Born in Tasswitz, Austria, on December 26, 1751 — the eve of the feast of the Apostle who Jesus loved — he was christened John. But he would become known to the Catholic world by the names he would adopt in religious life, Clement Maria Hofbauer.
He was only six when his Bohemian-born father passed away. On this tragic occasion, his mother stood him before a crucifix and said: “Henceforth; He is your father. Take care that you never grieve Him by sin.” The words etched so deeply upon his heart that he never forgot them — and ever lived by them.
Often, the boy would gather the household together to recite the Rosary, his favorite devotion; would fast until nightfall on Saturdays, in honor of the Blessed Virgin; and would distribute to the poor food and money of which he deprived himself.
Not surprisingly, Hofbauer had yearned from his boyhood to enter the priesthood. “Priests,” he said, “are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.” But fulfillment of this, his singular earthly ambition, so long evaded him that it would seem he must have abandoned all hope of realizing it. Instead, he twice withdrew himself from the world to adopt the contemplative life of a hermit. Yet, circumstances frustrated even these aspirations, and at length he settled into the life of a baker.
If our heavenly Father will not reach a stone to one who asks for bread, could He deny the holy yearnings of so pious a soul? Indeed, he would not leave this saint of predestination a common baker confecting common bread for common food, but would call him to confect Bread of Life upon the Altar of God.
Three wealthy sisters who attended Mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, where Hofbauer daily served as an altar boy, were caught in a torrential downpour at the cathedral one Sunday. When Clement fetched a carriage for them, the ladies urged him to ride with them out of the drenching rain. Long having observed his pious comportment in the sanctuary, the women inquired why their carriage guest, now thirty years old, had not entered the priesthood. “That has been my most ardent desire since childhood,” Hofbauer admitted, “but I am obliged to forego it, because I lack the means to carry it out.” At this the eldest sister announced: “If that is the only obstacle, we will gladly see that you reach your goal.” Thanks to the ladies’ generosity, an ecstatic saint was soon enrolled for seminary training at the University of Vienna.
Yet even now, however, the path of his priestly career remained clogged with obstacles — and would ever remain so. To understand why, and thereby to comprehend the forces arrayed against all the good the servant of God sought to accomplish throughout his life, we need to survey the moral and political climate of his epoch.
Signs of the Evil Times
Almost as a postscript to the heavenly warning issued at Fatima in 1917, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, two years later, reviewed the three Great Evils of the latter times, noting: “In 1517, the Protestants rebelled against the Church; in 1717, the Freemasons rebelled against Christ; and, in 1917, the Communists rebelled against God.” In a single sentence the Polish martyr had exposed common origin and natural succession of each of these Apocalyptic nightmares. For we must remember that the Church is so perfectly united to Jesus Christ, her Spouse, that Saint Paul, echoing the prophecies of the Psalms, reveals her in his Epistles as the Mystical Body of Christ. Just as I and the Father are one, as Jesus said (John X:30), so too is the Church one with, and inseparable from, Christ. He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me, said Our Lord to the Apostles representing the authority of His Church (Luke X:16). For it is not you that speak, but the spirit of your father that speaketh in you (Matt. X:20). To revolt against the Holy Church, therefore, is to revolt against Christ and, in so doing, against God the Father and God the Holy Ghost.
After Luther led the Protestant Revolution against the divinely instituted authority of the One True Church, he admitted in his own writings that he had heard the voice of Satan praising him for his deeds. After all, he had unleashed he spirit of defiant rebellion that inevitably gave rise to the humanistic, pantheistic philosophy of Masonic “Enlightenment” to “liberate” Christian civilization from, and to substitute their own creed for, the divine teachings of Jesus Christ. With that diabolical infestation corrupting the minds and souls of so much of the Christian world, it was equally inevitable that those who esteemed themselves the most “enlightened” of this “Age of Enlightenment,” as it perversely has been called, would declare themselves as the lords and Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer saviors of humanity, and would deify their supreme and absolute authority in the world, allowing no True God before them. Hence, came the totalitarian, atheistic Communist state which today enslaves fully half of the world’s peoples.
Clement Maria Hofbauer recognized these incipient transitions in his day. Two days before his death, he wrote: “I am beginning to fear that Jesus Christ was speaking of our times, when He said: And there will rise up false prophets, and they shall show signs and wonders . . . . All the elements of wickedness, though at variance with one an other, are uniting against Jesus Christ and His Church.” Principal among those elements of wickedness to which he was referring were Protestantism, Freemasonry, Josephism (supremacy of state over church), Jansenism (the heresy of radically austere religiosity devoid of the virtues of Hope and Charity), and Reformism.
One other element helped account for the orchestrated unity given to their destructive purpose. On May 1, 1776, perhaps the most diabolically powerful and cunning of all secret fraternities was born in the German kingdom of Bavaria. Known as the Illuminati (the Enlightened Ones), its founder was Adam Weishaupt (whom the Communists honor with a statue in Moscow, and the anniversary of his founding of the Order of Illuminati is commemorated as the central holiday in the Communist Empire). Weishaupt, who dubbed himself Illuminatus Rex (King of the Enlightened), sought to supplant Christian civilization and eventually to replace it with a Novus Ordo Seclorum (New World Order) ruled by his own Enlightened Masters. To achieve this monstrous end, he devised an elaborate and brilliant conspiracy to infiltrate secret members of his Illuminati into every conceivable seat of power, station of prestige, and sphere of influence. Uppermost in that design, he sought to destroy the Catholic Church, which he saw as the greatest obstacle to his ambitions. To do so, as he confided to his most trusted fellow conspirator, in papers discovered by Bavarian authorities, he would “bore within that place [Rome ]” and would place one of his own on the Chair of Saint Peter.
Within a few years of its founding, the Illuminati’s members were counted in extremely important positions in government, academia and religion in many parts of Europe. At the Congress of Wilhelmsbad, in 1783, the Illuminati formally incorporated all the Continental Masonic Lodges under its control. There was no major event, in that highly eventful era of political, social, and spiritual revolution, in which the Illuminati did not play key roles, always under the cover of the most intimate secrecy. As for Weishaupt himself, he eventually moved to Rome — into his enemy’s very capital — where he managed to ingratiate himself with members of the hierarchy so effectively that he was touted as one of the pillars of the Church!
And so we find Saint Clement, after only a few decades of the Bavarian Illuminati’s deadly conspiracy, warning that Germany “is in far greater danger now than it was even in the time of Luther. A malignant cancer is gnawing at its very vitals, threatening to destroy it, not openly as formerly, but secretly. The real source that is robbing not only its own people, but many other nations as well, of the Faith, of grace, and of purity of morals is to be found here in Germany.”
The Road to Rome
As Clement Hofbauer began his pursuit of Holy Orders, Protestantism was in its third century of open defiance of the Church. The poison of Freemasonry had been seeping into the body of Europe for more than six decades. Where Catholicism had survived the ravages of the “Reformation,” many of its faithful were now weakened in spirit by Masonic “free thinking.” In many if not most portions of the continent, Catholics — including priests and even bishops — had grown tepid and indifferent in their faith. In this state, the wellsprings of grace seemed to dry up, and pitiful ignorance of even the most fundamental Truths of the Faith became pandemic. As a consequence, even regions still nominally Catholic were infected with skepticism toward the Apostolic authority of Rome, and were easily drawn to the false doctrine of the divine right of kings which had been resurrected by Luther. Thus, emboldened monarchs intruded into ecclesiastical affairs with increasing brazenness.
All of these odious elements were present when, in 1781, Hofbauer entered the University of Vienna, where seminarians by law had to undergo state-regulated training. Beidtel, a contemporary observer, wrote that the plan of theological studies at the University “was such as to do away with the Catholic system entirely in the dominions of Austria. . . . Willingly or unwillingly, the student was forced to hear principles enunciated and doctrines propounded which were directly or indirectly opposed to the Church’s teachings. . . . The Pope and those that stood about his throne were blamed for everything.”
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that on at least one occasion, Hofbauer the seminarian interrupted a professor’s lecture, blurting out, “What you say is not Catholic doctrine!” and stormed out of the class.
The climate at the University only grew worse with each year of Clement’s studies. More than that, governmental intrusion into Church matters became utterly intolerable. The new emperor, Joseph II, spurred on by Masons in his Privy Council, churned out decree after heinous decree, regulating every minute aspect of ecclesiastical activities, to such an incredible extent, that even the number of candles on the altars was dictated by government officials. Convents and monasteries in vast numbers were closed at imperial whim. Masses were permitted only on token occasions. And priests were all but totally silenced in the pulpits. In sum, the Church in the Austrian Empire of Joseph II fared scarcely any better than under the Communist Empire of today.
Out of pure devotion, Saint Clement had undertaken several pilgrimages to Rome on foot in the years prior to entering the seminary. Now he made it an annual exercise, to escape the repulsive air of unorthodoxy at the university and the religious repression of the imperial state, and to refresh himself spiritually in the capitol of Christendom. He was joined on these arduous journeys by a fellow seminarian of kindred spirit, Thaddeus Huebl, ten years the saint’s junior. By the fall of 1784, conditions in Vienna had become so intolerable that Hofbauer could not bring himself to return to the University. He decided instead to complete his studies in the Eternal City. The plan came to him with such suddenness and resoluteness that he implored Huebl to leave a hospital bed to join him. Because of his stricken condition, Huebl at first rejected the idea. But the saint would not be put off. He insisted that Huebl join him, promising that God would take care of his friend’s health. At this, Huebl consented — and his health was restored so rapidly as to seem miraculous.
