Category Archives: Austrian History

#275 – The Papal Peace Note

Pope Benedict XV repeatedly called for an end to the violence of the First World War, but his cries just as repeatedly were rejected by the governments of belligerent countries that would be satisfied with nothing less than total victory. Yet, it was not only the governments of belligerent countries that thwarted Benedict’s mission – many Catholic bishops and cardinals also rejected the “Pope’s peace”.

Benedict XV’s Papal Peace Note
Benedict XV’s Peace Offering Calendar

Griffin, Mike. “Snubbed: Pope Benedict XV and Cardinal James Gibbons”. Sign of Peace Journal.
Peters, Walter H. The Life of Benedict XV. Milwaukee: Bruce Pub. Co, 1959.
Pollard, John F. The Unknown Pope: Benedict XV (1912-1922) and the Pursuit of Peace. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 2000.

“The Peaceful Pope” – cover of Simplicissimus 1915.

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Website of the Third Order Franciscans

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podcasticon#275 – The Papal Peace Note


#269 – Two Christmas Traditions and a Third

Many cultures have special traditions for the celebration of Christmas. Polish Catholics celebrate with the sharing of opłatki. Austrian and German Catholics await the coming of the Christkindl. New traditions are also being established – for example, the Christmas Pickle.

You can purchase opłatki from here and here and here.
An example of the ritual of the sharing of opłatki can be found here and here.
A good video about the opłatki is available here.
Wikipedia’s article on the Christkind.
An article on the Austrian opposition to Santa Claus.
Article on the Christmas Pickle.
You can purchase a Christmas Pickle here.


Image of opłatki by Julo
Image of Christkind by Albärt

An image of the Christkindl Angel can be found here.

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podcasticon#269 – Two Christmas Traditions and a Third

Today in Catholic History – The Peace of Augsburg

On 25 September 1555, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the Lutheran Schmalkaldic league agreed to the Peace of Augsburg.

The Peace of Augsburg brought at temporary end to the fighting between Lutherans and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire by establishing the principle Cuius regio, eius religio. Each German prince in the Empire could choose to practice either Lutheranism or Catholicism and those within each prince’s domain would be obliged to follow the faith of their liege. There was a brief period of time given for families of one denomination to move to a German state practicing their particular faith.

The Peace of Augsburg established a permanent division in the Holy Roman Empire between Lutherans and Catholics. Moreover, because other Protestant denominations such as Calvinism and the Anabaptists were not included in the Peace of Augsburg religious conflicts would again break out in the Thirty Years War and result in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

Today in Catholic History – King John III Sobieski lifts the seige of Vienna

On 12 September 1683, the armies of the Holy Leaque commanded by King John III Sobieski of Poland lifted the two month siege of the city of Vienna by the Ottoman Empire.

The battle itself began early in the morning on the 12th at 4 AM. The Turkish commander, Mustafa Pasha, tried to attack the forces of the Holy League at the same time as he launched an attack on the city of Vienna. The Ottomans had been trying to use explosives to destroy the Viennese walls and hoped that one final explosion would open the city to their armies. However, the Viennese defenders were able to detect and disarm the explosive just before it detonated.

when the Polish cavalry charged, they broke through the Ottoman lines and the Ottoman forces, tired from the long siege and disillusioned after the failure of their attack on Vienna, fled. Sobieski was said to have paraphrased Julius Caesar’s famous quote – “Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit” or “We came, we saw, God conquered.”

The victory of the Holy League would in many ways mark a change in the fortunes of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires as the Habsburgs would begin a significant expansion into Ottoman territories. Pope Innocent XI would establish the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary on this date in honor of the victory.

Today in Catholic History – The End of the Holy Roman Empire

On 6 August 1806, the Emperor Francis II abdicated ending the Holy Roman Empire which had existed from the time of Otto I in 962.

After Napoleon’s defeat of the Austrian armies at the battles of Ulm and Austerlitz in 1805, Francis II was forced to sign the Treaty of Pressburg on 26 December 1805. This treaty required the Francis to cede much of his German territory, including Bavaria and Wurtemberg, to Napoleon and his allies. Napoleon would use this territory to form his Confederation of the Rhine.

While Francis II held the title of Holy Roman Empire, this empire was really understood as the German Empire and as a later letter from Napoleon to the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire noted, now that Bavaria and Wurtemburg as well as other fourteen other German states belonged to the Confederation of the Rhine, it was inappropriate to speak of the continued existence of a unified Holy Roman Empire. The end of the Empire did not cause much of a stir in Europe, Goethe noted that news of it concerned him less than an argument involving his coachman. Indeed, the decline of the Holy Roman Empire had been taking place for quite some time.

