St. Alphonsus Liguori
Saint Alphonsus Liguori was born in Marianella near Naples on September 27, 1696. He was the first born of a rather large family belonging to the Neapolitan nobility. His received a broad education in the humanities, classical and modern languages, painting and music. He composed a Duetto on the Passion, as well as the most popular Christmas carol in Italy, Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle, and numerous other hymns. He finished his university studies earning a Doctorate in both civil and canon law and began his practice in the legal profession.
In 1723, after a long process of discernment, he abandoned his legal career and, despite his father's strong opposition, began his seminary studies. He was ordained a priest on December 21, 1726, at the age of 30. He lived his first years as a priest with the homeless and marginalized young people of Naples. He founded the "Evening Chapels". Run by the young people themselves, these chapels were centers of prayer, community, the Word of God, social activities and education. At the time of his death, there were 72 of these chapels with over 10,000 active participants.
In 1729, Alphonsus left his family home and took up residence in the Chinese College in Naples. It was there that he began his missionary experience in the interior of the Kingdom of Naples where he found people who were much poorer and more abandoned than any of the street children in Naples.
On November 9, 1732, Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, popularly known as the Redemptorists, in order to follow the example of Jesus Christ announcing the Good News to the poor and the most abandoned. From that time on, he gave himself entirely to this new mission.
Alphonsus was a lover of beauty: musician, painter, poet and author. He put all his artistic and literary creativity at the service of the mission and he asked the same of those who joined his Congregation. He wrote 111 works on spirituality and theology. The 21,500 editions and the translations into 72 languages that his works have undergone attest to the fact that he is one of the most widely read authors. Among his best known works are: The Great Means of prayer, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, The Glories of Mary and The Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament. Prayer, love, his relationship with Christ and his first-hand experience of the pastoral needs of the faithful have made Alphonsus one of the great masters of the interior life.
Alphonsus' greatest contribution to the Church was in the area of Moral Theological reflection with his Moral Theology. This work was born of Alphonsus' pastoral experience, his ability to respond to the practical questions posed by the faithful and from his contact with their everyday problems. He opposed the sterile legalism which was suffocating theology and he rejected the strict rigorism of the time... the product of the powerful elite. According to Alphonsus, those were paths that were closed to the Gospel because "such rigor has never been taught nor practiced by the Church". He knew how to put theological reflection at the service of the greatness and dignity of the person, of a moral conscience, and of evangelical mercy.
Alphonsus was consecrated bishop of St. Agatha of the Goths in 1762. He was 66 years old. He tried to refuse the appointment because he felt too old and too sick to properly care for the diocese. In 1775, he was allowed to retire from his office and went to live in the Redemptorist community in Pagani where he died on August 1, 1787. He was canonized in 1839, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871 and Patron of Confessors and Moralists in 1950.
St. Gerard Majella
Gerard was born in 1726 in Muro, a little town in Southern Italy. He was blessed with a mother, Benedetta, who showed him the overwhelming love of God which knows no bounds. He was happy because he was close to God.
Gerard was twelve years old when his father died and he became the family breadwinner. He was apprenticed to a local tailor and was bullied and beaten by the foreman. After four years apprenticeship, and just when he might set up as a tailor on his own, he announced he was going as a servant to work for the local Bishop of Lacedonia. He was advised by his friends not to take the job. However, the angry outbursts and endless nagging which prevented other servants from staying more than a few weeks were nothing to Gerard. He was able to turn his hand to anything and worked for the bishop for three years until he died. As long as Gerard believed he was doing the will of God he would accept anything. Whether he was being bullied at the tailors or taken for granted by the bishop didn't matter; he saw suffering as part of his following of Christ. "His Lordship wished me well," he would say. And already, Gerard was spending hours with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament, the sign of his crucified and risen Lord.
In 1745, aged 19, he returned to Muro where he established himself as a tailor in his own right. His business prospered but he didn't make much money. He gave practically everything away. He would set aside what was needed for his mother and sisters and then give the rest to the poor or as Mass offerings for the souls in purgatory. There was no sudden startling conversion for Gerard. It was just a steady growth in the love of God. Then during Lent of 1747 he resolved to be as completely like Christ as it was possible to be. He undertook most severe penances and actually sought out humiliation, pretending to be mad and happy to be laughed at in the streets.
