Saint Clement, an experience of holiness still relevant

Group picture of the participants of the Interprovincial Retreats 2020 of Naples and Rome

One of the most illustrious victims of Covid-19 was certainly St. Clement Maria Hofbauer: everything was ready in Vienna for the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of his death, when European governments imposed the lockdown, thus canceling such an important event for the Redemptorist world.

This great saint, who had so many trials and tribulations to face in life, ran the risk of being pushed aside and even ignored.

The retreats that Redemptorists in Italy held annually already had in St. Clement and, in the actuality of his message, an obligatory theme, well before the pandemic spread. All the more reason this theme has proved to be urgent and topical, precisely in the light of the uncertainties and fears that this age of ours is experiencing.

About forty confreres from the Provinces of Naples and Rome met from Monday, September 7 to Thursday, September 10, at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, at the Redemptorist house of Colle Sant’Alfonso, to reflect on the historical, human, and spiritual adventure of the one who is considered the second founder of the Redemptorists, and the propagator of the Alphonsian charisma beyond the Alps. Father Adam Owczarski, director of the Redemptorist Historical Institute, helped with the morning meditations to draw the existential path of St. Clement. In the afternoon meetings, the Postulator General Father Antonio Marrazzo helped to grasp the “lessons” of the Saint for our time. And the co-presence of the historical datum with the theological and spiritual one was certainly fruitful.

In an era decidedly more difficult than ours, for political and war reasons, St. Clement – who had intimately assimilated the spirit of the Founder and the charism of the Congregation – had to reinvent a new way of being a Redemptorist, who always plans his being an apostle from the urgencies he encounters, and not from theory.

Moreover, our Saint did not have an easy character: he was the first to be aware of it, but he knew how to put the fire of his temperament at the service of the mission, and with the help of divine grace, he always tried to safeguard the primacy of charity and the community dimension of the charism itself. And then – placed alongside the first Redemptorist “heroes of the virtues” (i.e., St. Alphonsus, St. Gerard, and Blessed Sarnelli) – he composed with them an original and extraordinarily timely picture for our day, where creativity, zeal, and missionary dynamism, fortitude and the ability to accept and process defeats occupy a decisive place. And our Constitutions, with their language and their points of reference, confirm this image and make it even clearer and more provocative.

At the end of the Retreats, the Province of Naples had its Assembly, which was also attended by the Superior General Fr. Michael Brehl and the CRE Coordinator Johannes Römelt. At the center of attention was the revision of the Pastoral Plan and the path of Reconfiguration: also, in this case, the good St. Clement had prepared the ground, with his example of “collaborator, partner and minister of Jesus Christ in the great work of the Redemption” (Const. 2 ).

Fr. Serafino Fiore C.Ss.R.

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