The last painting of Karl, painted during his exile in Madiera.

The last painting of Karl, painted during his exile in Madiera.

Beatification Miracle for Blessed Karl: The Life and Healing of Sister Maria Zita Gradowska


Sister Maria Zita Gradowska was born on April 4, 1894 in Poland. When she was about 25 years old she joined the religious community of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. On April 1, 1927 she arrived in Brazil. From 1927 to 1931 she was a nurse at the Sanatorio Sao Sebastiao before working in a girls' orphanage and two other institutions. From 1933 to 1936 she was housemother at the Instituto Sagrado Coraiao de Jesus in Auracaria, from 1936 to 1940 she served as housemother at St. Vincent de Paul Hospital in Barao Cotegipe, from 1940 to 1946 she exercised the same function at the Hospital e Materimadde Don Bosco in Rio dos Cedros, and from 1947 to 1957 she was housemother of the new Sanatorio Medico Cirurgico in Portao, Curitiba. In 1957 Sister Maria Zita was appointed Mother Superior of Santa Cruz Hospital in Sanoinhas, then in 1961 she was housemother of the reformatory at Curitiba, and in 1962 she worked in the sewing hall of the Provincial House in Curitiba. On September 21, 1989, Sister Maria Zita died in Curitiba. 

Even in her youth when she was still living in Poland, Sister Maria Zita suffered from pains in her legs, first in her right leg, then in her left leg. In 1944 as she was walking down some stairs she suddenly felt an acute pain in her right leg (a burst artery leading to internal bleeding); two weeks of being confined to bed and a regime of compresses enabled her to go back to work, but the pain continued and the edema did not subside. Some three years later, an oozing growth formed on the lower front third of her right leg. She used ointment dressings to treat her leg but this neither reduced the pain or the swelling. It was not until 1953 that she had her infected leg examined by a very well known surgeon - the therapy he prescribed caused the swelling to abate and she was able to return to her work again, though her edema and pains remained. In the course of 1954 Sister Maria Zita suddenly felt an acute pain in her left leg, the resultant swelling on her lower leg was able to be treated in a surgical operation. At the same time, she was also operated on her left knee, which was afflicted with arthrosis. The surgeon refused to operate on her right leg, because in his opinion the venous circulation of this extremity ruled out such an intervention. Soon after resuming her duties at Sanatorio Medico-Chirurgico the swelling began again on the right leg, which had been on the road to recovery thanks to previous medical care and her resting position, though Sister Maria Zita still felt constant pains. She treated the swelling by applying ointment and dressings, but did not wish to consult a doctor in order to be told she should rest and not move her leg, as had been the case on an earlier occasion.

In 1957, when Sister Maria Zita was appointed Mother Superior of the Santa Cruz Hospital, the pains in her right leg slowly and steadily became worse. Three years later, in 1960, she was only capable of walking backwards (since walking forwards had become unbearable) and could not climb up or down stairs. Finally, by November 1960, she was no longer able to get up out of bed and the injections and ointments she had been prescribed by the doctor provided no relief, nor were they able to get her walking again. Since Sister Maria Zita was worried that she would no longer be able to carry out her work as Mother Superior unimpeded, and because she was worried about hindering the work of the community, she asked to be released from her duties. But due to the insufficient number of sisters at the time her request was turned down, so she remained Mother Superior while she was bedridden throughout the whole of November and December. 

Around this time another sister who was an assistant to the Mother Superior received a number of printed leaflets containing reports about the life of the Servant of God Emperor Karl of Austria, with prayers for his beatification. Sister Maria Zita was naturally informed of this but did not pay the matter too much attention, because she felt little sympathy for the Habsburg dynasty. Her enforced immobility and the impending absence of a sister made her feel very worried, as she said to the other sisters. She was once again advised to call upon the intercession of the Servant of God for a favourable answer for the healing of her infirmity. In her heart of hearts, however, she had no intention of following this advice. At nine o'clock on the same evening her right leg with the swelling was treated as usual, and she was also given a sedative to help her sleep. 

Despite the sedative, Sister Maria Zita was unable to sleep because of the great pain she felt. Then an idea came to her: perhaps God wished the Servant of God to be honoured, so she said a short, timid prayer of intercession and promised to start the next day with a novena to beg for the grace of beatification for the Servant of God. After the prayer, she found it easy to fall swiftly asleep because the pain that had kept her awake had now stopped. In the course of the night she awoke without feeling any pain and immediately dropped off to sleep again. At five o'clock the next morning she was wakened by the bell of the community and discovered to her amazement that she did not feel any pain, that the bandage roll which was usually applied tightly over the wound had dropped down to her ankle, and that the wound appeared to be completely covered by a dry scab. She was able to get up immediately, go to chapel, kneel down on a kneeler and take part in devotional exercises with the other sisters. From that time on she was able to carry out her work without suffering or hindrance, and a short time later the scab which had formed over the swelling on her lower leg fell away by itself. Henceforth, Sister Maria Zita Gradowska no longer had any problems with her venous circulation or with further swellings for the rest of her long life, because they had been healed as described above.

On December 20, 2003, the Holy Father signed a decree proclaiming the miraculous healing of Sister Maria Zita Gradowska.