He wanted to serve God totally and applied to join the Capuchin friars but was not accepted. At the age of twenty-one he tried the life of a hermit. He so wanted to be like Christ that he jumped at the chance to take center stage for a Passion Play, a living tableau in Muro Cathedral.
With the Redemptorists
Then, in 1749, the Redemptorists came to Muro. There were fifteen missioners and they took the three parishes of the little town by storm. Gerard followed every detail of the mission and decided this was the life for him. He applied to join the mission team but Fr. Cafaro, the Superior, turned him down on account of his health. He so pestered the missioners that when they were leaving the town, Fr. Cafaro suggested to his family that he be locked in his room.
In an incident that has found an echo in the hearts of young people ever since, Gerard knotted the sheets off his bed and, climbing out of the window, followed the band of missioners. It needed a rigorous march of twelve miles for him to catch up with them. "Take me on, give me a try, then send me away if I'm no good," said Gerard. Fr. Cafaro couldn't do much about such persistence but give him a try. He sent Gerard to the Redemptorist community in Deliceto with a letter that read: "I'm sending you another Brother, who will be useless as far as work is concerned..."
Gerard fell absolutely and totally in love the the way of life Alphonsus, the founder of the Redemptorists, had mapped out. He was thrilled to find the love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament was central and the love of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was also considered essential.
He took his first vows on July 16, 1752 which he was delighted to learn was the feast of the most Holy Redeemer as well as the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. From that day, except for a couple of visits to Naples, and his time in Caposele where he died, most of Gerard's life was spent in the Redemptorist community of Iliceto.
The "useless" tag didn't last long. Gerard was an excellent worker and during the next few years he was at different times, garderner, sacristan, tailor, porter, cook, carpenter, and clerk of works of the new buildings in Caposele. He learned fast -- visiting the workshop of a woodcarver he soon beame adept at carving crucifixes. He was a treasure in the community but he had only one ambition -- to do the will of God in everything.
In 1754 his spiritual director asked him to write down what he longed for more than anything else. He wrote: "to love God much; always to be united with God; to do all things for the sake of God; to love everything for God's sake; to suffer much for God. My only business is to do the will of God."
The Great Trial
True sanctity must always be tested by the cross, and it was in 1754 that Gerard had to undergo a great trial, one that may well have merited for him the special power to assist mothers and their children. Once of his works of zeal was that of encouraging and assisting girls who wanted to enter the convent. Often he would even secure the necessary dowry for some poor girl who could not otherwise be admitted into a religious order.
Neria Caggiano was one of the girls thus assisted by Gerard. However, she found convent life distasteful and within three weeks had returned home. To explain her action, Neria began to circulate falsehoods about the lives of the nuns, and when the good people of Muro refused to believe such stories about a convent recommended by Gerard, she determined to save her reputation by destroying the good name of her benefactor. Accordingly, in a letter to St. Alphonsus, the superior of Gerard, she accused the latter of sins of impurity with the young daughter of a family at whose house Gerard often stayed on his missionary journeys.
Gerard was called by St. Alphonsus to answer the accusation. Instead of defending himself, however, he remained silent, following the example of his divine Master. In the face of his silence, St. Alphonsus could do nothing but impose a severe penance on the young religious. Gerard was denied the privilege of receiving holy Communion, and forbidden all contact with outsiders.
It was not easy for Gerard to give up his labors in behalf of souls, but this was a small penance compared with being deprived of Holy Communion. He felt his so keenly that he even asked to be freed from the privilege of serving Mass for fear that the vehemence of his desire to receive would make him seize the consecrated Host from the very hands of the priest at the altar.
Some time later Neria fell dangerously ill and wrote a letter to St. Alphonsus confessing that her charges against Gerard had been sheer fabrication and calumny. The saint was filled with joy by the news of the innocence of his son. But Gerard, who had not been depressed in the time of his trial, was not unduly elated in the hour of his vindication. In both cases he felt that the will of God had been fulfilled, and that was sufficient for him.
The Miracle Worker
Of few saints have there been so many wonderful events recorded as of St. Gerard. The process of his beatification and canonization reveals that his miracles were of the widest variety and profustion.
He frequently fell into ecstasy while meditating on God or his holy will, and at such times his body was seen raised several feet above the ground. There are authentic records to prove that on more than one occasion he was granted the unusual miracle of being seen and spoken to in two places at the same time.
