The Mysterious Meeting

Exactly how did King Baudouin and Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón meet?

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There is quite a lot of confusion and misinformation on this point of their story, and they certainly did nothing to clarify the situation as they always said the story about meeting and how they came to fall in love and be engaged would be one they would reserve to tell their children. Unfortunately, they suffered five miscarriages – the last two of which almost killed Fabiola.

About the “arranged marriage” it absolutely was no an arranged marriage. It was a facilitated search and I supposed one could say arranged first introduction. After that, the church (including Suenens (later Cardinal) and the former nun Veronica O’Brien). I just do not understand why there’s so much confusion and spin in the press about a few things in their lives.

Think of it this way – Think of a couple where the wife has a girlfriend and the husband has a business associate or say a cousin. And the couple think these two people would be good together.  It’s sort of along those lines.

(later) Cardinal Suenens was a spiritual mentor to King Baudouin, especially during the first 10 years of his reign which were quite lonely and he suffered isolation. Baudouin told  Suenens late in 1959 that he knew he needed to get married – I believe this point was really driven home by Albert’s marriage to Paola in July of that same year. But, I also think he had been thinking about marriage for a few years by that point. He had been introduced to virtually all the available princesses in Europe. This is where people don’t really understand Baudouin, I feel like. The guy was old school.  You know?  He wanted a very traditional wife, not a princess that was used to the trappings of royal life. He wanted someone to cook for him and to have a very non-royal lifestyle. And, he was hardcore conservative Catholic (don’t think I’m saying he was not loving or caring or was harsh) and he wanted a devout a Roman Catholic wife with as deep a faith as his. This point was very important to him. Baudouin had made several trips to Lourdes and had turned over to Mary his desires to find a suitable wife that he would love. Throughout their lives, Lourdes remained a very important site for both Fabiola and Baudouin.

So, Cardinal Suenens (I don’t know his title at the time, so I’m just calling him by his best known title – that of Cardinal) knew this lady named Veronica O’Brien who had been in the Legion of Mary but was by then lecturing and working behind the scenes in many capacities in the Roman church in Belgium. She visited the King to provide spiritual guidance ON MANY TOPICS the LEAST of which was his search for a wife. She gave him many books on his spiritual journey but she later sent him a note and said she felt called to help in the process of finding a wife. His ONLY request was that it be a devout Spanish woman. I believe he wanted an old fashioned down to earth wife – I’m quite certain of this through all my studies of their lives, including reading Cardinal Suenens’ book detailing this very subject. So, there’s clear evidence supporting these events straight from a Roman Catholic cardinal that I highly doubt would fabricate anything and then publishing it.

Veronica O’Brien worked some personal contact in Spain including a large prominent Catholic Girl’s School where she was given Fabiola’s name as a second contact through which Veronica could get the names of Spanish aristocratic ladies who might be a suitable match for King Baudouin. However, when she met Fabiola, she was instantly struck by her freshness, joy of life and deep faith. She asked why Fabiola was the only one of her siblings not to be married and Fabiola answered perhaps God had something special for her to do.  She did not know – but in the meantime she got her nursing certification and was working at a military hospital and kept her own apartment.  Now this was 1950’s Spain and for a woman to be living on her own and supporting herself through her career, was quite modern. Here’s another point why I don’t understand why people think Fabiola was so reactionary. She was traditional, but not old – she had lived a modern life in her youth.

Long story a little less long – She told Fabiola about her secret mission and Fabiola was furious, thinking a cruel joke had been played on her. She would not listen to Veronica, so Veronica asked that the Papal Nuncio in Madrid call on Fabiola to confirm that this was not joke.

Quote from Cardinal Suenens’ book>> (This is in Baudouin’s voice from his personal journal) They said goodbye to the nuns (Lello – from the convent school where Veronica met Fabiola) and went to the chapel together. Veronica, deeply moved, gave her my letter (Lello – a letter from Baudouin explaining he’d like an introduction). What I was asking of her was no less than to “walk on the water, believing in the love of God and of Mary, and to allow for miracles.” Once she had read this letter, things began to turn stormy. Avila thought she was being deliberately misled and refused catagorically to have anything further to do with Veronica.

