which she had sacrificed everything until the end of their studies, then after the war and her children’s marriages, she was finally able to devote herself to living a quiet life dedicated to God and intense prayer, nourished by frequent visits to Solesmes, all done without ever neglecting her children and grandchildren in any way.