Most of his miracles were performed in the service of others. Such extraordinary happenings as the following begin to seem commonplace when one reads his life. He restored life to a boy who had fallen from a high cliff; he blessed the scanty supply of wheat belonging to a poor family and it lasted until the next harvest; several times he multiplied the bread that he was distributing to the poor. One day he walked across the water to lead a boatload of fishermen through stormy waves to the safety of the shore. Many times Gerard told people of secret sins on their souls which they had been ashamed to confess, and brought them to penance and forgiveness.
His miraculous apostolate for mothers also began during his lifetime. Once, as he was leaving the home of his friends, the Pirofalo family, one of the daughters called after him that he had forgotten his handkerchief. In a moment of prophetic insight Gerard said: "Keep it. It will be useful to you some day." The handkerchief was treasured as a precious souvenir of Gerard. Years later the girl to whom he had given it was in danger of death in childbirth. She remembered the words of Gerard, and called for the handkerchief. Almost immediately the danger passed and she delivered a healthy child. On another occasion the prayers of Gerard were asked by a mother when both she and her unborn child were in danger. Both she and the child came through the ordeal safely.
His Death and Glorification
Always frail in health, it was evident that Gerard was not to live long. In 1755, he was seized by violent hemorrhages and dysentery and his death was expected at any moment. However, he had yet to teach a great lesson on the power of obedience. His director commanded him to get well, if it were God's will, and immediately his illness seemed to disappear and he left his bed to rejoin the community. He knew, however, that this cure was only temporary and that he had only a little over a month to live.
Before long he did have to return to his bed, and he began to prepare himself for death. He was absolutely abandoned to the will of God and had this sign placed on his door: "The will of God is done here, as God wills it and as long as He wills it." Often he was heard to say this prayer: "My God, I wish to die in order to do Thy most holy will." A little before midnight on October 15, 1755, his innorcent soul went back to God.
At the death of Gerard, the Brother sacristan, in his excitement, rang the bell as if for a feast, instead of tolling it for a death. Thousands came to view the body of "their saint" and to try to find a last souvenir of the one who had helped them so often. After his death miracles began to be reported from almost all parts of Italy, attributed to the intercession of Gerard. In 1893, Pope Leo XIII beatified him, and December 11, 1904, Pope Pius X canonized him as a saint.
The Mothers' Saint
Because of the miracles God worked through Gerard's prayers with mothers, the mothers of Italy took Gerard to their hearts and made him their patron. At the process of his beatification one witness testified that he was known as "il santo dei felice parti" -- the saint of happy childbirth. This devotion has become very popular in North America, both in the United States and Canada.
Thousands of mothers have felt the power of St. Gerard through the League of St. Gerard. Many hospitals dedicate their maternity wards to him and give medals and prayer leaflets of St. Gerard to their patients. Thousands of children have been named after St. Gerard by parents who are convinced that it was his intercession that helped them to have healthy children. Even girls are named after him, and it is interesting how "Gerard" takes form as Gerarda, Geralyn, Gerardine, Gerianne, and Gerardette.
St. John Neumann
Bishop of Philadelphia, was born in Prachatitz in Bohemia on 28th March 1811, son of Philip Neumann and Agnes Lebis. He attended school in Budweis and entered the seminary there in 1831.
Two years later he passed to the Charles Ferdinand university in Prague, where he studied theology.
He was looking forward to being ordained in 1835 when the bishop decided there would be no more ordinations. It is difficult for us to imagine now, but Bohemia was overstocked with priests. John wrote to bishops all over Europe but the story was the same everywhere no one wanted any more bishops. John was sure he was called to be a priest but all the doors to follow that vocation seemed to close in his face.
But John didn't give up. He had learned English by working in a factory with English-speaking workers so he wrote to the bishops in America. Finally, the bishop in New York agreed to ordain him. In order to follow God's call to the priesthood John would have to leave his home forever and travel across the ocean to a new and rugged land.
In New York, John was one of 36 priests for 200,000 Catholics. John's parish in western New York stretched from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania. His church had no steeple or floor but that didn't matter because John spent most of his time traveling from village to village, climbing mountains to visit the sick, staying in garrets and taverns to teach, and celebrating the Mass at kitchen tables.
