St. Clement Mary Hofbauer

Author: John Coulson


Feast: March 15

One of the most remarkable of the many figures behind the scenes at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) was Father Hofbauer, a Redemptorist, who had introduced that Congregation to the countries north of the Alps from its native Italy, despite the opposition of the Austrian Emperor whose policy of state control of the church and its affairs was inimical to all religious orders.

Clement Mary Hofbauer was born in 1751 of a Czech father and a German mother. After working as a baker, he was enabled to study for the priesthood through the generosity of two benefactors encountered in Rome while he was on pilgrimage there. There, too, he fell in with the Redemptorists and entered among them. His first mission was to Warsaw, where he was in charge of the German church, and he soon enjoyed a certain repute as a confessor and the instigator of good works to remedy the social evils of the day. Thus he founded an orphanage, a poor school and a secondary school. In 1808 the invading French cast him into prison, whence, after four weeks, he was able to go to Vienna. Here he became the inspiration and religious leader of a group of German romantics—von Muller, Schlegel, Werner and others—and exerted tremendous influence not only among the poor but also, and despite his rather scanty education, with officials, statesmen and scholars. In this way he was able to defeat the project for a German national church at the Congress of Vienna, and eventually succeeded in arranging for the legal establishment of the Redemptorists north of the Alps, though he did not live to see this occur, since he died in 1820. As a consequence he is regarded by the Redemptorists as their second founder. He was a man of great energy and drive, seeing clearly the end in view and always indefatigable in his work for souls, in the confessional especially, and among the poor.

Taken from "The Saints: A concise Biographical Dictionary", edited by John Coulson, published by Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1960.