It was a common practice for the two pilgrims to sleep in fields, scribing a circle about their earthen beds and invoking their guardian angels to protect them within it. In the mornings, they would attend Mass at the first church whose bells they heard. Having retired one evening in the neighborhood of Santa Maria Maggiore, they were awakened in the very early morning by the soft pealing of a bell from the little church of San Giuliano. Upon their arrival, they realized it was a convent church, but of a religious order they did not recognize. Impressed by the recollection of the Religious in their meditation, Hofbauer asked an altar boy what kind of priests these were. “They are Redemptorists,” the boy returned, adding, “and some day you, too, will be one of them.”
Convinced that the astonishing oracle was a message from God, Saint Clement and his friend presented themselves to the Superior of the Convent and, with a burst of inspiration which left Huebl’s head spinning, found themselves enrolled as Redemptorists.
A House Divided
Monsignor Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, the Neapolitan Bishop of Agatha, was not unknown to Clement Hofbauer. The latter saint in recent years had become an enthusiastic reader of the former’s voluminous spiritual writings — works that would eventually merit Saint Alphonsus canonical recognition as one of the 32 Doctors of the Church. But the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, founded by Liguori in 1732, was scarcely known outside of Naples and not at all beyond the borders of Italy. The explanation for this is not a pleasant one.
As noted earlier, well before Joseph II instituted his process of ecclesiastical strangulation by regulatory decree — known ever after as Josephism — State Church Systems were becoming firmly entrenched in Europe, including Italy. This was the work of Freemasonry, which held powerful influence in most of the continent’s dominions. To the Masonic haters of Rome, nothing more visibly symbolized the papal “opiate” by which Catholic nations were kept submissive to Vatican authority than Saint Ignatius’ Society of Jesus and its preaching of missions. After establishing the precedence for state regulation of local Church affairs, the Masons under their new-found influence and control began exercising their contempt for the Jesuits by having missionary work interdicted in many kingdoms. (Freemasonry eventually managed to generate so much civil contempt for the Jesuits that the Pope was intimidated into suppressing the Society of Jesus in 1773.)
The state of affairs in the mid eighteenth century had created an impasse for the Redemptorists. A Congregation of Religious whose apostolate was to conduct missions. its home was Naples — where the state Church regulatory system was adopted shortly after the Congregation’s founding, and where the preaching of missions became forbidden by law. While the King of Naples personally held Saint Alphonsus and the Redemptorists in favor, his Masonic Prime Minister, Tannucci, was one of the strongest protagonists of the State Church System. Tannucci refused to grant state approbation to the new missionary order.
In later years, ambitious and unscrupulous members of the Redemptorists took advantage of their aged saintly founder, who by then was almost completely blind, to alter the Congregation’s Rule, written by Saint Alphonsus and approved by Pope Benedict XIV, so as to have it meet the anti-clerical standards of the State. Under this new Rule, written in defiance of Liguori’s explicit orders, the Congregation “ceased to be an ecclesiastical corporate body under the jurisdiction of the Holy See, and became a mere civil institution . . . a monstrosity,” a Redemptorist chronicler wrote. In response, the Pope imposed censures on the Redemptorist Houses in Naples and on the innocent founder, Saint Alphonsus himself. Only the Congregation’s House in Rome, which had had no part in the affair, retained papal approbation.
It was at this convent that Clement Hofbauer and Thaddeus Huebl entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer — now a house divided against itself. Monsignor Liguori received with great joy the news that the first two non-Italians had entered his order in 1784. Isolated from them as he was, however, his keen interest in them as the hope of spreading the Congregation into the German kingdoms had to be taken from afar. Saint Alphonsus and Saint Clement would never meet in this life.
The Transalpine Venture
There was to be found in Clement Hofbauer both the Saint Martha and the Saint Mary — at once both the active and the contemplative, the Apostolic zeal and the monastic spirit. It is easy to understand why he submitted his life to the Congregation without a moment’s hesitation. A motto very simply sums up the Redemptorist Rule which so appealed to our saint: “A Redemptorist must be a Carthusian at home and an Apostle abroad.”
But the darkness looming over the young, ruptured Congregation when Hofbauer joined it would not afford him much time to practice the contemplative Carthusian spirit very long. Monsignor Liguori wrote that “the Houses in Naples help us little or not at all to establish the Congregation, because they do not form a body, and are exposed to every wind that blows . . . If the Congregation be not established outside the Kingdom of Naples, it will never be a real congregation.” It was the arrival of the new recruits — “these two Germans,” as he referred to them — that aroused the Bishop’s hopes to see his fractured order propagated beyond the Alps: “The Lord will make use of these two men to further His glory in those distant lands where, since the suppression of the Jesuits, souls are practically destitute of help.” He spoke again in similar prophetic tones before ending his days: “Believe me, the Congregation will endure till the Day of Judgment, for it is not my work, but the work of God . . . . After my death it will spread its wings, especially in the northern countries.”
With a sense of urgency to carry on Liguori’s work, and to cultivate new vocations in the German kingdoms to the north, the Superior General at San Guiliano shortened Hofbauer’s and Huebl’s novitiate. In March of 1785, ten days after they took their vows as professed Religious, they received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Several months later, they were dispatched back across the Alps to establish the Congregation in the northern lands.
Actually, their apostolic labors did not begin immediately. Since they could not enter the Austrian Empire as missioners, a special provision was made in the Congregation’s Rule just for these circumstances, allowing the transalpine Redemptorists to serve as school teachers. To qualify, they had to spend a year in Vienna studying catechetics and pedagogy. It is highly doubtful that the two priests benefited from these State-supervised courses back in the very place whose unorthodoxy had driven them to Rome. But at least the stay allowed Saint Clement more time to pursue privately his favored studies: Holy Scripture, the writings of the Fathers, the Roman Catechism, and Church history.
The year in Vienna also convinced Father Hofbauer, who had been appointed Superior of the Congregation’ s yet-to-be established foreign foundation, that prevailing conditions under Josephism at that time made hopes for such a foundation in Austria impossible. Instead, he decided upon Poland, where there was a sizable number of German Catholics. In Poland, there was considerably more tolerance toward the Church — at least for the moment. Even suppressed Jesuits, held in contempt by the rest of Europe, were welcomed there. And so the two priests set out from Vienna in October, 1786, recruiting along the way an old friend of Clement’s from his hermit days.
Arriving in Warsaw in February, the tiny Redemptorist band found that priests were really not lacking in the city. Because of this the Superior was persuaded to move on to some outlying region where there was greater need for sacerdotal ministers. But inclement weather prevented them from resuming their travels immediately.
There was in Warsaw at the time a hundred-year-old German charitable organization called the Confraternity of St. Benno, which had been established to provide shelter for the sick, the orphaned, and poor German nationals. In more recent years, it had acquired a church. But the church now was without a pastor, and the Confraternity was hard-pressed to be able to continue its charitable works any further. When the presence of the Austrian Redemptorists became known, members of the Confraternity urged them to take over the Institution. At the persuasion of the Papal Nuncio and the King himself, Hofbauer accepted the proposal.
Nothing less than the constitutional resolve of saints, however, was necessary to honor this hastily made commitment. Excepting the church, which itself was in a lamentable state of disrepair, the Institute consisted of two one-story huts in deplorable condition. A single table and a few homely chairs made up the entire furnishings. As there were no beds, two of the Religious at a time took turns sleeping on the table. Water seepage made it impossible to sleep on the floor.
Upon taking over St. Benno’s, the saint was penniless. Not only could he not seek financial subsidies from his superior, but in fact he was expected to provide support to the impoverished Mother House. Yet, while the newly opened foundation was without any income, it would immediately have to assume responsibility for schooling 200 children, of whom 40 had to be fed and 20 more had to be clothed and sheltered. The Poles held strong antipathies toward Germans — to the extent that the Redemptorists were often insulted and jeered at in the streets. Meanwhile, the German nationals were poor and, deprived of worthy priests who spoke their language, were far from zealous Catholics.
So Father Hofbauer could expect no monetary aid from the Warsaw locals. Were it not for financial help from some of Clement’s friends in Austria, the undertaking would have had to have been abandoned.
But much more was at stake here than merely the survival of a charitable institute and school. In this the most convulsive epoch in Europe’s history up to that time, the effects of these political and social upheavals in many ways had impacted on Warsaw worse than elsewhere. “Poor Poland! I see thee dripping with blood,” the saint once cried out unconsciously while deep in meditation.
Poor Poland indeed! Within only a few short years, the country was torn apart by a succession of wars, invasions, and partitionings that alternately brought Warsaw under the domination of the Russians, the Prussians, and the French. The effect on the spiritual fiber of the city was devastating. Warsaw was sunk in a cesspool of immorality and corruption. As for all the priests Hofbauer had first observed when arriving, their presence was of no value. Many, in fact, were leading bad lives themselves. Not a few were involved with seditious secret societies.
“Scandal and vice,” reads one of Hofbauer’s letters from this period, “have reached their climax here, and one can hardly see how matters can be remedied. From the clergy down to the poorest beggar, society is rotten to the core. It is to be feared that God will remove the candlestick from this place.” The challenge now facing Saint Clement, therefore, was not merely to save St. Benno’s, but the city of Warsaw itself.
