A year in the company of St Clement

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Students with Fr. Jacek Zdrzalek C.Ss.R. (left) and Fr. Adam Owczarski C.Ss.R. (centre).

Our Redemptorist Conference of Europe Studentate in Rome paid homage to St. Clement with various pilgrimages, conferences and readings in this jubilee year on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his death.

On 14 and 15 February 2020, before the arrival of the pandemic in Italy, we went on pilgrimage to Frosinone to visit the church and community where St. Clement made his novitiate and completed his studies in preparation for the priesthood. According to tradition in the church of Our Lady of Grace, Clement celebrated his first Mass there. We also visited the Cathedral of Alatri, where Clement was most probably ordained a priest on 29th March 1785. On the way back, an obligatory stop was in Genazzano, at the Basilica of the Mother of Good Counsel, a sure stop on Clement’s pilgrimages.

Then, the spread of the Covid-19 and the government’s restrictions prevented us from moving and making other visits. Still, we took advantage of the ‘forced rest’ to deepen our knowledge of our Saint’s life and spirituality by reading the biography by Joseph Heinzmann.

A moment of grace was the Retreat of the Italian Provinces at Colle S. Alfonso from 7 to 10 September. Fr. Adam Owczarski (Director of the Historical Institute) and Fr. Antonio Marrazzo (Postulator General) took turns giving lectures on various aspects of Clementine life and spirituality.

During the pilgrimage to the Alphonsian places from 24 to 27 September, we stopped at Marianella for Mass and visited the house where St Alphonsus was born. For the whole year, the chapel was the only Jubilee church in Italy, thanks to Fr. Ciro Avella’s efforts.

The Prefect, Fr. Jacek Zdrzalek, in his various lectures, presented to all the important and recent volume of Fr. Vincenzo La Mendola (Historical Institute), who edited the “Memoirs on St Clement” by Fr Bartolomeo Pajalich, a valuable piece in delineating the human and spiritual figure of Clement and the influence of the Redemptorists of the Roman Province on the forms of apostolate of the Saint.

Before concluding the Jubilee Year, we went to Tivoli on 13 March 2021 for a Holy Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Quintiliolus.

Here we visited the Sanctuary with some memories of Clement, who lived his important hermitage stage in this place. We were able to experience the atmosphere of prayer and silence that exists today as it did then.

Before the end of the Jubilee Year, a short and popular biographical booklet was published, “St. Clement M. Hofbauer. The baker who became a missionary on the roads of Europe” by Fr. Ezio Marcelli was published: for us, it was a reason for joy because we can finally have in our hands an easy biography of St. Clement in Italian!

Finally, on 15th March, we solemnly concluded the Clementine Jubilee with a conference by Fr. Adam Owczarski and a solemn Mass celebrated by him. Fr. Adam presented us with the figure of Clement, focusing on certain aspects that distinguished him and that are more relevant than ever: missionary zeal, tireless work, availability to others, the spirit of adaptation, ability to deal with setbacks, fraternal charity, fidelity to the Church, love for the Congregation.

In conclusion, we can say that this Clementine Jubilee Year has made us aware of an extraordinary figure like Saint Clement, who, like a grain of wheat that fell to the ground, wrote a glorious page in the history of our Congregation in silence and secrecy.

These precious words about him would suffice: “All his beauty, all his attractiveness, all his wonder was within, all resided in his strength and grace of spirit. He was a hidden treasure…wheat almost buried under the ground, but which would soon sprout and produce great fruit in the field of the Church” (Bartolomeo Pajalich, Memorie su s. Clemente, edited by Fr. Vincenzo La Mendola CSsR, p. 88).

Gianluigi Colucci C.Ss.R.

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