Because of the work and the isolation of his parish, John longed for community and so joined the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers dedicated to helping the poor and most abandoned.
The first priest to enter the Congregation in America, he took his vows in Baltimore on 16th January 1842.
From the beginning he was highly regarded by his fellow religious for his evidente holiness, for his zeal and affability.
His knowledge of six modern languages made him particularly acceptable for work in the multi-lingual American society of the nineteenth century.
After working in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, in 1847 he was appointed Visitor or Major Superior of the Redemptorists in the United States.
Father Frederick von Held, superior of the Belgian province, to which the American houses belonged, said of him: “He is a great man who combines piety with a strong and prudent personality”. He needed these qualities during the two years he was in office, as the American foundation were passing through a trying period of adjustment.
When he handed over his charge to Father Bernard Hafkenscheid the Redemptorists of the United States were better prepared to become an autonomous province, which eventuated in 1850.
Father Neumann was named Bishop of Philadelphia and was consecrated in Baltimore on 28th March 1852. His diocese was a very large one and going through a period of considerable development.
As bishop, he was the first to organize a diocesan Catholic school system. A founder of Catholic education in this country, he increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from two to 100.
He founded the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis to teach in the schools.
Among the more than eighty churches built during his episcopate must be mentioned the cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, which he commenced.
St. John Neumann was of small stature, never robust in health, but in his short lifetime he achieved a great deal. He found time even for a considerable literary activity in addition to his pastoral duties.
As well as numerous articles in Catholic papers and periodicals he published two catechisms and in 1849 a Bible history for schools.
He continued to be active right to the end.
On 5th January 1860 (48 years old) he collapsed in the street in his episcopal city and died before the last Sacraments could be administered.
He was beatified by Pope Paul VI on October 13,1963 and canonized on June 19, 1977.
St. Clement Hofbauer
A look at the life of Clement Hofbauer can teach us much about a dream come true, about prayer and service, about perseverance in the Christian life, about becoming a saint by living each day as it comes, and using each moment of time for its proper purpose. Clement was not a miracle worker or a visionary, just a great and holy Redemptorist serving God's people to the best of his ability.
Birth and Young Life
Our saint was born on the feast of Saint Stephen, December 26, 1751, in Tasswitz, Moravia. He was the ninth of twelve children born to Mary and Paul Hofbauer. Baptized the very next day, he was given the name of Hansl, or John. He would be known that way for more than twenty years until he entered a hermitage and took the name of Clement.
The saint's older brother, Karl, had gone off to fight with the Hungarian cavalry against the Turks. Hansl could not wait until he would be old enough to wear the blue uniform with the silver braiding and the brown felt cap with the red piping.
He also had his boyish sights on another goal, however. While serving Mass he would imagine himself as a priest standing at the altar, wearing the priestly vestments, and leading the people in the Church's great act of worship and praise to God.
It was the goal of the priesthood that finally won out over the career in the army. Coming from a poor family, however, Hansl had little chance to go away to a seminary or join a religious order.
Hansl began to study Latin at the parish rectory. The pastor was a kindly old priest who recognized the seeds of a priestly vocation in the young Hofbauer. Daily the young student and the aging pastor would meet to study the Latin language. It was to be the first step on Hansl's long road to the priesthood. The period of study ended abruptly with the death of the pastor when Hansl was just fourteen. The new pastor did not have time to help him study Latin.
Unable to continue studying for the priesthood, Hansl had to learn a trade. He was sent to become an apprentice in bake shop in 1767. In 1770 he went to work in the bakery of the Premonstratensian monastery of the White Monks in Kloster Bruck. At that time, the effects of war and famine were sending many homeless and hungry people to the monastery for help. Hofbauer worked day and night to feed the poor people who came to his door. While this was still not the priesthood that he wanted so badly, it was an opportunity to help God's people who were in great need.
In 1771, a trip to Italy brought Hofbauer to Tivoli. He decided to become a hermit at the shrine of Our Lady of Quintiliolo and requested the hermit's habit from the local bishop. It was at this time that Hansl Hofbauer received the name of Clement Mary: Clement from the bishop of Ancyra in Asia and Mary from our Blessed Lady. As a hermit, Clement prayed for himself and for all the people in the world who forgot to pray. He worked at the shrine and assisted the pilgrims who came. Clement did not find happiness, however, and in less than six months he left Quintiliolo. He realized the need to pray for people and saw this as good work, but it was still not the priesthood that he wanted so badly.
