When the hapless Zita, born a princess in nineteenth century Burboun-Parma, married into the Hapsburg Dynasty she walked into a specter of tragedy and angst amidst all of its pomp and royalty. Her old-line royal pedigree collided with a family that was destined to be split and deeply affected by the grand stage of the First World War. She spent most of her adult life trying to set right the events that robbed her husband and his family of its title; to win back honor that was fleeting during to those waning years. The Hapsburg’s were truly old world, finding their lineage back into the tenth century, with popes and kings aplenty. Zita spent much of her own life living abroad, in the Basque region of Spain, Canada and even in New York during much of the Second World War. Because of her stalwart campaign to restore the honor to the Hapsburg family, she won renown and acclaim, and even an eventual parliamentary position for her son, Otto. She had returned again to the grand stage of Europe, much a lionized hero and again deserving of the honor due a royal.
Michelle Green, et al penned an article in April 17, 1989 volume of Time that shared details of her funeral. “The 8,000 mourners filed out of Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral and fell in line behind the catafalque drawn by six black horses. Two hours later the procession ended at the Capuchin Church, where, in keeping with tradition, a member of the funeral party knocked on the door and a priest asked, ‘Who goes there?’ The titles were read aloud: ‘Queen of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia. Queen of Jerusalem. Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Cracow.’ ‘I do not know her,’ said the father. A second knock and “Who goes there?” brought the response, ‘Zita, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.’ Again the reply, ‘I do not know her.’ When the inevitable question was put a third time, the answer was simply, ‘Zita, a sinning mortal.’ ‘Come in,’ said the priest, opening wide the door not for royalty, but for a faithful member of the Church, whose life had finally reached its end.”
At death, we are laid finally bare to the simplest part of our brief measured existence, our character, our fabric, our connection to meaning and being. What is that to you? What is your legacy? What does your integrity leave? What spiritual fruit characterizes your life? When you stand before God, what will you offer?