Clemens Maria Hofbauer, Hermit and Redemptorist

In the Roman Catholic Church, March 15 is the Feast of Saint Clemens Maria Hofbauer, Hermit and Redemptorist
“Clemens Maria Hofbauer, C.Ss.R. (December 26, 1751 – March 15, 1820) was a hermit and later a priest of the Redemptorist congregation. He is considered a co-founder of the congregation and is a patron saint of Vienna.

He was born Johannes (“Hansl”) Hofbauer on the feast of Saint Stephen (December 26), in Taßwitz (now Tasovice), in the Znojmo District of the Moravian region of what is now the Czech Republic. He was the ninth of twelve children born to Maria Steer and Paul Hofbauer (originally Pavel Dvořák, who had changed the family name from the Czech “Dvořák” to the German “Hofbauer”). Christened the very next day, he was given the name of Johannes, by which he would be known for more than thirty years.

The son of a poor widow, his father having died when he was six years old, Hofbauer had little chance to go away to a seminary or join a religious Order. He began to study Latin at the home of the local parish priest. Daily the young student and the aging pastor would meet to study Latin. It was to be the first step on Hofbauer’s long road to the priesthood. The period of study ended abruptly with the death of the pastor when Hofbauer was just fourteen. The new pastor did not have time to help him with the language studies.

Unable to continue studying for the priesthood, Hofbauer had to learn a trade. He was sent to become an apprentice in a bakery in the local capital of Znaim (today Znojmo) in 1767. In 1770, he went to work in the bakery of the priory in Brück of the Premonstratensian canons regular, also known as the White Canons. At that time, the effects of war and famine were sending many homeless and hungry people to the priory for help. Hofbauer worked day and night to feed the poor people who came to the priory door. He worked as a servant at the priory until 1775, when he spent time living as a hermit. He lived that life briefly until the Emperor Joseph II, a proponent of enlightened absolutism, abolished all hermitages in the Hapsburg Empire.
In 1782, after two pilgrimages to Rome, Hofbauer found his way to Tivoli, Italy. He decided to become a hermit at the local shrine of Our Lady of Quintiliolo, under the patronage of the local bishop, Barnabus Chiaramonte (later Pope Pius VII), who clothed him in the religious habit of a hermit.
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It was at this time that Hofbauer took the name of Clement Mary: Clement, mostly like after St. Clement of Rome, and Mary in honor of Mary, mother of Jesus. As a hermit, Hofbauer prayed for himself and for all the people in the world who forgot to pray. He worked at the shrine and assisted the pilgrims who came. Hofbauer did not find happiness, however, and in less than six months he left Quintiliolo. He realized the need to pray for people was a good work, but it was still not the priesthood that he wanted so badly.

Hofbauer returned to the priory at Brück to bake bread and to begin the study of Latin once again. At the age of 29, due to the sponsorship of two women he met while serving Mass at the cathedral, Hofbauer entered the University of Vienna. Since Emperor Joseph’s government had closed all seminaries, students for the priesthood had to study at government-controlled universities. Hofbauer was frustrated by the theology courses that were permeated by Josephinism, rationalism, and other outlooks and teachings he found questionable. He completed his studies in philosophy by the year 1784, but he could proceed no further toward ordination, however, as the Emperor had also forbidden religious communities to accept new candidates.
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During another pilgrimage in 1784 made on foot, Hofbauer and his traveling companion, Thaddäus Hübl, decided to join a religious community. The two seminarians were accepted into the Redemptorist novitiate at the Community of San Giuliano in Rome. On the feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, 1785, Hofbauer and Hübl became Redemptorists, publicly professing to live the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Ten days later they were ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Alatri.

A few months after their ordination the two Germanic Redemptorists were summoned by their Superior General, Father de Paola. They were told to return to their homeland across the Alps and establish the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in northern Europe.”
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