The Catholic Defender: Saint Clement Mary Hofbauer
Born in 1751, the youngest of twelve children, Clement was six years old when his father died. His great desire was to become a priest, but since his family was unable to give him the necessary education, he became a baker's assistant, devoting all his spare time to study.
Redemptorist preacher and reformer. He was born on December 26,1751, at Taswitz, Moravia, the ninth child of a butcher and his wife and was baptized John.
Clement Mary might be called the second founder of the Redemptorists, as it was he who carried the congregation of Saint Alphonsus Liguori to the people north of the Alps.
John, the name given him at Baptism, was born in Moravia into a poor family, the ninth of 12 children. Although he longed to be a priest, there was no money for studies, and he was apprenticed to a baker.
But God guided the young man’s fortunes. He found work in the bakery of a monastery where he was allowed to attend classes in its Latin school. After the abbot there died, John tried the life of a hermit, but when Emperor Joseph II abolished hermitages, John again returned to Vienna and to baking.
One day after serving Mass at the Cathedral of St. Stephen, he called a carriage for two ladies waiting there in the rain. In their conversation they learned that he could not pursue his priestly studies because of a lack of funds. They generously offered to support both John and his friend Thaddeus, in their seminary studies. The two went to Rome, where they were drawn to Saint Alphonsus’ vision of religious life and to the Redemptorists. The two young men were ordained together in 1785.
Newly professed at age 34, Clement Mary, as he was now called, and Thaddeus were sent back to Vienna. But the religious difficulties there caused them to leave and continue north to Warsaw, Poland.
There they encountered numerous German-speaking Catholics who had been left priestless by the suppression of the Jesuits. At first they had to live in great poverty and preach outdoor sermons.
Eventually they were given the church of St. Benno, and for the next nine years they preached five sermons a day, two in German and three in Polish, converting many to the faith. They were active in social work among the poor, founding an orphanage and then a school for boys.
Drawing candidates to the congregation, they were able to send missionaries to Poland, Germany, and Switzerland. All of these foundations eventually had to be abandoned because of the political and religious tensions of the times. After 20 years of difficult work, Clement Mary himself was imprisoned and expelled from the country.
Only after another arrest was he able to reach Vienna, where he was to live and work the final 12 years of his life. He quickly became “the apostle of Vienna,” hearing the confessions of the rich and the poor, visiting the sick, acting as a counselor to the powerful, sharing his holiness with all in the city. His crowning work was the establishment of a Catholic college in his beloved city.
Persecution followed Clement Mary, and there were those in authority who were able for a while to stop him from preaching. An attempt was made at the highest levels to have him banished. But his holiness and fame protected him and prompted the growth of the Redemptorists. Due to his efforts, the congregation was firmly established north of the Alps by the time of his death in 1820.
Hofbauer has been declared a saint by the Catholic Church. Due to his extensive service in that city, he is called the Apostle of Vienna, of which he is a co-patron saint.
He is known as the Patron Saint of Marble-Workers. St. Clement gave the ultimate sacrifice for his life. His willingness to give his life for his faith remains with us today, as we all struggle to sacrifice our lives so that we may protect his souls and show our love for God.
He decided to devote his life to helping the poor. Here is one story about Saint Clement Mary that explains how his life became one of a cherished Saint: One day Saint Clement was in a pub in Austria asking all its patrons for money for poor children. As he went from person to person enduring the ridicule that was usually given to beggars at that time, the children followed him.
He asked the men not for money for himself but for his children as he listened to their hurtful comments. He came upon one man who was very bitter and spit a mouthful of beer onto Saint Clement’s face. As was his way, he looked at the man in front of everyone and said “That is what you have for me, but what do you have to give my children?”
In the spirit of Jesus and with courage Saint Clement set an example for all the children to learn, all the other patrons in the bar saw his reaction and response and Saint Clement was flooded with coins.
He and the children left that day with enough money for a hot meal and shelter for the night.
Pray to Saint Clement when someone you know may be having a problem with a quick temper, or when you need to settle down yourself. He can also be invoked for help with grief and when you need to look past someone’s faults toward forgiveness.
Clement Mary Hofbauer was canonized in 1909. His liturgical feast is celebrated on March 15.
Saint Clement went with one companion to Vienna, where for the last twelve years of his life he acted as chaplain and director at an Ursuline convent.
There he exercised a veritable apostolate among all classes in the capital. He devoted himself in a special way to the conversion and formation of young men. When he died in 1821, Pius VII said, Religion in Austria has lost its chief support.