He returned to the monastery of the White Monks at Kloster Bruck to bake bread and to begin the study of the Latin language once again. Although he completed his studies in philosophy by the year 1776, he could proceed no further. The Emperor would allow no new novices for the White Monks, and so Clement found the road to the priesthood once again.
He went home and lived for two years as a hermit at Muehlfraun, forcing himself to endure strict fasts, harsh penances, and long vigils of prayer. At the insistence of his mother he left the hermitage to become once more a baker of bread. This time he got a job at a famous bakery in Vienna where he met the two distinguished ladies who became his greatest benefactors.
At the age of twenty-nine, after being a baker in three places and a hermit in two others, Clement entered the University of Vienna. Since the government had closed all seminaries, students for the priesthood had to study at government-controlled universities. Clement was frustrated by the religious studies courses that were permeated by rationalism and other unquestionable outlooks and teachings. Undaunted, he continued seeking the truths of the faith and pursuing his dream of the priesthood.
During a pilgrimage in 1784, Clement and his traveling companion, Thaddeus Huebl, decided to join a religious community. The two seminarians were accepted into the Redemptorist novitiate at San Giuliano in Italy. On the feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, 1785, Clement Hofbauer and Thaddeus Huebl became Redemptorists, publicly professing to live the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Ten days later they were ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Alatri.
A few months after their ordination the two foreign Redemptorists were summoned by their Superior General, Father de Paola. They were told to return to their homeland across the Alps and establish the Redemptorist Congregation in northern Europe. It was a difficult and unusual assignment for two men so recently ordained. To Alphonsus, this spread of the Congregation beyond the Alps was a sure proof that the Redemptorists would endure until the end of time. To Clement, it was a dream come true.
Warsaw and St. Benno's
The political situation did not allow Clement to remain in his own country. The Austrian Emperor who had closed over 1,000 monasteries and convents was not about to allow a new religious order to establish a foundation. Realizing this, the two Redemptorists moved on to Poland. It was February of 1787 when they reached Warsaw, a city of 124,000 people. Although there were 160 churches plus 20 monasteries and convents in the city, in many ways it was almost a godless slum. The people were poor and uneducated; their houses were in need of repair. Many people had turned from Catholicism to Freemasonry. The faithful Catholics and their few good priests suffered much. For the next 20 years Clement and his small band of Redemptorist priests and Brothers shared in this suffering for the Lord and for the faithful of Poland.
Poland was in the midst of great political turmoil at the time of Clement's arrival in 1787. King Stanislaus II was virtually a puppet in the hands of Catherine II of Russia. Earlier, in 1772, the First Partition of the country had taken place -- with Austria, Russia, and Prussia dividing the spoils. A similar partition was to occur again in 1793 and for a third time in 1795. Napoleon and his great army of conquest marching through Europe added to the political tension. During Clement's twenty- one years in Warsaw there was hardly a peaceful moment.
On their journey to Poland, the two new Redemptorist priests were joined by Peter (now Emmanuel) Kunzmann, a fellow- baker who had accompanied Hansl on a pilgrimage. He became the first Redemptorist lay Brother form outside Italy. Together they arrived in Warsaw without a coin in their pockets; Clement had given the last three silver coins to beggars along the way. They met with the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Saluzzo, who put them in charge of St. Benno's Church to work with the German-speaking people of Warsaw. As they learned the new language, the Redemptorists expanded their apostolate to the people who lived in the area of St. Benno's.
When Clement saw a homeless boy on the street, he brought him to the rectory, cleaned him up, fed him, and then taught him a trade and instructed him in the Christian way of life. When the number of boys grew too large for the rectory, Clement opened the Child Jesus Refuge for his homeless boys.
To keep the boys fed and clothed, he had to beg constantly. He did so unashamedly. Going into a bakery to buy a loaf of bread he came upon a master baker without an assistant. Clement spent the day working at the dough trough and the oven, using all his old baking skills. He got bread for his boys that day and for many days to come.
On another occasion, legend has it that he went begging to a local pub. When Clement asked for a donation, one of the patrons scornfully spat beer into Clement's face. Wiping off the beer, he responded, "That was for me. Now what do you have for my boys?" The men in the bar were so astounded by the Christlike response that they gave Clement more than 100 silver coins.
