The tumultuous life of Saint Clement Mary Hofbauer (1751 – 1820) proves what the devil once admitted to the Cure d’Ars, that if there but three priests like him, his kingdom would be destroyed. Clement was one such priest, totally dedicated to his mission and work for Christ’s own kingdom.
Events precluded Johannes – his birth name – for many years from following his desire to become a priest – not least, his family’s poverty – his father died when he was but six – and his lack of education. So he became a baker and a hermit instead – which I suppose sort of go together. He made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1782, staying there for some time, before returning to his native Bruck. By the aid of benefactors, he completed his philosophy degree at the University of Vienna, and, in 1784, at the age of 33, he and a companion set off on foot once again for Rome, this time joining the Redemptorists on March 19, 1785, and ten days later (!) were ordained to the priesthood.
He took the name Clement Mary in religion, and, hand to the plow, never looked back. His priestly work was tremendous in all senses of the word, nearly superhuman, as he fulfilled every task in the time that was to be given him. He first was a missionary to Poland, then to Vienna, during some of the most tumultuous times of history, in that age of revolution. Father Clement kept his eyes on the prize, involved in almost every apostolate of the Church – sacramental ministry, preaching, education, taking care of the untold number of orphans – as he struggled against secular emperors and potentates, not least Joseph II, who closed every seminary, monastery and religious house in his realm. Almost singlehandedly, Clement – by prayer, writing, and preaching – prevented Germany from going into schism under the lead of the priest Ignaz Wessenberg – would that the Redemptorist had lived to see Germany in 2023. We’re going to need a new Clement Hofbauer.
At one point, in 1791, as the French Revolution raged in France, Clement and his Redemptorists decided to begin a ‘perpetual mission’ at their centre in Warsaw, and I will allow Wikipedia give a description:
In the church, Hofbauer and the community of five Redemptorist priests and three lay brothers began what they called the Perpetual Mission. Instead of celebrating only a morning Mass in the church on a weekday, they conducted a full-scale mission every day of the year. One could attend St. Benno’s every day and be able to hear five sermons both in German and Polish. There were three High Masses, the office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, public visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the Way of the Cross, vespers, prayer services, and litanies. And priests were available for confessions all hours of the day and night. In 1793, Hofbauer was made vicar-general of the Congregation north of the Alps. With Warsaw as center, he undertook the foundation of new establishments of the Congregation in Germany and in Switzerland
Whew. Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, indeed. Would that but a few more of us had a smidgen of his zeal, and the world would be set ablaze for God tomorrow – or today.
Clement Mary Hofbauer died on this day, March 15th, 1820, canonized by Leo XIII in 1888, and canonized by fellow saint, Pius X, on May 20, 1909.
Ora pro nobis, faithful servant of God. +