Archduke Rudolf and Archduchess Marie-Hélène from Austria gave a conference on the family on October 14, during their visit to Montreal.
Rudolf of Austria is the grandson of Charles I, the last Emperor of Austria, and of Empress Zita. On October 14, accompanied by Archduchess Marie-Hélène of Austria, he gave a talk on the transmission of the faith in the family. The audience listened carefully. The couple was invited by the Association for the Beatification of Empress Zita-Canada and the Fondation du Grand Séminaire de Montréal. The audience seemed charmed by their simplicity and kindness.
In these troubled times, how can we transmit the faith even within our own families? This issue and the noble speakers attracted over two hundred people to the chapel of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal. The answer they gave is far from being a magic formula. Instead, Rudolf of Austria and Archduchess Marie-Hélène spoke of faith, sacrifice, fasting and hope.
During the entire question period that followed this talk, the concern that the families in the audience shared was made evident. When a grandmother expressed her sorrow at learning that her faithless children were no longer transmitting the faith to their own little ones, the Archduke encouraged her to pray and to be a sign herself.
During an interview, Zita's grandson emphasized that there aren't any recipes to ensure the transmission of the faith in these families.
"It is very difficult. If this were ever to happen to me, I know that I would pray earnestly for my children and grandchildren. I would especially keep in touch with my grandchildren, but not to try and convert them. No, simply so that they could see how I live. I would make the sign of the cross at the table in front of them, as usual. Who knows? The gesture could pique one of the children's interest. Perhaps one day the child would ask to be baptized! It is quite a journey. There are no formulas for it."
From his numerous trips to promote the cause for the beatification of Empress Zita, who lived in Quebec during the Second World War, the Archduke has noted that the family is weakening in a society that is becoming increasingly destabilized. Given this reality, he encourages Catholics to take charge.
"We could ask ourselves what the politicians are doing to stop this world from becoming more destabilized. They're not the ones who will provide the solution though. Christians will be the ones to do so. However, the latter will first have to learn a new strategy," he said.
Far from losing hope before the coming tumult, he pointed out that society and the Church have experienced times throughout history that were even more troubled. "What did God do in response? He gave us Saint Bernard, Saint Benedict, Saint Dominic, and Saint Francis. I am starting to notice that new communities are being formed. Four of my children are members of a fraternity, la Fraternité Eucharistein, founded in Switzerland by Father Nicholas Buttet. We just have to rekindle the flame. Young people thirst for God."
Archduke Rudolf, who lived in Montreal for a time while working at Scotiabank, believes that Christians must not wait for "perfection" to get involved in politics. He holds no illusions, however, as to their power in certain countries.
"In free countries where the people can start a referendum, like in Switzerland, Christians get involved. They don't always win. What is of grave concern is the fact that we no longer live in a democracy. Let's be honest! Most countries are governed by a particratic system. If you want to move up the ladder within the party, you have to be in agreement with its entire platform. Otherwise, you won't move upwards. You have no chance."
Raised to serve, the Archduke strongly insists on consistency between what he does, what he says and what he thinks. "In short, it's all about faith. It comes down to the education we received. For us, to rule is to serve. It is not our style to take power by force!" he said, laughing.