St. Clement Hofbauer – a resilient Redemptorist Missionary

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In order to be a resilient Christian, we must have deep roots and convictions on both a human and Christian level… It has cost St. Clement to first find his place in life and in the Church, and then to follow Jesus Christ with a Redemptorist missionary spirit in his time and in the places where he lived…

I think St. Clement can be an example and model to follow both as a person and as a Redemptorist missionary in these complicated and difficult moments that we have to live today – said Fr. Alberto Esseverri, Vicar General of the Redemptorist Congregation, in his homily delivered at the St. Alphonsus church in Rome on the feast of St. Clement Hofbauer, March 15.

Read the entire text of the homily below:

We know and have heard so many times and so many things about St. Clement. This year I would like to add a more experiential aspect of personal, Christian and Redemptorist missionary life. An aspect that touches very closely today on the world, our current situation after the pandemic and, more particularly at this moment, the situation of violence and death in one part of Europe but which affects us here and, I would say, in the whole world. 

Today, more than ever, the foundations, the very bedrock of our faith and our human condition are being tested for every person, as Christians and as Redemptorist missionaries. The pandemic put us to the test and there were a number of people who offered themselves fully and generously to help others, even laying down their lives for others. I think that now, with the current situation of war and refugees, once again, so many people, families, parishes, dioceses, countries are being true examples of solidarity and love for those most in need. 

In this context, I would like to speak of St. Clement as a person, as a Christian and as a resilient Redemptorist missionary. It is clear that, in order to be a resilient person or a resilient Christian, we must have deep roots and convictions on both a human and Christian level. I think that we have talked a lot about this in other years, and we know a little about what it cost St. Clement to first find his place in life and in the Church, and then to follow Jesus Christ with a Redemptorist missionary spirit in his time and in the places where he lived. 

In this sense, I think St. Clement can be an example and model to follow both as a person and as a Redemptorist missionary in these complicated and difficult moments that we have to live today. St. Clement can also be a mediator and an intercessor before God for so many Christians who have to get up and begin again every day, if they have been able to rest a little, without much strength, or many reasons and convictions to move forward. It is in these difficult, hard moments of suffering, darkness, and emptiness, when we aren’t able or don’t know how to move forward, that the person, the Christian must trust, trust and fight, even without much strength, always faithful, knowing that God never abandons us. Unfortunately, we know this story too well in the history of Europe. 

More on a Redemptorist level, I would like to name here some moments and circumstances in which St. Clement was, for me, a resilient person. Already from the beginning of his life he wanted to be a priest. He felt strongly the call of Jesus Christ, he wanted to follow him and offer his life. It was not easy. There were so many dreams, efforts, jobs, people, trips, etc., that he had to live through, until here in Rome, near this very place, he heard the bell of the Redemptorists and began his process of following Jesus Christ in our Congregation. It was not so easy when he was asked to cross the Alps again to found the Congregation there – what a responsibility! How many countries did he cross, how many trips throughout Europe, how many attempts to found communities, to find companions in order to make the Redemptorist mission and charism a reality in those countries as well. 

When it seemed that he had found a place, a community, a suitable position, he had to “fold his tent” again and get back on his way. How much energy, how much prayer, how much effort until it seemed that everything was on the right track in S. Benno’s, in Warsaw, where as a Redemptorist he carried out a true “permanent mission”. External struggles and difficulties at all levels, political, social, religious, etc. But, also internal struggles and difficulties in his desire to be an authentic redemptorist and to be considered an authentic Redemptorist missionary. What suffering, what loneliness, how hard…! And the struggle did not stop there, because difficult moments and tests to his resilience were yet to come. 

He was forced to leave Warsaw, and begin another journey, not knowing that Vienna still awaited him. A new mission, new pastoral commitments, learning that the important thing is not what we do but what God does in and through us. It is not “our mission” but God’s mission. Thus, St. Clement gave his life for Christ among the people most in need of human and spiritual help. Like Jesus Christ, only after the total surrender of his life, did the Redemptorist mission begin to take shape, to develop and to expand, not only in Europe but in North America, paradoxical, but real.

Thank you, St. Clement, for such a great example and witness of life, of faith and of getting back up on your feet so many times thanks to your faith and love for Christ and for those most in need. Help us from heaven in these difficult times.  Intercede for all of us and, especially, for those who are currently suffering in a particular way and with whom we feel in total communion. 

As the Word of God invites us today, we are partners and collaborators in this work of God. It is up to us to sow the seeds. Moreover, it is a missionary work that must be carried out in the community, even as each of us must be attentive to how we do our part. There can be no foundation other than this same Jesus Christ.  

C. Alberto Eseverri, C.Ss.R.

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