When the Redemptorists first opened their church they preached to empty benches. The people had many things that took them away from God, and they found it hard to put their trust in these foreign priests. It took several years for the Redemptorists to win over the hearts of the people; but in time St. Benno's became the thriving center of the Catholic Church in Warsaw.
In 1791, four years after their arrival, the Redemptorists enlarged the children's refuge into an academy. A boarding school had been opened for young girls under the direction of some noble Warsaw matrons. The number of orphan boys continued to grow steadily. Money to finance all this came from some regular benefactors and many other people who were willing to help in different ways; but Clement still had to beg from door to door seeking help for his many orphans.
In the church, Clement and his band of five Redemptorist priests and three lay Brothers began what they called the Perpetual Mission. Instead of having just a morning Mass in the church on a weekday, they had a full-scale mission every day of the year. You could attend St. Benno's every day and know that you would hear five sermons in both 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.
By the year 1800 the growth could be seen both in the work at the church and in the Redemptorist community. Reception of the sacraments jumped from 2,000 (in 1787) to over 100,000. The number of men serving at St. Benno's had grown to 21 Redemptorist priests and seven lay brothers. There were also five novices and four Polish seminarians.
All this work was done under less than ideal conditions. The three partitions of Poland brought about great bloodshed. Kosciusco, the great Polish freedom fighter, had his moments of glory but the people could not hold off the foreign attackers indefinitely. The battles reached Warsaw during Holy Week of 1794. The Redemptorists, along with all the other residents of that city, found their lives to be in constant danger. Three bombs crashed through the roof of the church but did not explode. Throughout the battles, Clement and his companions preached peace. This only served to increase the cries of protest against the Redemptorists who were already labeled as traitors.
Almost from the start, they had been attacked on two fronts. Politically they were foreigners. They could mix with the people and do much good, holy, priestly work. They could care for hundreds of orphans, celebrate thousands of Masses, and bring tens of thousands closer to God, but the German Redemptorists remained a foreign element in a country that was constantly at war.
The other attack was even more painful. It was a personal attack by the people who turned from the Church of their baptism to become Freemasons. They met together in their secret groups to plot against the Catholics, to do harm to the priests, to stop public worship, and to close the churches.
The Redemptorists always had to be on the watch for ambushes. Their enemies lay in wait to pelt them with rocks or club them with sticks. On one occasion, death came to the door of the monastery in the form of a piece of meat. Someone donated a ham to the Fathers. Four priests died from ptomaine because of the poisoned meat. It was a terrible tragedy for Clement to endure. He saw the number of Redemptorists shrinking rather than growing. Providentially, four new men joined the community shortly after this incident, but Clement could never forget his murdered confreres.
Even more shattering to Clement was the death of Father Thaddeus Huebl, his classmate and dear friend. Huebl was called away on a phony sick call. Many hours later he was tossed out of a fast-moving carriage after having been tortured and beaten to a pulp. Several days later he died from his injuries. It hurt Clement deeply to see his friend pass from his life. Now he would have to march on alone.
The attacks continued. The Redemptorists became the butt of jokes in the theaters. The local Polish priests even tried to stop the work being done by the Redemptorists. After 20 years of building up the faith of the people in Warsaw, they were attacked, waylaid, and harassed. In 1806 a law was passed that forbade local pastors to invite the Redemptorists to preach missions in their parishes. This was followed by an even more restrictive law that stopped the Redemptorists from preaching and hearing confessions in their own church of St. Benno's.
Clement appealed these actions directly to the King of Saxony who ruled Poland at that time. While this man knew the good that the Redemptorists were doing, he was powerless to stop the many Freemasons and Jacobins who wanted the Redemptorists out of Poland. The decree of expulsion was signed on June 9, 1808. Eleven days later, the Church of St. Benno's was closed and the forty Redemptorists serving there were taken off to prison. They lived there for four weeks and then were ordered to return to their own countries.
Vienna: a New Start
In September 1808, after being exiled from Poland, Clement reached Vienna. He remained there until his death almost 13 years later. In 1809 when the forces of Napoleon attacked Vienna, Clement worked as a hospital chaplain caring for the many wounded soldiers. The archbishop, seeing Clement's zeal, asked him to care for a little 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.