When the latter begged her to contact the Nuncio, before breaking off relations definitively, Avila refused, unless, as she said, “the Nuncio himself telephones and asks to see me.”

Which is what the Nuncio did. Only then did Fabiola agree to meet King Baudouin – ONLY to meet him. Nothing else. On their blossoming relationship and engagement there is only Cardinal Suenens’ words from his book on the subject…

>>The reason why the King did not satisfy public curiosity by revealing how it came about and who was instrumental in it will become clear: all that took place at a deeply personal religious level and belongs to the realm of those mysterious “coincidences,” those “mysterious ways of God” to which He alone holds the key.<<

Also in his book, “The Hidden Life” from Cardinal Suenens – to whom Baudouin had bequeathed all his spiritual journals – the Cardinal reports many of Baudouin’s own hand-written entries including these direct quotes from Baudouin’s journal:

Lord, why have you moved heaven and earth to give me this precious pearl, my Fabiola?

*****

The danger we could run into would be flattery. What we need is people who are daring enough to contradict us and to put a spanner in the works if a project deserves it. Lord, surround us with people of this calibre and honesty, and help us to accept contradiction.

*****

Fill Fabiola with your holiness. May she live her life in your joy and your peace. Teach me to love her with your own tenderness. Give her a more positive self-image. May she know that she has been loved and chosen specially by You. Thank you for having given me this treasure. Help me to love her still more, with that Love which comes from You.

*****

Fabiola is so loving; she warms my heart. Her silent, yet active presence is a source of great joy to me. My God, how you have spoiled me!

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Fabiola is adorable to me and spoils me terribly. She is full of gaiety. Thank you, God.

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Thank you, Jesus for having nurtured in me an immense love for my wife. Thank you for having given me a spouse whose love for me is second only to her love for You. May we both grow in you, Lord.

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Mary, show me what I should do so as not to miss an opportunity of loving, of denying myself for your sake, of living the present moment to the full, as if it were my last, and of loving my darling Fabiola infinitely more. Yes, Mother, teach me to love her with tenderness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, respect, and teach me to have faith in her.

*****

Thank you for Fabiola’s incredibly strong and tender love. Help me to be filled with your joy and to love with your love.

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May the year 1990 be a year of deep affection for Fabiola. Lord, show me the way to help her to have confidence in herself. May she feel my confidence in her and my admiration.

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Help me, too, to love Fabiola while encouraging her; help me to accept that her rhythm is not min, that her way of thinking and arranging things is special to her. Teach me, too, to respect her personality with its differences and its inconsistencies. Jesus, I thank you for having given me this wonderful treasure.

*****

(This next entry would have been from 1978)
Eighteen years ago Fabiola and I dedicated ourselves to each other as we came out from Mass in Lourdes, on the feast of St. Isabella of Portugal.

My God, I thank you for having led us by the hand to the feet of Mary, and every day since then,I thank you, Lord, that we have been able to love each other in your Love, and that that love has grown each day.

I knew Our Blessed Lady was a Queen and a Mother, and all sorts of other things, but I never knew that she was a Matchmaker!

*****

Writing before the wedding, Baudouin made note of a letter from “Avila” (The code word for Fabiola during their secret brief courtship):
At times the waiting is hard, but only yesterday, in a delightful letter, Avila (Fabiola) wrote:

<<Quote from Fabiola’s letter to Baudouin before engagement announcement in 1960>> :  “In relation to us, I have such peace and trust in God that everything that may make hings go quicker or later, better or worse, is only because God permits it, and will make the best of it, for our spiritual benefit.”

Isn’t it wonderful to learn such a fine lesson from one’s future wife? I am truly proud of my fiancee and I love her more and more each day.

At this point this post is way too long, but this next part fully explains.

Quote again from Suenens’ book which is referencing Baudouin’s own words about their engagement…

“We set off for Lourdes where Avila and I met up at Mass at the same spot. During the celebration, I felt a strong urge to tell her that I loved her and to write it in her missal. It was a Friday, and I promised Our Lady that I would put off this great moment until the next day, offering her this sacrifice with all my heart. Would you believe it, that day, 8 July (1960), is the feast of St. Isabella of Portugal, daughter of the King of Aragón…!

