St. Clement Maria Hofbauer, Redemptorist, great preacher, pivotal contributor for the expansion of the Congregation in the world.
1 – Clement was the ninth of twelve brothers
Saint Clement Hofbauer was born Johannes (John) Hofbauer on December 26, 1751, in Tasswitz, Moravia, Czech Republic. He was the ninth son of Paul Hofbauer and Maria Steer, who had twelve children. His father died when he was only 6 years old. Then his mother pointing out a crucifix said to him: “From now on, He is your father. Take care that you never distress him for sin.” Little Clement took those words in his heart.
2- He worked as a baker in his youth
Clement became the saint patron of bakers because he worked in this profession as a teenager. Since he was poor, he was unable to do his ecclesiastical studies. He was working in a famous Vienna bakery. Then, one day, he met two ladies, who offered to pay for his studies.
3 – The rosary was his favorite devotion
As a child, he loved to pray the rosary with his family and called them to prayer. He was a fervent devotee of Our Lady. He became known as the “priest who blessed rosaries”. He called the rosary his “library”, saying that through that devotion he obtained everything he asked of God. In a monastery, he received the name of Clement Mary, following his devotion to the Mother of Jesus.
4 – He had the custom of knocking on the door of the tabernacle
Clement signals well what the good Redemptorist must carry with him: unshakeable trust in God and missionary zeal. One image sums it up well: the confident touch of the Tabernacle. This gesture marked the friendship that the saint had with Jesus, and it was his way of saying that he was there, that he loved him, and ardently desired him. It broke down the barriers of any spirituality based on fear or slavery.
Clement always cared very much for the spiritual welfare of all who attended his chapel. At the altar, he revealed all his devotion as a man of faith. He spoke what the people needed to hear, preaching in a way that people could recognize their sins, experience the goodness of God, and live according to the divine will. But if he was a lion on the pulpit, he was a lamb in the confessional. He used to listen to the sins of penitents, tell them words of encouragement, ask God’s forgiveness for them, and send them out to follow Jesus Christ in their lives.
6 – He created the “Perpetual Mission”, a mission carried out every day of the year
The church of St. Benno in Warsaw, Poland, became the place of an ongoing mission and impressive apostolic activity of St. Clement and his friend, Father Thaddeus Hubl, soon there were eight missionaries. The church had an intense schedule of preaching, instruction, confessions, and devotions every day. This attracted crowds, which barely fit inside the small church. St. Clement also founded an orphanage for boys and girls and the school. The activity began in 1787 and continued until 1808 when Napoleon Bonaparte closed the church and dispersed the community.
7 – He was arrested and expelled from the city where he worked.
Redemptorists were expelled from Warsaw in Poland at a time of religious restriction, that spread in the period after the French Revolution, and with the expansion led by Napoleon Bonaparte. St. Clement and all Redemptorists had to go into exile in 1808. The church of St. Benno was closed and the forty Redemptorists who lived there were imprisoned for a month, by the time they were ordered to return each to his country.
8 – He worked as a hospital chaplain when Napoleon attacked Vienna
In September 1808, after being exiled from Poland, Clement arrived in Vienna, Austria. In 1809, Napoleon’s troops attacked the city, and Clement worked as a hospital chaplain, caring for the many wounded soldiers. The archbishop, seeing his zeal, asked him to take care of a small Italian church in the city of Vienna. He remained there for four years until he was appointed chaplain to the Ursuline Sisters in July 1813.
9 – He is often called the “second founder” of Redemptorists
St. Clement contributed to the expansion of the Redemptorist Congregation. During his life, he sought to settle new communities of the Congregation, but could not. He and his companion, Father Thaddeus Hubl, suffered greatly from the wars, and Masonry influenced policies in Warsaw and then in Vienna, where Clement lived for the last 12 years. In Vienna, he was trying to get permission to establish the Redemptorist community. The approval document was issued only on the day of his death, March 15, 1820. Then, from the Austrian Province, the expansion of the Congregation to the whole world took place.
10 – He received the title of Patron of Vienna
In Vienna, as already mentioned, after ministering for the soldiers wounded by Napoleon’s war, Clement worked in a parish for Italians and then was chaplain to the Ursuline Sisters. There in Vienna, he was initially banned from preaching and threatened with expulsion too. However, it did not stop him in the priestly ministry. In those years he attracted the attention of many intellectuals and students as well as rich people and artists. the pope Pius VII learned of his apostolic zeal and he issued a decree to found the first Redemptorist community in Austria. This took place on the eve of his death. Saint Clement died with his dream coming true.