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Austria: Patron Saints – Klemens Maria Hofbauer

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Klemens Maria Hofbauer, the patron saint of Vienna, worked as a baker's boy in Znojmo in order to finance his studies. He joined the Redemptorists in Rome, and was ordained at the age of 34. His work in Warsaw was extremely successful until he and his fellow Redemptorists were ordered to leave the city by Napoleon, a measure that meant the destruction of his life's work, the St. Benno pastoral care centre.

In September 1808, the 57-year-old Hofbauer, now Vicar General of the Redemptorists, came to Vienna, where Baron Penker, his friend and benefactor, helped him acquire a post as auxiliary priest in the Church of the Minor Friars. From 1809 to 1813 he was virtually condemned to inactivity, only rarely being permitted to preach and hear confession. However, he began to work discreetly, becoming spiritual counsellor to many people. In July 1813, Archbishop appointed Hofbauer confessor to the Ursulines and director of the Church of St. Ursula in Johannesgasse. The post also involved the use of a house in Seilerstatte that Hofbauer turned into the centre of his activities, the house becoming a spiritual centre for young people, in particular for students.

With missionary zeal, Hofbauer became aware of the pastoral needs of the city. Although Vienna was 97% Catholic in terms of baptism, religious life was at a low point during the age of anticlerical enlightenment (Josephinism). Under police observation, Hofbauer preached the gospel as a means of reviving the faith of the Viennese. In his sermons, he used simple but effective words to reach the hearts of his congregation. His personal conviction infected the population, who soon thronged to hear the "Angel of Vienna". Hofbauer's religious activities were not limited to the pulpit, and he spent many hours each day in the confessional, where he achieved most of his conversions. Hofbauer was particularly talented for this type of spiritual care, a leader of souls and a counsellor to people from all walks of life.

Klemens Maria Hofbauer died in Vienna on March 15 1820, aged 69, and was buried in the romantics' cemetery at Maria Enzersdorf. It was only after his death that the Redemptorists were permitted to work as a religious order in Vienna. In 1862, Hofbauer's body was transferred to the Church of Maria am Gestade. He was canonised by Pope Pius X in 1909, and has been the patron saint of Vienna since 1914.

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