Of course, the responsibilities immediately at hand were his first concern. He and his confreres set to work with the duties of the school and orphanage. “Our task is to erect a German school, for heretofore there existed no public [free ] school for the Germans,” Father Hofbauer wrote to his superior. But there were “in this city children of different nationalities and creeds, Germans, Poles, and Russians” either homeless or without the means for obtaining an education. No matter how overburdened and under equipped the three Religious were, no student or orphan seeking acceptance was ever turned away. No matter how destitute the Institute routinely was, Saint Clement was always ready with help for the poor.
One of his familiar sayings was: “Charity never says, ‘It is enough.'” When criticized for his excessive almsdeeds, he replied, “Give, and it shall be given unto you — do you not know that these are twin-sisters?” When his unbridled charity on one occasion brought him to the point of financial crisis, the holy Superior knelt before the altar. After a few moments of prayer, he arose and knocked on the tabernacle door, saying: “Lord, help us; now is the time to do so.” As always, the help came.
On August 1, 1787, the saint and Father Huebl were discussing their desperate circumstances after dinner. The discussion was broken by “a terrific noise” which resounded through the room. Noting the precise time, Hofbauer pronounced: “Monsignor Liguori has just died.” Several days later, news arrived from Italy confirming that the soul of their holy Founder departed this world at the very hour Saint Clement had announced.
It was a common practice for the Superior to go from door to door begging alms for his students. Once he entered a tavern and approached a man at dinner to ask for a donation. The man uttered gross profanities and spat in Father Hofbauer’s face. Calmly, the saint wiped away the spittle and said, “That was for me; now, what will you give for my children?” The man was so struck by this unexpected reaction that he begged the priest’s forgiveness and offered a handsome contribution.
It was by such examples that, gradually, more and more Germans and even Poles started attending church at St. Benno’s and providing financial support. Now, with the school and orphanage on better footing, the saintly Superior could confront his next challenge — that of converting the city.
Spiritual Rebirth in Warsaw
Drastic maladies, Clement reasoned, require drastic remedies. If in Warsaw evil and moral perversity abounded in the extreme, then dosages of Catholicity in the extreme — if indeed there can be such a thing — were needed to correct them. A powerful antidote invented by Clement Hofbauer was what he called the “Perpetual Mission.” He outlined it in the following manner:
On all Sundays and holy days there is a sermon at five o’clock in the morning for servants, who . . . cannot attend the divine service at a later hour. For their convenience Holy Mass is said immediately after the sermon. . . . Every day at six o’clock there is a Mass of Exposition, during which the people chant hymns. After the Mass an instruction is given in Polish. During these instructions and sermons Masses are constantly being said, so that those who do not understand Polish or German, or who have not the time to remain for a sermon, may not be deprived of the Holy Sacrifice. Every day at eight o’clock there is a High Mass with Plain Chant, after which there are two sermons — the first in Polish and the second in German. Then the school children come to the church, and the Solemn High Mass with musical accompaniment is celebrated. . . . In the afternoon at three o’clock the confraternities chant the Office of the Blessed Virgin. At four o’clock there is a German sermon, followed by Vespers solemnly chanted, and followed in turn by a Polish sermon. Finally there is a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin publicly made with the faithful . . . . Every day at five o’clock there is a German sermon. Then follow in order, a Visit to the Blessed Sacrament, a sermon in Polish, the Way of the Cross, and congregational singing of hymns in honor of the Passion of Our Lord and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Lastly there is an Examination of Conscience for the people, the Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity are made, a short sketch of the life of the saint whose feast is celebrated on the morrow is read, and then the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary is recited, after which the people are dismissed and the church is closed.
This was the daily routine at St. Benno’s for years! Besides these were the many other pastoral, charitable, and educational labors carried out by the religious community. And its holy Superior assumed the lion’s share of these tasks.
Saint Clement insisted that the way to win over to God a spiritually ignorant or corrupted people is to surround the divine services and public devotions with all possible grandeur and solemnity. “The public ceremonies of the Church,” the saint once remarked, “draw the people by their pomp and magnificence, and by degrees win them over in spite of their prejudices. The people hear with their eyes more than with their ears; they are at first captivated, then captured by the sight. This I experienced again and again in Warsaw.”
Indeed he did! From the highest ranks of nobility to the poorest classes of society, they thronged St. Benno’s — Germans and Poles alike. And not only Catholics, but Protestants, and Jews as well, whose conversions came in remarkable numbers.
To expand and perpetuate this spiritual rebirth in Warsaw, Hofbauer not only organized sodalities and confraternities, but he established the Congregation of Oblates — very similar to our Third Order of The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary — who would carry the apostolic missionary spirit of the Institute into all segments of society. Its members were selectively chosen from the most exemplary and devoted followers, and were permitted to wear habits and participate with the Religious Community in the Divine Office.
With the help of these Oblates, a small printing plant was also operated at the Institute. Religious writings were published and disseminated as a means of further increasing the community’s outreach.
Still another class of apostolic disciples of Saint Clement were the children of his school. He frequently assembled them before school, sang hymns and recited little prayers with them, then read the Gospel to them. So inflamed with his love of God and his fiery apostolic zeal were they, that “cases are on record of boys who on their knees begged their parents to go to confession, accompanied them to the church, and waited near the confessional until father or mother came out radiating the happiness of a new-found peace,” says Father Hofer. Some 11,000 such children were educated at St. Benno’s during its ten years under Saint Clement’s direction.
And, of course, there were new vocations. By 1802, the religious community had grown to fourteen priests, six clerics, four lay brothers, and two novices. The most notable of these was Joseph Constantine Passerat, who had fled revolutionary France to join with our saint. Extraordinarily holy amongst even the most extraordinarily holy Religious at St. Benno’s, Father Passerat lived in a state of constant prayer and meditation, which Saint Clement himself stated he envied. Now honored by the Church as Venerable, his cause for canonization was introduced at the beginning of this century.
Thus, within eight years of the Redemptorists’ arrival in this decadent city, Warsaw witnessed a stunning revival of spiritual life in many portions of its society. And the center of all this new spiritual vitality was St. Benno’s.
A Closer Look at the Saint
Obviously, it would be more correct to say the center and energizing force was Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer. A Polish countess who had frequented St. Benno’s reminisced in afteryears: “Whenever I recall him, I see him before me as a venerable priest, refined and awe inspiring in his deportment, but withal very plain. Wherever he went, he radiated the beauty of peace, and spread about him the consolation that springs from divine love. His language was always simple; he never made use of choice expressions. Still, his words always manifested great depth of mind, and invariably awakened immediate confidence. The love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which filled his heart, shone forth in all his actions; but there was about him no trace of singularity or affectation. Purity of soul, peace of heart, the radiance of that holy joy which is born of the intimate union of man with his Maker, beamed from his countenance. The Holy Spirit had bestowed upon him a special talent for directing souls in the ways of virtue and holiness, and he toiled on with unrelenting fervor, granting himself no rest or respite until his physical energy was exhausted.”
In appearance, his features were somewhat incongruent. His face was broad and rounded, evincing characteristics of both his Bohemian and German blood. He possessed a robust constitution and a seemingly limitless capacity for work, yet was highly susceptible to colds which on several occasions brought him near the point of death. Of medium height, he was broad through the shoulders and chest. Yet his hands were small and delicate, and his gentle voice seemed to contradict his muscular frame.
His soft-spokenness and plainness of oratorical style, however, in no way diminished his compelling effectiveness in the confessional or the pulpit. Another witness recounted how the saint, in his sermons, explained Scriptural texts “with such clearness and skill that all difficulties disappeared, and his hearers were all enlightened and satisfied, but sorry when they perceived the sermon was drawing to a close. His delivery was earnest, convincing, and at times vehement. No one could resist him.”
It was in the confessional that he best portrayed his ordained role of an alter Christus . Some of the fondest memories of those who were acquainted with the saint are of moments spent in Confession receiving his spiritual guidance. He was in great demand as a confessor not only at St. Benno’s, but at many other religious houses in Warsaw.
He was unrelenting in pursuing souls cut off from the life of grace, especially those facing imminent death. A nun entered the church one day and found Father Hofbauer kneeling before the altar. Unobserved by the saint, she saw his cheeks wet with tears as he pleaded for the conversion of some sinner outside the fold. “Lord,” he begged, “give me this soul, for if Thou refuse, I shall go to Thy Mother!” The nun was so deeply affected by this scene that she immediately knelt before an image of the Blessed Virgin and united her own prayers to those of Hofbauer’s.
Saint Clement called on one spiritual derelict who from his deathbed would not cease in hurling profanities at the priest, rejecting Hofbauer’s every appeal that he receive the sacraments and reconcile his soul with God. Finally, the saint rose and began to leave, but halted at the door, fixing a silent stare upon the wretch.
“Why do you look at me?” the man blurted out in an offensive tone. Father Hofbauer replied: “I have seen many good people die; now I wish to see how a soul that is damned departs out of this life.” The man fell silent for a moment then, breaking into tears, begged the saint to hear his confession.
An acquaintance one day met the saint returning well exhausted from attending to a dying man who lived far removed from the city, and who had been away from the sacraments for seventeen years. “It is a good thing when such a one lives far away,” he said. “For then I have ample time to recite the Rosary on the way, and I have learned from experience that sinners invariably repent before death, whenever I have had a chance to say the beads before reaching them.”
So great was his love and esteem for the Blessed Virgin that he regarded it as profanity if someone failed to give proper reverence to her name. Whenever one referred to her simply as “Mary” without attaching to the name any of her titles of honor, he would mildly call the person’s attention to the neglect by saying, “Of which Mary are you speaking?” His own favorite Marian title, which he used most often, was “the Mother of Our Lord.”