After that wonderful Mass, the texts of which I only read later – as I had forgotten my missal and Avila’s was in Spanish – we had breakfast by the side of the road to Tarbes, and then went for a long walk. Suddenly, without any lead-up, Avila asked me if we could pause and say three Hail Marys to thank Our Lady for all the favours and the love she had shown us. After that we walked on in silence, and it was then that Avila said: “this time the answer is ‘yes’, and there will be no going back.

It was so beautiful! I wanted to weep for joy and gratitude to our Mother in Heaven who had worked a new miracle, and to Avila who had allowed herself to be led so gently by Our Lady of Lourdes. It was 2 o’clock, I think, and we had agreed to meet Yvette and my friend around that time. They saw us arriving arm-in-arm and Avila announced that we were engaged.”

<<End of quotes from book>>

Perhaps now some of you can see just how annoying it is to hear the constant misinformation from the press when they report on the arranged marriage.  It was absolutely not arranged. It was an arranged introduction, which was followed by DEEP deep soul searching and prayer-rooted discernment about their calling to be in marital union.

Now, I like several European princesses and royalty but THIS is why I am mostly involved with Baudouin and Fabiola.  They did not live like royalty either physically nor primarily not spiritually.  He was a shepherd king and servant to his people who was forever grateful for the divine gift of his wife, whom he adored.

Media Myths: Infertility and Impotence

If It's A Girl, She Will Be Queen

Fabiola Mother This Summer!

Next in the Media Myths series is the cruel claim that Fabiola was infertile. This issue impacted the couple in deeply profound ways, as one can imagine. It seems especially grievous that the trauma of their medical challenges were exploited to sell tabloid copy. The inferred image is of an infertile woman and an impotent man. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Infertility is the inability to achieve pregnancy. Being pregnant five times, should have quieted malicious whispers of infertility or any notion of the King lacking virility.

Covering this information illustrates vividly the sad axiom, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Both Fabiola and Baudouin exhibited inspirational courage of spirit, facing the public always with a smiling face and head held high. Reports are that each time her pregnancy was announced, the palace overflowed with the abundant generosity of the Belgian people, rejoicing at the special news of their King and Queen. Each time, a brief quiet announcement would pierce their joy.

Unscrupulous authors lazily cling to tired court rumours, one claiming Baudouin’s step-mother, Lilian Baels, received a letter reporting Fabiola never menstruated and was, thus, infertile. While laughable, the depths to which man will go for notoriety is immeasurable and certain writers and journalists have sold such nonsense to readership eager for a juicy detail. Earlier untruths cast Lilian as the apple of Baudouin’s adoring eye, being hopelessly in love with his step-mother. The proof is nowhere to be found in that pudding; Leopold and Lilian were as ignorant to Baudouin and Fabiola’s engagement as were all Belgian citizens.

The business of outsiders blaming Fabiola for the couple’s childlessness is cruel and unconscionable. I wonder at how it is journalists or palace “insiders” feel confident or even suitably emboldened to testify with authority to the queen’s personal medical details. Fabiola’s affirmation of suffering from miscarriages was widely reported by the Belgian press in 2008. Belgians, nevertheless, were surprised at learning Baudouin and Fabiola suffered the loss of five babies.

I certainly don’t know anything more about the details than what Fabiola said in 2008. I do know that often a spontaneous abortion/miscarriage is triggered as the body’s fail-safe way of stopping a non-viable baby. Most often, this is manifested due to chromosomal insufficiency or abnormalities. The baby receives chromosome material and markers from both parents. This is how diseases get passed down from generation to generation.

It was scarcely reported, but King Baudouin suffered from Barlow Syndrome. His physical characteristics are classic for Barlow. Tall, extremely slender, elongated features, requiring corrective lenses for sight… Another system impacted is the skeletal system. As people age, material around the skeleton deteriorates and leads to back pain. Baudouin suffered severe back-pain later in life that he attributed to his golfing passion as a young man.

One of the most serious complications of Barlow Syndrome is mitral valve prolapse, from which Baudouin suffered. Surgery was performed on him in 1990 in an attempt to fix the valve. Until the last 20 years or so, this often meant a patient’s life span could be cut by a quarter or even a third. There is an increase frequency of sudden cardiac failure in Barlow patients with valve problems – even if they’ve been successfully operated on.