Attending to the spiritual welfare of the Sisters and the lay people who came to their chapel, Clement's true holiness came even more to the fore. At that altar his reverence made it plain that he was a man of faith. In the pulpit he spoke the words that the people needed to hear. He preached so that they could see their sins, realize God's goodness, and live their lives according to the will of God. But if he was a lion in the pulpit, Clement was a lamb in the confessional. He listened to the penitents' sins, gave them a message of encouragement, asked God to pardon them, and sent them on their way.
In those early days of the 1800s, Vienna was a major European cultural center. Clement enjoyed spending time with the students and the intellectuals. Students came -- singly and in groups -- to his quarters to talk, share a meal, or get advice. A good many of them later became Redemptorists. He brought many rich and artistic people into the Church including Frederick and Dorothy von Schlegel (she was the daughter of Mendelssohn, the founder of the Romanticist school); Frederick von Klinkowstroem, the artist; Joseph von Pilat, the private secretary of Metternich; Frederick Zachary Werner, who was later ordained and became a great preacher; and Frederick von Held, who became a Redemptorist and later spread the Congregation as far as Ireland.
In Vienna Hofbauer again found himself under attack. For a short time he was prohibited from preaching. Then he was threatened with expulsion because he had been communicating with his Redemptorist Superior General in Rome. Before the expulsion could become official, Emperor Franz of Austria would have to sign it. At the time the Emperor was on pilgrimage to Rome, where he visited Pope Pius VII and learned how greatly the work of Hofbauer was appreciated. He also learned that he could reward Hofbauer for his years of dedicated service by allowing him to start a Redemptorist foundation in Austria.
So, instead of a writ of expulsion, Hofbauer got an audience with Emperor Franz. Quickly the plans were made. A church was selected and refurbished to become the first Redemptorist foundation in Austria. It was to be started without Clement, however. He took sick in early March 1820, and died on March 15 of that year. Like Moses in the Hebrew Scriptures, he had brought the people to the Promised Land but he himself did not live long enough to enter it. He died with the gratifying knowledge that his second dream had been fulfilled.
Clement Hofbauer was beatified on January 29, 1888, by Pope Leo XIII. He was canonized a saint of the Catholic Church on May 20, 1909. In 1914, Pope Pius X gave him the title of Apostle and Patron to Vienna. Today, more than 150 years after his death, the yearly feast of Saint Clement is remembered in a very special way by the people of Vienna and the six thousand priests and Brothers throughout the world who wear the Redemptorist habit just as Saint Clement did.
What made Clement Hofbauer a saint? He performed no miracles to dazzle us, received no visions or ecstasies to overawe us. He even had faults -- a quick German temper, a tendency to be gruff. Yet, if we could have spent a few hours in his presence, we would have found him to be a man of unusually strong faith, a man of extraordinary calm and peace, and a man who could work tirelessly for souls.
Simplicity was the chief characteristic of his sanctity. He accepted the will of God as it came to him, and did all the good that he was capable of doing. He led a life of innocence and service devoting himself to glorifying God and drawing others to serve him. In the very simple way that he became holy, Saint Clement is a model for all people.
Redemptorist spirituality sees God in the ordinary experiences of our life. God is there.
"A Redemptorist tries to have a sense of the fullness of God's life, the abundance of God's love, the experience of God's love in his own mind, and then goes forth and proclaims it. Ours is an Incarnational, very human and holistic spirituality," explains Father Patrick Woods. "God is present — through the birth of Jesus, His death on the cross, and His presence in the Blessed Sacrament. We relate our preaching today to all who are suffering in the world, whether that be from famine, poverty, terrible situations of war, or any other dehumanizing cause. This is where Christ is dying now. He is there with them in their suffering and with plentiful grace, which gives hope for the future."
Redemptorists preach Alphonsus' message of the God of merciful love and the importance of prayer: "Pray and you will be saved. Do not pray and you will be lost."
The Redemptorists' experience of working with alienated and marginalized people enters deeply into their prayer lives; they carry all those with whom they work into their personal prayer. Here their hearts are most in company with Jesus' own desires, as they love and hold them up in hope.
"Prayer and meditation in the Alphonsian tradition is something we live today," Father Woods says. "In thinking about God, thinking about the Passion, we carry God's love forward into all our work."