It is no surprise, therefore, that he was venerated as a saint wherever he went. The sacristan at a church in Ingolstadt where Clement once stopped to say Mass while traveling, was so struck by the priest’s devoutness and reverence in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice that he preserved the purificator used by Father Hofbauer as a relic.
Again while journeying on foot, the Redemptorist apostle was observed one night in a heavy rainfall by a farmer who offered him lodging for the evening. Observing enough of the wandering stranger’s rare sanctity, during this short visit, to convince the farmer and his family that their guest was a saint, they kept the room in which the priest had slept untouched for years afterward. The farmer testified that his family began to be favored with wonderful blessings from the time they gave shelter to the saint.
Pruzinowski’s biography of Hofbauer records that extraordinary marks of respect were not uncommon when this Christ-like figure passed through Warsaw’s streets: “Many endeavored to touch the hem of his garment, while others reverently kissed the same. Wherever he went, mothers with their little ones on their arms would fall upon their knees before him and ask his blessing.” But, as with Christ Himself, there were also those who hated the saint. He recalled in later years, “Many indeed there were that fell down and kissed my footprints; but there were fully thrice as many that covered me with mud. While some dishonored me too much, others honored me too much.”
Quest for New Foundations
Great and worthy though his accomplishments at St. Benno’s were, they were not the real purpose for which Saint Clement had left Italy. His apostolic mind had been continually astir with ambitious plans from the time he first donned the Redemptorist habit. He dreamed of recruiting, training, and deploying an army of Redemptorists to conduct missions throughout Europe, then America, then the world. To do this he first needed to establish novitiate houses to attract and prepare new vocations. His appointment as Vicar General of the Congregation in 1788 could only have made him all the more anxious to be about this business.
The first foundation after St. Benno’s was at Mitau, in the Duchy of Courland. In this small province, which had been incorporated into the Russian Empire during the third partition of Poland, many of its 42 German parishes were without pastors. Of the rest, the pastors were either too old or too sickly to discharge their duties properly. In 1795, at the request of the Bishop of Courland, Hofbauer dispatched two priests to Mitau. There soon came rewarding reports on the results of their priestly labors. Word of the holiness of the newly arrived Religious spread so far that even Lutherans came from afar to have the Redemptorists bless their sick children.
That same year, Saint Clement began undertaking exploratory expeditions in search of potential sites for Redemptorist convents. These forays, which would continue over the next ten years, would have him crisscrossing Europe in exhausting travels that took him to Bohemia (Czechoslovakia), Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Austria, and France.
Though much of his journeying was done on foot, he did use more expedient conveyances at times.
Among the passengers sharing a coach with Father Hofbauer on one occasion was a young man who was described as being infirm both in body and soul. Possibly embittered by his unfortunate physical state, the young man continually heaped coarse insults upon the holy priest, who endured the vulgarity in silence. At noon, when the coach drew up at an inn, all the other passengers disembarked to dine, giving no thought or concern for the crude cripple left behind. Hofbauer lifted the man in his arms, carried him into the inn, ordered his meal, then carried him back to the coach. The man’s behavior toward the saint was totally changed for the rest of the trip. Filled with sorrow for his meanness, he declared that he would never have sunk to such moral degradation had he met such a priest earlier in life.
What Hofbauer found almost universally on these journeys was very disheartening for his hopes. In most areas he visited he discovered the political atmosphere more antagonistic and threatening towards the Church than ever. A letter written by the saint in those times about Poland serves to summarize his overall survey of conditions he encountered to a greater or lesser degree everywhere in Europe: “The reins of government are in the hands of professed Freethinkers [Masons ], who have begun to harass the Catholic clergy in every possible way. Catholic worship is not expressly forbidden, it is true, but the guns of the enemy are so constantly and so surely trained upon all the supports of religion, that it must gradually become impossible even to hold divine services. . . . We are living in evil times here. The Church of God is vilified, oppressed, and persecuted, while we look on, helpless to defend or rescue the Bride of Christ from the hatred of her foes.”
Some parts at first seemed to offer better hopes of tolerance, only to be dashed by hostile ecclesiastical figures. Baron Joseph von Beroldingen, Canon of Speier and Hildesheim and a strong supporter of Hofbauer, explained the reason for this hostility in a letter to Clement: “Too well do I know that there is scarcely a young priest that is not tainted with the philosophy of Kant.” (Kantian subjectivism, spawned by Masonic “Free Thought,” was the antithesis and undoing of Catholic Scholastic Philosophy. Kantianism was the father to Hegelianism, which in turn was the father of Communist Marxism.) John Pruzinowski, who was well studied on the era, also gives a shocking account of “married priests and monks that belonged to the Freemasons.” Beroldingen further added that in all Germany there was not a single diocesan consistory that did not belong to that “hateful circle which was bent upon the destruction of the Church’s hierarchical structure under the Pope.”
Two regions that offered the most promise were southwestern Germany and, surprisingly, Protestant Switzerland. The saint had a strong desire to bring the Swiss back into the Fold. “The Swiss, though as yet Lying under the cloud of heresy, are nevertheless ripe for the harvest; they are merely waiting for the Lord to send forth the laborers to gather them back into the Church,” he wrote. “My zeal takes additional fire from the example of Saint Charles Borromeo, who labored so untiringly for the Swiss, and who folded this people so lovingly to his fatherly heart. Perhaps God has destined us to reap the fruits of his labors for this people.”
Father Joseph Helg, founder of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, with several convents in Switzerland and one in lower Germany, apparently had proposed that Clement’s Bennonites take responsibility for, and possession of, at least some of these convents.
The Vicar General met with Helg in Switzerland in 1798 to discuss the matter. As revolutionary France was then initiating its annexation of Switzerland, which would lead to much blood-letting. The negotiations never came to fruition until 1802. In that year, Father Hofbauer agreed to take possession of Helg’s foundation in Jestetten in Germany’s southwestern corner. It consisted of a church and several convent buildings for the nuns quartered on Mt Thabor. At last, he first Redemptorist foundation lad been established on German soil.
Wessenberg The Destroyer
Jestetten was part of the large diocese of Constance. In late December, 1803, Father Hofbauer went to Constance to obtain ecclesiastical authorization for his foundation at Mt. Thabor and faculties for the Redemptorist priests who would be laboring there.
In 1802, the new Bishop of Constance, Charles Theodore von Dahlberg, had appointed a 27-year-old Canon, Ignatius Heinrich von Wessenberg, as Vicar General. Wessenberg assumed all responsibility for directing the diocesan government. It was he whom Saint Clement met upon his arrival in Constance.
Vicar General Wessenberg possessed high mental endowments, strong will, and an unlimited capacity for work. The fact is, he had the key attributes — noble birth, powerful influence, brilliance. ambition and cunning — sought in potential candidates for initiation into the inner circles of Weishaupt s conspiratorial Illuminati, which now was in full command of Continental Freemasonry. Indeed, Father Hofer describes the subversive Wessenberg in this way: “Thoroughly enthralled by the ideals of the State Church and victimized by the false doctrines of the so-called ‘Illuminati,’ his only ambition was to impose upon the large diocese entrusted to him the Josephism of Austria — and that in a form more radical than in Austria itself. With the conviction . . . that in his new position it was incumbent upon him to remove the spiritual rubbish that had accumulated in the Church in the course of the centuries, he began his career by converting the Church itself into a heap of ruins.”
What Wessenberg viewed as spiritual rubbish was exactly the kind of devotion, religious exercises, and docile submission to the Pope that Saint Clement was seeking to restore in Europe. But, when the two men first met, they did not realize they held mutually inimical goals. Essentially knowing only of Hofbauer that he had a reputation for being a “reformer,” Wessenberg — who likewise regarded himself a reformer — approved the saint’s plans for the Mt. Thabor Institute.
On December 30th, Hofbauer, accompanied by Father Huebl, arrived in Jestetten to take possession of Mt. Thabor, which he had not seen since his first visit there five years earlier. As the result of a huge indebtedness, the convent buildings had become dilapidated. Some parts were beyond repair. Now owning the staggering, unforeseen debts which came with the foundation, the Redemptorist Vicar General could ill-afford to have new facilities erected. As it happened, there were two unused government-owned buildings adjacent to the convent property which would serve nicely to house a Redemptorist community. With several confreres scheduled to arrive from St. Benno’s, and with ten more vocations already awaiting admission, Father Hofbauer formally applied to the government to take over the empty buildings.
The mills of bureaucracy always and everywhere grind slowly away. But months had elapsed with no response to the request forthcoming. Meanwhile, the Redemptorists set to work preaching sermons, saying Masses, holding other spiritual exercises, and hearing confessions in much the same manner as they had done at St. Benno’s — and reaping the same spiritual fruits among the people. This aroused the ire of the pastor of Jestetten, who in no way shared Father Hofbauer’s brand of apostolic Catholicism. He forbade his parishioners to attend sermons at Mt. Thabor and refused Communion to those who did. He also fired off a letter to Wessenberg demanding that the Redemptorists’ priestly faculties be curtailed.
Now Wessenberg began to realize just what kind of “reformer” Father Hofbauer was. Still maintaining an attitude of paternal concern for the saint, the Illuminist Director of the Diocese reassured Father Hofbauer of his support. Nonetheless, he advised Clement to temper activities at Mt. Thabor for the sake of restoring calm with the neighboring pastor.