Heart ailments were fairly common in the King’s family. Indeed, his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, died of heart failure. His father, Leopold III, died of a heart attack. His brother, Alexander, required heart surgery to correct a defect during his youth.

All of this makes me wonder if each time Fabiola conceived there wasn’t a chromosomal abnormality that triggered a miscarriage? It is exceedingly rare that a woman who has multiple miscarriages (3 or more) continues to have miscarriages. Statistically, after a miscarriage a woman has about a 65% chance of carrying the next baby to term. And yet Fabiola had miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage. She was checked by renowned Swiss doctors, so one might infer that she did not have a physical abnormality, which would have been seen and diagnosed by those physicians.

La Reina Fabiola ha visto frustradas nuevamente sus esperanzas de maternidad

The Sad News – click for rough translation

That leaves us back at chromosomal abnormality possibly being in play – in this case, each time you’re still working from affected genetic material which could possibly encode the child’s chromosomes incorrectly – thus triggering another miscarriage.

I thus present to the unscrupulous journalists and anonymous insiders this: Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out that perhaps a miscarriage was triggered by chromosomal biologic material incompatible with viable life? Now wouldn’t that just be interesting? Not an issue of everyone supposedly knowing whether Fabiola menstruates or not. Not an issue of Fabiola being guilty of knowing she had infertility and needing to sacrifice her marriage to go to a convent releasing Baudouin to marry again in order to gain an heir. Not an issue of Fabiola being “barren”. Not even an issue of any kind dealing with Fabiola.

It is not for us to know. In the end, the lasting lesson in this tragedy was the indomitable spirit of these two inspirational souls who lived as one. King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola bore their cross with grace and turned this adversity to triumph by welcoming all the children of Belgium into their hearts. I will follow up on that point in an upcoming post.

Let us find encouragement in the story of loss and hope from these two guiding lights.

Bonus Material: Coming soon.

 

Media Myths Series: The Monk-King

B98In this first post for my Media Myths Series covering media bias and fabrications, I will focus on some obvious mistaken or misleading information produced by Belgian and European media based on un-named “insiders” who claim intimate knowledge of the King. This one deals with the claim that Baudouin wanted to abdicate in favor of a monastic life.

It is quite obvious, based on his life and photo evidence that he absolutely did not want the secluded life of a religious. He wanted a wife – a traditional wife and a traditional life. He was already miserably secluded in the Palace at Laeken and hated being so. His dreadful unhappiness shown on his face and through the pain in his eyes. Indeed, his spiritual mentor, Cardinal Léon Joseph Suenens, who after Baudouin’s untimely death wrote a book on the King’s inspiring faith, never mentions anything about the King wanting the solitary life of a religious. Cardinal Suenens and Baudouin discussed his painful isolation in Laeken Palace and his desire to find a spouse. After meeting innumerable European princesses and finding no connection with them, Baudouin asks the Cardinal to assist in a search for a suitable Roman Catholic young lady of great spiritual depth and faith to match his own.

Therefore, by this evidence, there is no logic or proof in the media’s assertion that Baudouin wanted to live a monastic life.

Don’t Depend on the Media for Accuracy

I have found one can NEVER depend on the media to get information correct. Lack of critical thinking in particular adds to the dissonance, especially if the “proof” of a statement is being supported by regular media. The veracity of journalism and published biographies can be lacking at times.

Here’s an example I came across on YouTube:

Cooking show Plat Préféré (in Dutch)

Quote from the description of the Plat Préféré show:
>>Eén van die suggesties was gigue de chevreuil au sauce poivrade – reebout met pepersaus – de absolute favoriet van de koning. Het liefst schoot hij de ree zelf, want Boudewijn was een fervent en vooral goed jager.<<

That is saying that venison in peppercorn sauce was King Baudouin’s favorite meal and particularly if he shot the deer himself as he was a ‘fervent and very good hunter‘.

This is rubbish!  There are no pictures of him with any gun in his hand. There has been no article or book I’ve found that refers to him hunting, except to say he greatly disliked hunters and didn’t like the organized riding hunts but went about one or two years at the beginning of his reign afterward promptly stopping.