With his abdication, Francis II Holy Roman Emperor became Francis I Emperor of Austria.

Today in Catholic History – The Battle of Petrovaradin

On 5 August 1716, the Austrian Empire overcame the Ottoman empire at the Battle of Petrovaradin or Peterwardein – now in Serbia.

The Austrian army, led by Prince Eugene of Savoy, though outnumbered by the Ottoman forces 83,000 to approximately 120 to 150 thousand inflicted a significant defeat on the Ottoman forces. The Ottoman commander, Silahdar Damat Ali Pasha, was slain as were approximately 6,000 Ottoman soldiers. While the early stages of the battle appeared to indicated a victory for the Ottomans, the eagerness of their attack left their right flank exposed – a weakness that Prince Eugene was quick to spot and exploit.

After the battle, a church commemorating the victor was built on the hill over the battlefield. The church of Our Lady of Tekije or Snowy Mary is held in honor by both Orthodox and Catholics. It has an Orthodox and a Catholic altar and is used as worship by the two faiths.

Today in Catholic History – World Premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

On 7 May 1824, Ludwig van Beethoven premiered his Ninth Symphony or “Ode to Joy” at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna to a large audience who came to see his first on-stage appearance in twelve years. The premiere was a great success “the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them.” There were five standing ovations.

The audience reception was even more impressive considering that there were only two rehearsals of the entire program. Moreover Beethoven was almost completely deaf and yet insisted on conducting the performance. So both Beethoven and Michael Umlauf, the official conductor, stood on the stage at the same time. Since Beethoven could not hear the performance, he often gave instructions and directions contrary to what was in the score of the symphony – calling for loudness at a moment of quiet and vice versa. Umlauf had to instruct the musicians to essentially ignore Beethoven’s direction during the performance. At the end of the performance, one of the singers had to tug at Beethoven’s sleeve to turn him around to face the audience as Beethoven was unaware that the symphony was finished. The singer later said, “his turning about, and the sudden understanding thereby forced on all present that he had not done so before because he could not hear what was going on, acted like an electric shock on the audience, and a volcanic explosion of compassion and admiration followed, which was repeated over and over, and seemed as if it would never end.”

The words of the commonly sung hymn “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” were written in in 1907 by Henry van Dyke to intentionally be accompanied by the music of the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Be embraced,
This kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of divinity
– Beethoven from his Ninth Symphonyh

God — sometimes through periods of interior emptiness and isolation — wishes to make us attentive and capable of ‘feeling’ his silent presence, not only ‘over the canopy of stars’ but also in the most intimate recesses of our soul. There burns the spark of divine love that can free us to be what we truly are.Benedict XVI on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

#226 – Where Peace Reigns

Maria Gaetana Agnesi was one of the brightest mathematicians of the 18th century who just as she had been given a position at the Bologna Academy of Sciences gave it all up to serve the poor. Also in this episode a few words on Kyriopascha and Palmbuschen.

Massimo Mazzotti has written a recent book on Maria Agnesi called “The World of Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Mathematician of God”
Here’s a good website with information about Maria Agnesi
Here’s a good website explaining “The Witch of Agnesi”

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podcasticon#226 – Where Peace Reigns

#222 – Rome of the North

Visiting the city of Salzburg, Austria gave me an opportunity to witness the work of Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich, the man who “preached in stone”. Famous or infamous, he certainly left his mark on the city.

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podcasticon#222 – Rome of the North

#217 – Silent Night

When Fr. Josef Mohr wrote the words “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht” in 1816, little did he know how it would become one of the most inspirational Christmas songs of all time and even bring a bit of peace in the midst of WWI.

Information on Silent Night, Holy Night including traditional German .mp3 versions of the 1st and 4th verses
More information on Silent Night, Holy Night including live web-cam performance on Christmas Eve
Silent Night, Holy Night in many different languages

Clips from film Joyeux Noël including singing of Stille Nacht on YouTube
Mahalia Jackson’s version of Silent Night on YouTube
John Denver and the Muppets version of Silent Night on YouTube
Celtic Thunder’s Christmas 1915 on YouTube
Get a free .mp3 download of Christmas 1915 at the Celtic Thunder website – click button for e-card
Photo by Howard Hudson

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podcasticon#217 – Silent Night