Compromise with the foes of Christ’s work, as Saint Clement well knew, is not the mark of a true shepherd. In any event, he was soon enlightened by a Jesuit, Father Anton von Vicari, as to the real nature of Wessenberg’s ecclesiastical aims, and thereafter attempted to steer as wide a birth as possible around the Destroyer. A saint of Clement Maria Hofbauer’s apostolic zeal, however, could not long avoid the clash that was inevitable with this monster.
Not long after Clement has established the Mt. Thabor Institute, a party arrived from Triberg, inviting the Redemptorists to take charge of a pilgrim shrine at that location. The shrine possessed a miraculous picture of the Blessed Virgin, which in years past drew vast numbers of clients. Now the shrine was in the care of priests whose shameful lives had become a public scandal, resulting in a dramatic decline in pilgrimages made to Triberg. Father Hofbauer, after visiting the shrine, saw the great advantage it presented for establishing his Perpetual Mission in Germany. The saint heartily accepted the offer. Since he would need permission of the governor, Archduke Ferdinand of Modena, who resided in Vienna, a formal petition was promptly dispatched.
But this time the saint could not wait for bureaucracy to follow its natural course. With several candidates ready for ordination, Hofbauer elected to take them to Italy to be ordained. From Rome, the saint traveled to Vienna to present his petition for a foundation at the Triberg shrine to Archduke Ferdinand personally. The Archduke granted provisional permission while the matter was being studied by government officials. While in Vienna, Clement received a letter from Wessenberg praising the good work he was doing and encouraging him to continue in those labors. Unbeknownst to either Hofbauer or the Archduke, however, Wessenberg quietly had already contacted government officials, letting them know he was opposed to a Redemptorist Institute in Triberg.
If Wessenberg had been displeased with Father Hofbauer’s missionary work at Mt. Thabor, he was utterly maddened at the thought of the saint having charge of the pilgrim shrine — which represented the kind of devotional “rubbish” of which he wanted to rid the Church. But he was totally outraged when he learned that Hofbauer had taken his priestly candidates outside the diocese to be ordained. Now the battle lines were irrevocably drawn.
The Persecution Begins
Overruling the objections of government officials, Archduke Ferdinand, in April, 1805, signed official documents committing the Triberg pilgrimage to the charge of the Redemptorists, and holding out to them the prospect of a permanent assignment. Being careful not to tip his hand, Wessenberg had trumped up one pretext after another trying to block their installation. For all his cunning and craftiness, however, none of his arguments could outweigh in the Archduke’s mind the eminently simple logic of entrusting a holy shrine to the care of holy priests. Wessenberg, therefore, was forced to extend faculties to the Redemptorists at Triberg.
Dr. Hoehn, the director of the shrine, was outraged. Obviously not yet apprised of Wessenberg’s dilemma, he hastily drafted a letter invoking “the spirit of the times,” and lashing the Illuminist Vicar General: “Do you actually intend at one fell swoop to restore the old order of things? And do you really believe that the good cause will be furthered more easily by Religious, by the preaching of indulgences, by the revival of miraculous occurrences, and such like things as the people shall expect from these strange Religious? If . . . you wish thus to indulge the superstitions of the masses, then, so far as I am concerned, this Order may build a whole college here.”
This incredible missive is revealing in many ways: First, the seething contempt for Catholic beliefs, devotions and pious exercises, coming from a Catholic ecclesiastic, is very revealing about its author. That it would be written to the Vicar General and Director of the Diocese, using such unguarded Masonic language as “the old order of things” — as opposed to the Illuminati’s Novus Ordo Seclorum (New Order of the Ages) — and “the good cause,” clearly reveals that both men were dedicated to the same Masonic goals, and suggests how thoroughly the Illuminati controlled the Diocese of Constance. It is also quite telling as to how much men of this conspiratorial bent feared even so small a band of dedicated Religious as those led by Saint Clement preaching the truths of the Catholic Faith.
In reply, Wessenberg reassured his alarmed comrade, explaining that the Redemptorists did not have a permanent assignment at the shrine, and would be leaving after six months. His self-assurance in so stating undoubtedly was based on his confidence in being able to discredit Hofbauer’s community. In any event, he under-estimated his formidable enemy. On the day the Redemptorists arrived in Triberg, throngs lined the road to the pilgrimage to receive them. The fame of their holiness spread far and fast, drawing ever-increasing numbers to the shrine. The Archduke, who shared the people’s sentiments, issued a decree in September, extending the Congregation’s authorization by two years.
By now, however, Wessenberg and his cohorts — including Haeberlin, the Episcopal Commissary at Freiburg — had but one, all-consuming purpose: to drive Saint Clement and his Religious completely out of the diocese. The Vicar General not only flatly refused to extend the faculties given to the priests at Triberg, but began to suspend Redemptorist faculties at Mt. Thabor.
Realizing his labors and dreams for these two foundations were at an end, Saint Clement began withdrawing his spiritual family. The loss of these beloved Religious almost ignited riots. Wessenberg had to go into hiding for some time, fearing for his own life.
The Enemy Aroused
In all his travels Clement Hofbauer had found no greater love for the Faith among the German people than in Schwabia. In Schwabia lay Babenhausen, a sovereign principality that was subject only to the Imperial Government. This was an ideal and necessary haven for Father Hofbauer and his exiled confreres. For, as Father Hofer tells us, news of the saint’s clashes with the Destroyers in the Diocese of Constance spread quickly through the conspiratorial network of Europe, reaching even to Warsaw: “The press of the ‘Illuminati,’ having had its attention directed toward Hofbauer, sounded the alarm against his activities. According to the newspapers appearing in Munich, the spirit of this Order . . . was by no means above suspicion, and the Chief of Police at Warsaw was openly warned to keep an eye on it, Hofer wrote. Very simply, war had been declared on Clement Maria Hofbauer by the Illuminati — a war to be waged to the hilt by all of Continental Masonry and its agents.
Prince Anselm Fugger and the people of Babenhausen happily welcomed our saint and his Redemptorists. Not so the clergy. Dr. Strohmayer, pastor of the parish in which the Community stayed when it first arrived in the principality, was a friend of Dr. Hoehn’s in Triberg. Having been alerted by Hoehn, Strohmayer imposed stiff restrictions on the activities of the Redemptorists.
On the other hand, the pastor of Weinried, Father Wagner, gave them refuge, virtually turning the church over to Hofbauer. Overjoyed by the abundant moral conversions wrought by their labors, Wagner exclaimed, “Give me four men like Hofbauer for the pulpit and four men like [Venerable Joseph ] Passerat for the confessional, and I shall convert the entire kingdom!” With precious few exceptions, however, the rest of the clergy militantly arrayed itself against Saint Clement’s troops. “The people are good,” Hofbauer inscribed, “but the clergy as well as the Freemasons are openly inimical to us and . . . are constantly preaching against us.”
Owing only to the sovereignty of Babenhausen and the favor of Prince Fugger, the Redemptorists remained protected there from all but the verbal attacks of these enemies. This, however, was a precarious sanctuary at best. Hofer explains: “In the meantime, the Bavarian Government also became much concerned about the Redemptorists. Fugger’s principality lay like a small island in the midst of Bavaria where Montgelas, one of the ‘Illuminati,’ was all-powerful at the time. . . . As early as the beginning of July, the Court of Justice at Ulm published a decree strictly prohibiting all pastors in Bavarian Schwabia from inviting the Redemptorists to conduct any of the divine services. . . . It came to be a misdemeanor for anyone to go to confession to them, to offer them Mass stipends, or to supply them with food.”
On August 6, 1806, Hofbauer had to write to Huebl in Warsaw with a dark report regarding the principality: “Today I have some news for you: since yesterday we belong to Bavaria.” The death sentence for the new foundation in Babenhausen had been all but pronounced. As Saint Clement wrote this news. he had to set off for Warsaw by way of Vienna. He departed with a feeling of doom, sensing in his heart he might never again see the Religious he was leaving behind. “Pray, my dear Brethren,” he said to them as he left. “Pray that the Congregation may not be entirely destroyed. The times are evil — who knows what will become of us. . . . Father Passerat will now be, after God, your only support; cling to him, and follow him wherever he goes. Be prepared to die rather than be separated!” His somber presentiments were justified. Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer would never return to Germany.
Several weeks after Saint Clement’s departure, the Bavarian Government — in which the Illuminist Montgelas was Minister of the Interior, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Pombal — served notice on Father Passerat to remove his Religious from Bavaria within two months. Passerat led the Community to Chur, Switzerland, where again the network of Freemasonry continued its relentless persecution until it succeeded in getting the Redemptorists expelled once more.
Last Days of St. Benno’s
“Everywhere the general conspiracy against the Catholic Church is in evidence,” Saint Clement wrote that same year. “Even the Vicars General of certain dioceses, and the Directors and professors of seminaries are implicated in this conspiracy against the truth.”
While Poland was then, in his words, “languishing under the yoke of a non-Catholic power intent upon nothing less than the very annihilation of religion,” at least he could look forward to returning to the security of St. Benno’s in Warsaw, after the destruction of all his dreams and labors in Germany.
Not that this Institute had escaped molestation by the Masons. As early as 1800, Father Hofbauer acknowledged, “The Jacobins are spreading all sorts of evil reports about us. . . . Even the clergy . . . are ranged against us. We are openly threatened with the gallows.”
As Hofer observed, “St. Benno’s showed its reaction to the spirit of the age by becoming now a real bulwark against the doctrines of the Freethinkers, which were spreading more and more. The line of cleavage between the Bennonites and the Jacobins daily became more marked. More and more the latter resorted to violent methods of intimidating these Fathers, whose teachings and whose manner of life were so clearly opposed to their own.”