If someone didn’t use basic research skills, that information seems okay, but is completely incorrect. When I came across that on YouTube, I first commented that I learned something new. But, then I didn’t think it sounded quite right. After a bit of research, I went back and posted that he was completely incorrect based on 1) my general knowledge of the person in question and, 2) this article from HUMO:

Plat Prefere Koning Boudewijn – HUMO Article

>>Jan van den Berghe (fronst de wenkbrauwen, schudt het hoofd en krabt de kruin) «Ik weet niet waar Jeroen Meus zijn informatie gehaald heeft, maar het zou me niet verbazen als het uit hetzelfde kookboek was waaruit hij eerder al de favoriete maaltijd van Adolf Hitler wist op te diepen.<<

In English:
Jan van den Berghe: “I do not know where Jeroen Meus has taken his information, but it would not surprise me if it was from the same cookbook (in) which he already (found) the favorite meal of Adolf Hitler…

New readers of the subject may never think to do a quick verification search, and then they’d believe to be true something completely incorrect. In fact, the one who was the deer hunter was, in fact, Baudouin’s step-mother, Princess Lilian de Rethy.

Wearing her favorite brooch given by Leopold III
The stag-head diamond and citrine brooch
With her deer rifle
On a hunting outing
Hunting season
Feeding deer on her property

So, even if there’s an article or a book, it doesn’t mean it’s correct. Keep your thinking caps on. If you are a subject area expert be true to your knowledge base/gut instincts.

King Baudouin – Champion for Life

I was convicted by the Lord to speak out on life issues after the 1) horrible Gosnell case became known; 2) 40th Anniversary of Legalized Abortion in the USA; 3) President Obama was a keynote speaker for Planned Parenthood. This trifecta of darkness disheartened me so much I felt I should see what I could do personally and what my church was doing. I feel especially close to the issue as so many millions of my Generation X were killed in this unspeakable wicked act; I could no longer remain silent.

In my dismay about where abortion has brought us, I stumbled across the story of King Baudouin I of Belgium, who I’m so sorry to say died in 1993 – way too early. In 1990 when Belgium was presented with a law legalizing abortion, Baudouin (an amazing Christian along with his wife, Fabiola) refused to give royal ascent by his signature. He even had to mount a campaign asking if it was just for the King to be the only Belgian not permitted to act in accordance with his conscience. A political maneuver was devised by the Prime Minister to declare the King unable to rule, have the governing body act in his stead to give ascent and then declare him again able to rule. An albeit awkward yet effective device, no doubt.

Even Belgians who were for the law respected his resolute adherence to his deep faith. Many people have incorrectly attributed his refusal to the tragedy of five miscarriages suffered by his wife which left them childless, but that is not the reason at all, although that is heartbreaking given the beautiful nature and faith of this couple. No, the reason for this was he absolutely believed that life is to be cherished from beginning to end and that each life has value.

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Further Reading>>
Belgium Approves Measure Allowing Doctors to Euthanize Children 
Opinion: Belgium’s experience with euthanasia teaches bitter lessons or PDF

King Baudouin knew this implicitly. He had declared, “The child, because of his lack of physical and intellectual maturity, needs special protection, special care, especially legal protection before as well as after birth.” There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that King Baudouin would have been equally appalled by the notion of ending the gift of life through euthanasia, and the very notion of doing so to a living child would have been as unthinkable to him then as it should be to us today.

In the Evangelium vitæ n. 62 of Pope John Paul II, he writes, “No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the Law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church.”

You know, the preeminent children’s hospital in Brussels is the Queen Fabiola Children’s University Hospital. What cruel twist of human failing would introduce the criminality of such an illicit act in an institution named for a devout outstanding Christian woman, one who lost five babies herself.

Sadly, the new monarch, King Philippe, so close to his uncle Baudouin and partially raised by Baudouin and Fabiola, had an outstanding opportunity to reflect the same brave dedication to faith shown by his uncle by refusing to provide royal ascent to the child euthanasia law, but did not act in kind. It would have been dramatic bookends, bracketing just how far down the path we’ve strayed from a basic respect for human life.

King Baudouin was a champion of life and still inspires us today to reach out in faith and love for the dignity and value of each life.

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