The Saint once confided that the Jacobins had abducted him. But he refused to describe what had transpired during that episode, saying God would make it known on the Day of Judgment. Nevertheless, we can well surmise the terror to which he had been subjected, from what occurred shortly after his return to St. Benno’s.
The saintly Father Huebl one day was called upon to attend to a penitent who had fallen ill. It was a ruse. When Huebl entered the carriage that came for him, he was seized, bound, blindfolded, and spirited away by a small group of Jacobins. Taken to a distant location, the helpless priest was stripped and repeatedly beaten with clubs by a larger mob — among whom were prominent city figures whose voices Huebl recognized — shouting: “We shall yet find a way of getting rid of you.” Bleeding profusely, the priest was dumped back at St. Benno’s, still blindfolded. Only to his beloved friend and Spiritual Father, Clement Hofbauer, would he reveal what torments he had endured from the Masons.
Father Huebl was still mending when an epidemic broke out. With no thought for his own condition, he busied himself at the hospital, along with other priests from St. Benno’s, ministering to the many stricken victims. Three of the Bennonites contracted the fatal disease. Among them was Father Thaddeus Huebl, the saint’s oldest and dearest friend in the Congregation, who died in Clement’s arms on July 4, 1807.* Of all the crosses and sufferings endured by the Servant of God, the death of Father Huebl was far and away the greatest. He confessed he was “almost prostrated with despair” by this inestimable loss, and long seemed unable to recover from it.
[* In faraway Switzerland, the quarters housing Father Passerat and his Redemptorist confreres began to quake violently at the hour of Father Huebl’s death. By this Passerat knew some tragedy had befallen the Congregation.]
But the Father Vicar had more to contend with than the thuggery of the Masonic Lodge of Warsaw. In Germany he had aroused the fear and fury of the uppermost powers of the conspiracy. Not content to have driven his spiritual family out of Bavaria, the very birthplace of the Illuminati, it was now determined to hound him and his Congregation relentlessly until both were utterly destroyed.
Earlier, we cited Hofer’s documentation of how the Illuminati’s press in Munich helped broadcast the call-to-arms for its war against the Congregation. The Augsburg Postzeitung and the Frankfurt Journal were among the widely read newspapers that dutifully reechoed the battle cry, depicting the Transalpine Redemptorists in Germany as a threat to the State.
Saint Clement’s labeling of the Illuminati as a “conspiracy” was eminently apropos. What else could explain major newspapers — especially one so distant from the scene of events as the Frankfurt Journal — dedicating precious copy space to harangue about the alleged menace posed by a band of Religious, scarcely numbering thirty men, preaching in such obscure locations as Jestetten, Triberg, and Babenhausen? This, mind you, while Napoleon was swallowing up Europe with his armies!
In fact, Napoleon crushed Prussia in 1806, and now held Warsaw under his imperial rule. Marshal Davoust, who led one of the French columns into Warsaw, was installed as the military commandant of the city. Davoust, having read one of the German newspaper diatribes against the Congregation, contacted the author of the article and was referred to the Illuminati’s powerful Montgelas in Munich for corroboration of the charges! In March, 1808, Montgelas sent the Marshal a fiery report, citing the Redemptorists as the chief cause of civil unrest in Babenhausen — even though they had been expelled from thence well over a year earlier!
Armed with this report, the military commandant had St. Benno’s searched, confiscating its entire archives. Among the papers seized were letters exchanged with Jesuits, and correspondence alluding to the friendship with certain members of the royal Bourbon family enjoyed by Father Hofbauer. That was enough. Davoust immediately reported his findings to Napoleon, adding: “I am convinced that these men are avowed enemies of the Government, and particularly antagonistic to Your Majesty.” As for “their Vicar General, Hofbauer,” the Marshal described him as “a very dangerous man.” A series of reports to the Emperor followed, as Davoust maintained surveillance of the Bennonites.
Describing the Redemptorists as “a reincarnation of the Jesuits,” the Mighty Lord of Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte, pronounced: “The expulsion of these priests from Warsaw must be demanded and insisted upon.” On June 9, 1808, the decree was issued, ordering the expulsion of Father Hofbauer and his Religious Community from Poland.
The saint had had no inkling of St. Benno’s impending doom. After all, who would have expected the Great Conqueror of the Continent, while reaching the height of his power, to be devoting his majestic attention to the crushing of a little convent in far-away Poland! During the Octave of Pentecost, as the holy missioner was reading the Divine Office, he came to the sixteenth verse of the Eighty-Seventh Psalm: I am poor and in labors from my youth: and being exalted, have been humbled and troubled. As he read these words, he was suddenly “filled with an interior fear and began trembling from head to foot,” according to Father Hofer. “While reflecting what might be the cause of this, he experienced the same sensation a second time. He now realized that God had chosen this way of warning to prepare his soul for tribulations.”
While Davoust made arrangements necessary for executing the decree, the plan was kept in strict secrecy. Detectives kept watch on the convent day and night. Just shortly before noon, on June 17, the Expulsion Committee swept down upon St. Benno’s, locking the church doors — with many parishioners still inside — and placing the Community under house arrest. For three days they were subjected to questioning and examinations, which the saint described as being “so shameless and impudent that one cannot recall them without disgust.” On June 20, in the darkness of early morning, the confreres were hauled away in wagons under a heavy military escort to the Kuestrin Fortress, where they were held for four weeks cut off from all contact with the outside world.
During this ordeal, Saint Clement agonizingly searched his mind for some place, any place, where he might re-gather his spiritual family, but to no avail. Napoleon’s orders had closed all of Europe to the Bennonites, including Italy. He could do nothing but accept the inevitable dissolution of the Transalpine Congregation — and with it, his life’s works and dreams. Late in July, the Redemptorists were dispersed from the fortress in groups of two, each member under orders to return to his native country. As they were led away, the saint embraced each with a heart overflowing with grief — most of them he would never see again in this life. “The father is no longer permitted to remain in the midst of his children,” he wrote, “and the brethren are no longer permitted to live together.”
In accordance with Napoleon’s decree, the Redemptorist Vicar General returned to Vienna accompanied by a cleric named Frater Martin Stark. Save for a few pilgrimages to distant Marian shrines, he would remain in Vienna for the rest of his earthly days.
Details of Saint Clement’s activities during the first several years back in Austria are more sketchy than for the rest of his priestly career. The reason is very simple: He was a preeminent target of the Illuminati and of Napoleon himself. All correspondence between Father Hofbauer in Poland and Father Passerat in Switzerland had been continually monitored by the Bavarian authorities as it passed through Germany. Now the saint was kept under surveillance by Vienna police and by a Gestapo-like secret police organized by Joseph II. So as not to jeopardize Passerat’s efforts to establish a permanent foundation in Switzerland, Clement for the time being almost completely abandoned his practice of writing long and frequent letters. Those he did write during this period were by contrast so circumlocutory and superficial as to clearly show he no longer dared to entrust important matters to correspondence as freely as he once had. Furthermore, he conferred all his authority as Vicar General upon Father Passerat.
We do know that several of his confreres had followed Saint Clement to Vienna, although circumstances forced them to live apart. Frater Stark, who was ordained in Vienna in 1810, resided with Father Hofbauer. While keeping something of a low profile — for the sake of the dispersed Bennonites and Passerat’s Community — Saint Clement was unknown to most of his new neighbors, who referred to him simply as “the priest who prayed so fervently before the Blessed Sacrament.”
The Mass Journal at the Mariazell shrine carried this entry for July 1, 1810: “John Clement Hofbauer . . . at the Italian Church in Vienna.” The saint had been assigned to the humble post of assistant to the elderly pastor of this church for Italian nationals. Though he was apparently restricted from more than occasional appearances in the pulpit his presence in the confessional became a powerful attraction to penitents who were drawn in steadily enlarging numbers.
In July of 1813, Archbishop Hohenwart of Vienna added to Father Hofbauer’s responsibilities by assigning him as Spiritual Director of the Ursuline Sisters and Director of their convent church. While the repressive anti-Church laws instituted by the now-deceased Joseph II were still in place, some were being enforced less harshly by this time. In any event, the great Redemptorist missioner could no longer restrain his apostolic zeal. On the first Sunday when he entered the Ursuline church to commence his new duties, he asked the sacristan why the bells had not been rung. “Because there is to be no sermon,” the sacristan answered, in keeping with what had been the routine at the church. To this the new Director responded, “But I intend to preach; so be good enough to ring the bells.” With that, he ascended to the pulpit and delivered a sermon to the handful of people in attendance with the nuns. As it happened this simple event would mark the beginning of a whole new epoch in the life of Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer, and even more so in the life of Vienna.
To better appreciate the reasons for this, it must be realized that Vienna was the capital of the Austrian Empire, which included most of Germany. Under the Masonic inspiration and obsession to regulate true Catholicism out of existence, Austrian Josephism had created an ecclesiastical void which the Illuminati rushed in to fill with its “Novus Ordo” of world religion. Far more sinister and subtle than the Protestant rebellion, the Illuminati did not openly propose to destroy Catholicism; rather, it pretended to “reform” it. Father Hofer, writing in the early part of our century, provides a description of the resulting spiritual conditions, which are remarkably parallel to those following the post-conciliar “reforms” of the present day: “. . . the strictly Catholic sermon disappeared from the pulpits of Austria. During the period when the ‘Illuminati’ were in power, a relentless warfare was waged against preachers of orthodox Catholic doctrine, who found their bitterest enemies were the so-called ‘Illuminated’ members of the clergy. The result soon became evident. It was now a rare thing indeed to hear specifically Catholic doctrine preached from the pulpit. Instead there was merely that superficial talk of a universal Christianity, those empty platitudes about universal charity, and that cheap moralizing which the ‘Illuminati’ brought into the pulpit.”
Kral, one of Hofbauer’s disciples, made this commentary: “A sermon on the Catholic Church was so rare an occurrence that we young people rejoiced when the preacher merely mentioned the words ‘the Holy Catholic Church’ in the pulpit. Another of the saint’s followers, Frederick von Held, said it was a strictly observed policy, both in society and in church offices, that all reference to the primacy and exclusivity of the Catholic Faith be avoided.
Now comes onto this scene Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer, ascending the pulpit of St. Ursula’s church. Even under normal circumstances, nothing would be more certain to attract multitudes than his preaching. Father Werner, a close associate of the saint, who was converted from Freemasonry, said of Hofbauer, “the Holy Ghost speaks through his mouth.” The secret of Clement’s pulpit power was not polished eloquence or rhetorical mastery, but the simple fact that his Faith was such an integral part of him as to occupy his whole existence. (So vividly real to him was the Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, for example, that he would weep with love when distributing Communion.) Certainly, those who attended his sermons, therefore, did not exaggerate when they insisted that Father Hofbauer became transfigured in the pulpit as he preached the Sacred Truths of Catholicism. Some said they witnessed a visible aura surrounding him.
The Catholic Movement
Quite naturally, the Ursuline church was being thronged with souls hungry to hear the Word of God preached again in Vienna by one so intimately knowledgeable of it. So great became the demand for his spiritual counseling that it consumed fully one-third of his long daily routine. That routine began at no later than four o’clock in the morning — usually much earlier — and went very late into the night, often past midnight. Mornings would frequently find him hearing confessions at the church till ten o’clock or later. In the evenings, long lines of young men who entrusted their souls to his care would be queued up around his home.
Among those captivated by Clement Hofbauer were the Schlegels: Frederick, founder of the Romantic School of writers, and known in German literature as “the Prince of :he Romanticists”; and his wife Dorothy, daughter of the Jewish philosopher Mendelssohn. Both were recent converts to Catholicism when they first met our saint in 1808.
Ardent champions of their newfound religion, it was the Schlegels who introduced to Clement Hofbauer several important and influential personages from nobility, academia, the literary world, and even government that formed the backbone of what came to be called the Hofbauer Circle.
As this Circle became infected with the Redemptorist’s feverish love for the traditions of the Faith, it inevitably evolved into a rebirth of St. Benno’s Confraternity of Oblates. Lacking the setting of a Religious Community enjoyed by the Bennonite Confraternity, Hofbauer’s loosely structured Third Order in Vienna was less formally organized than its Warsaw counterpart. Yet its apostolic fervor was equally as resolute, if not more so. Thus, the Circle dedicated itself to carrying the Hofbauer contagion of faith far and wide throughout all levels of Austrian and German society.
Though its members were relatively few in number, they carried out this self-appointed mission with such determination that even in the University of Vienna — “the real nest” of the Illuminati, as Saint Clement referred to it — impressive numbers of students as well as some professors were to become enamored of true Catholicism. “Quite a sensation was created, for example,” writes Hofer, “when two Instructors highly esteemed in university circles openly renounced freethinking and not only became believing Catholics, but took up the study of Theology. These two savants were Dr. Emmanuel Veith, the Jewish Instructor in Medicine, and Dr. John Madlener, the Instructor in Mathematics.”
Commenting on this era when Masonic “Enlightenment” had captured virtually all moral, social, and political thought in the civilized world, Hughes states in his Church history that “outside the [Papal] States of the Church and the new United States of America, there was not a single country in the world where the Catholic religion was free to live fully its own life, and not a single Catholic country where there seemed any prospect but of further enslavement and gradual emasculation.”
All the more remarkable, therefore, is what devoted members of the Hofbauer Circle were accomplishing in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Vienna the heart of Josephism — according to evil conspiracy — now became, in the words of one historian, “one of the most important centers of converts to the Church.” This, in fact, was the seminal origin of the Catholic Movement which, in later decades, would rekindle devotion to the Catholic Faith across most of Europe. At the center of all this dynamic apostolic energy, of course, was Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer, who, a few years before his death, could write optimistically: “The people are well-disposed and could in a short time and with little difficulty be won over to the cause of right and truth, if only we were permitted to apply the proper remedies to their ills.”
The Arch-Enemy Returns
By 1814, Napoleon’s empire had crumbled. The Pope, driven from his throne by the Lord of Europe, triumphantly re-entered Rome and again took rightful possession of the Papal States. The Jesuits, under suppression for forty years, were finally restored by the Holy Father. Joseph II was in his grave, as was his successor, Leopold II. Francis II was now Emperor, and he was more of a Catholic than his predecessors, if nonetheless pitifully weak in eradicating their monstrous edicts. A more favorable wind seemed to be gathering — one that promised fresh, new hope for the persecuted Church.
A General Congress of the European powers was convened in Vienna that year. To the ever-hopeful Saint Clement, this could only have been arranged by Divine Providence at a time when several of his tertiaries and supporters were in significant positions of influence. (Even the Crown Prince of Bavaria, recently arrived for the upcoming Congress, had sought out the famed Apostle of Vienna for lengthy consultation.) Now was the time to muster the full force of that influence, to press for restoration of the almost completely severed relations of Austria and the German states with Rome, while at the same time clearing the way for rebuilding his shattered Transalpine Congregation.
After the Congress of Vienna convened in September, there were signs that the Church question might come to a happy issue. Those hopes, however, were dashed with the arrival of Father Hofbauer’s longtime arch-enemy, Ignatius Wessenberg. The latter’s Masonic ecclesiastical superior, Dahlberg, as now Germany’s Primate Archbishop and had appointed the cunning Illuminist as official representative of the entire German Catholic Church at the Congress. Wessenberg was the prime mover and shaker for the establishment of a German National Church — one that would be neither Catholic nor Protestant, but professing Masonically enlightened Free Thought as its creed and the State as its pope. Again, Father Hofbauer’s ambitions had run headlong against those of Wessenberg. And again, Wessenberg emerged the victor in the contest, this time successfully thwarting the saint’s efforts to restore relations with the Holy See.
More Battles Fought . . .
Wessenberg could not have openly promoted his National Church scheme in this international forum. Yet he tipped his hand in that regard sufficiently during the Congress to alert Clement to the new menace. Several of Hofbauer’s closest disciples, now widespread throughout Austria and Germany, organized themselves into a network to keep constant watch on the Illuminist and to oppose him wherever possible. In this way, the saint was able to discover: a party of German clergy directly led by Wessenberg along with several German rulers to lead an uprising against Rome; and Wessenberg’s powerful leadership in a scheme for a General German Concordat to extend the Josephist State Church system to the whole of Germany. In turn, Hofbauer was able to organize enough opposition in the right places to stymie each of these devilish designs.
Most importantly, by his almost daily reporting on these activities, he was able to convince the Roman Curia of the enormous dangers to which it had been oblivious. Thus, when “the secret, masked creature” (as Hofbauer once referred to Wessenberg) went to Rome to actively campaign for a bishopric, he was flatly rejected. Clement Hofbauer had gradually turned the tables on Wessenberg and the Illuminati. Wessenberg knew it. And he would have his revenge.
And More Persecution
“The restoration of the Society of Jesus by Pope Pius VII, in 1814,” Hofer observed, “had struck terror into the Austrian Government and the ‘Illuminati.'” Of no less concern to them, however, were the subsequent activities of the priest called John Clement Hofbauer. Even if he had been unsuccessful in attaining his goals at the Congress of Vienna, it was conspicuously clear that his influence in that assembly and after it, and his mounting popularity amongst Vienna’s upper class, made him a much more formidable foe than ever he had been in Germany or Poland. Once more, Father Hofbauer was marked for destruction by the Illuminati.
Several members of Vienna’s Archdiocesan Consistory were closely tied to the Illuminati. Vienna’s prelate, Archbishop Hohenwart, himself was a strong supporter of the saint. Nevertheless, the Consistory brought pressure to bear on the Archbishop concerning the powerful preacher of St. Ursula’s. What kind of pressure is not known, but it was effective. In September, 1815, Hohenwart ordered Saint Clement to cease preaching. On September 24, calmly and without explanation, Father Hofbauer announced to stunned throngs gathered in the Ursuline church that he would not be delivering any more sermons — for what turned out to be a year’s duration. That appearance of calm resignation was only a front. Inwardly, well hidden from all observers, his heart was crushed with pain. When a nun later brought the saint a holy card to be blessed, Clement stared at it in silence, then began to weep uncontrollably. It was a picture of Jesus preaching to the multitudes.
But this was not sufficient revenge to satisfy Wessenberg and the Illuminati. It was hinted to Vienna’s authorities that Clement Hofbauer was in league with the newly restored Jesuits, despised and hated by the Government. From that point on, the holy Redemptorist was kept under constant watch by the police and the secret service. Mail to and from Hofbauer and his associates was intercepted and monitored. Spies were hired to gain the saint’s confidence and to draw out any “incriminating” intelligence they could. Pressures were applied to his friends and followers to betray the priest.
Under some concocted charge, Hofbauer was taken into custody and brought before a tribunal where he was subjected to insulting interrogation. When he had had enough of this abuse, he simply inverted Saint Peter’s words, saying: “I see that it is not good to be here!” With that he calmly walked out, leaving the astonished High Court denied of its notorious prisoner. This certainly was not the end of the matter, however.
“To the Party of the ‘Illuminati,'” says Father Hofer, “Hofbauer became daily more and more odious.” A whole new plot to be rid of him was hatched late in 1818. Among the plethora of Josephist decrees rigidly regulating ecclesiastical affairs was a clause enjoining all Religious convents in the Empire to sever all communication with Superiors or other convents outside the realm. Even this malicious edict had no proper application to Father Hofbauer. For, while he was a Redemptorist, he no longer lived in a Redemptorist Community, and the simple home he shared with one other priest could scarcely be considered a Religious convent.
The Spiritual Commissioner of the Government of Lower Austria, however, was Augustine Braig, one of Wessenberg’s most dependable henchmen. In the hands of Braig, the law was simply a means to an end; it could mean whatever he wished it to mean. After the Commissar raided Saint Clement’s home and seized letters to prove his communication with Houses of the Congregation beyond Austria, Hofbauer was told by Braig that he was faced with two choices under the law: Either he renounce his Religious vows, or be expelled from the Empire. This really was no choice at all, for the saint could never abandon his vows, as Braig surely knew. Thus, he was forced to accept banishment.
Given Father Hofbauer’s advanced years and frail physical state — made feeble by the long years of ceaseless work, apostolic journeying, severe illnesses, and harsh penances — Braig consented to delay the execution of the bitter sentence until the following May, when the weather would pose less hardship for the old priest in traveling. That concession, however, was made on the condition that Hofbauer keep the entire matter secret. With good reason on Braig’s part! Unbeknownst to Clement, not even the contemptible Josephist laws provided for banishing a native Austrian from his homeland. If, by feigning some token of clemency, the Commissar could more easily induce the elderly priest to sign his own decree of expulsion, Braig could then defend the cruel deed by claiming Hofbauer voluntarily agreed to leave the country of his own will rather than face penalties for his “criminal” behavior.
Unwittingly, the saint agreed to Braig’s terms and signed the document. “Have we finished now?” he then asked. When Braig replied that, yes, the proceedings were ended, Clement pointed heaven ward in warning and pronounced: “No, this is not the end; one thing yet remains — the Last Judgment!”
Nearing the Final Journey
Faithful to his promise while agonizingly awaiting the time of his departure, Hofbauer did not utter a word to anyone about his fate. When the decree was presented for the Emperor’s signature, His Highness was told that he chose to leave Austria rather than cease his unlawful activities. The affair was described to Archbishop Hohenwart in the same terms. Yet Hohenwart learned from sources in the Government how Hofbauer had been tricked into the agreement. Early in 1819, he laid bare the vicious scheme before the Emperor. For whatever reason, Francis II upheld the absurd finding of illegality in Clement’s correspondence with foreign convents. Nevertheless, he ordered that the aged priest was to be allowed to remain in Vienna, while the matter was investigated more thoroughly.
The case dragged on and on. In the meantime, Francis II went to Italy. During his stay of several months, he had a number of audiences with the Pope and with other officials of the Curia, during which the maligned and persecuted Apostle of Vienna had been the subject of some discussion. The trip proved to be a great grace for the weak monarch. Having left for Rome a committed Josephist, he returned a renewed Catholic. Back in Vienna, he changed the whole scope of the Hofbauer case. Now it was a question of whether to grant official recognition to the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. Toward this end, Father Hofbauer was directed to submit the Rule of the Congregation for careful study.
In January, 1820, Baron Joseph von Penckler, one of the saint’s oldest and staunchest supporters, breathlessly arrived at Hofbauer’s residence bursting with joy. He had learned that the Imperial Approbation had been assured. Formalities would delay the final Decree for some time yet. But the Father of the Redemptorists’ Transalpine Congregation could now set about regathering his scattered spiritual family without interference from the Government. Many of the young Viennese tertiaries of the Hofbauer Circle could now prepare for entering the Redemptorist Novitiate. And soon an army of pious missioners would be carrying the Sacred Truths of the Faith to the spiritually starved souls of the German world, as Clement had so long dreamed, prayed and hoped for.
Once again, God had rewarded his patience and prayers with fruitful blessings.
A Saint is Called Home
Even with the assurance of approbation, Father Hofbauer repeatedly and insistently stated that the decree officially admitting the Congregation into Austria would not be signed until he appeared in the presence of Almighty God. After his death, he further prophesied, numerous Redemptorist convents would be established in the Empire, and from here would the Congregation spread to many other parts of the world.
At the time of these prophecies there was nothing about Clement’s health to indicate any imminent danger of death. True, he was no stranger to sudden and grave illnesses. And during this winter of 1819-20, more than once had he been stricken with fever and delirium. But always he managed to recover full vigor. So there seemed to be no cause for alarm when a hemorrhoidal condition developed as a result of very long hours spent in the confessional, not even when trails of blood at times had marked his footsteps.
In February, 1820, his assistant, Father Stark, contracted typhoid fever and was given the last rites.
But Father Hofbauer, who had to assume the burden of the ill priest’s duties, remarked: “I am in worse condition than he; he shall recover, but I shall die soon, very soon.”
The saint’s affliction was described as “malignant.” Infection spread to his lower intestines, causing him such intense, unrelenting suffering that, while in the confessional, he would try to stand to ease the pain. Great though his agony was, however, he would not slacken his arduous daily routine. Nor would he in any way even hurry penitents during Confession.
On the contrary, he seemed to spend more time with them to make certain their spiritual needs were met before he departed this world. Sister Frances, one of the Ursuline nuns, testified at Hofbauer’s process for Beatification that, during her last Confession to the saint, he kept her for half an hour giving her “detailed instructions and advice regarding certain matters and situations that arose only years afterward.”
On Saturday evening, March 4, an attack of chills and fever prostrated the saint. He delivered his last sermon the next day, on the subject of making good use of our time on earth: “For the night cometh when no man can work any more,” he said, “and as the tree falleth, so it shall lie for all eternity.” He managed to continue his routine duties through March 8.
This same day, news arrived from Rome that one of Clement’s friends, Princess Jablonowska, had passed away, and the family requested that Father Hofbauer offer a Solemn High Requiem Mass for her soul. While his strength was now thoroughly spent, he could not refuse this request. The next day, as he celebrated the solemn service, his countenance took on an ashen color, and he became so weak that he could scarcely complete this, the last Mass he would offer.
He was immediately put to bed where, while the number of visitors had to be restricted, he still continued to hear confessions. One of these penitents was the convent servant for the Ursulines. As she sobbed inconsolably at the sight of the dying priest, Father Hofbauer said to her: “Marianne, do not weep. You will soon follow me.” The servant, then in excellent health, died suddenly eleven days later.
Clement’s condition turned markedly worse on Monday. He now had contracted typhoid and smallpox, which brought on long sieges of delirium. On Wednesday, being found in a conscious state, he was asked by one of the priests attending at his deathbed, “Father Hofbauer, do you wish to receive God?” Raising himself up with newfound strength at these words, he responded: “The Holy Communion? Yes, yes!” When the Viaticum was brought to him again during the night, he faintly whispered, “Intellexi Communionem ,” by way of giving assurance that he was conscious of receiving the Blessed Sacrament.
He awoke the next morning reciting verses of his favorite hymn: “To Thy honor and glory, Lord, Tend my every thought and word and deed.” At the same hour, one of his Circle members had a dream in which the beloved priest had entered her room and said three times, “I am going now to my solitude,” then disappeared.
At noon, the great client of the Holy Queen of Heaven regained sufficient consciousness to state clearly, “Pray! The Angelus bell is ringing!” As those gathered in the death chamber began to recite the Angelus, the soul of Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer, amidst the honors being chanted to the Blessed Virgin, was summoned to the everlasting bliss of the Beatific Vision.
Fulfilling the saint’s prophecy, the Imperial Decree, officially recognizing the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and admitting it into Austria, was signed later on the same day of his death. The Decree was delivered the next morning and was laid on the body of the Redemptorist Vicar General.
The dramatically courageous and challenging story of Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer — which we have really only highlighted — does not end here. In fact, his life and works are but a part of a much larger story — an apocalyptic story of the great Good of the Holy Catholic Church in pitched combat with the dark Evil of the very powers of hell.
On the side of the Good, it is a story that continues with the Venerable Joseph Passerat who, as the succeeding Vicar General, brought to fulfillment the prophecies of Saint Alphonsus and Saint Clement about the Congregation, leading to an inspiring reflowering of the One True Faith in much of Europe. It is a story that carries over, a century later, into the reign of Pope Saint Pius X who, after canonizing Clement Hofbauer, valiantly defended the Faith against the very same forces of darkness posturing as Enlightenment.
On the side of the Evil, it is a story of resurgence of “the general conspiracy against the Church,” relentlessly mounting assault after assault with increasing cunning against the Mystical Body of Christ, each time inflicting more crippling wounds. It is a tragic story that continues to our very day — all the more tragic, because there is no longer a Saint Clement, a Venerable Joseph Passerat, or a Saint Pius X here to defend the Church against the overwhelming evil.
But the Church’s victory has already been foretold. By Jesus Christ, Who promises the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And by the Virgin Mary who, at Fatima, assured us: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart shall triumph.”
Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer, Pray for Us!