Born in 1751, the youngest of twelve children, Clement was six years old when his father died. His great desire was to become a priest, but since his family was unable to give him the necessary education, he became a baker’s assistant, devoting all his spare time to study. He was a servant in the Premonstratensian monastery of Bruck from 1771 to 1775, then lived for some time as a hermit. He made three pilgrimages to Rome, and during the third, accompanied by a good friend, he entered with the same friend the Redemptorist novitiate at San Giuliano. The two were professed in 1785 and ordained a few days later.
The two priests were sent in the same year to found a house north of the Alps, and Saint Alphonsus, Founder of the Redemptorist Order, prophesied their success. They were granted a church in Warsaw by King Stanislaus Poniatowski, and labored under incredible difficulties from 1786 to 1808. A larger church was also reserved for them, where daily instructions were given for non-Catholics. Saint Clement also founded in Warsaw an orphanage and a school for boys. His great friend, Thaddeus Habul, died in 1807; the following year four houses founded by Saint Clement were suppressed and the Redemptorists expelled from the Grand Duchy.
Saint Clement went with one companion to Vienna, where for the last twelve years of his life he acted as chaplain and director at an Ursuline convent. There he exercised a veritable apostolate among all classes in the capital. He devoted himself in a special way to the conversion and formation of young men. When he died in 1821, Pius VII said, Religion in Austria has lost its chief support.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, edited by C. G. Herbermann with numerous collaborators (Appleton Company: New York, 1908).
Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas
Fourth Week in Lent Sunday
Christ by His Passion opened to us the gates of Heaven
We have a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ.–Heb. x. 19.
The closing of a gate is an obstacle hindering men’s entrance. Now men are hindered from entrance to the heavenly kingdom by sin, for Isaias says, It shall be called the holy way : the unclean shall not pass over it (Is. xxxv. 8).
Now the sin that hinders man’s entrance into heaven is of two kinds. There is, first of all, the sin of our first parents. By this sin access to the kingdom of heaven was barred to man. We read in Genesis (iii. 24) that after the sin of our first parents God placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubim and a flaming sword, turning every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. The other kind of hindrance arises from the sins special to each individual, the sins each man commits by his own particular action.
By the Passion of Christ we are freed not only from the sin common to all human nature, and this both as to the sin and as to its appointed penalty, since Christ pays the price on our behalf, but also we are delivered from our personal sins if we are numbered among those who are linked to the Passion by faith, by charity and by the sacraments of the Faith. Thus it is that through the Passion of Christ the gates of heaven are thrown open to us. And hence St. Paul says that Christ, being come an high priest of the good things to come, by His onw blood entered once into the holies, having obtained a redemption that is eternal (Heb. ix. 11).
And this was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, where we read (Num. xxxv. 25, 28), the man-slayer shall abide there, that is, in the city of refuge, until the death of the high priest, that is anointed with holy oil. And after he is dead, then shall the man-slayer return to his own country.
The holy fathers who (before the coming of Christ wrought works of justice earned their entrance into heaven through faith in the Passion of Christ, as is written, The saints by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice (Heb. xi. 33). By faith, too, it was that individuals w r ere cleansed from the sins they had individually committed. But faith or goodness, no matter who the person was that possessed it, was not enough to be able to move the hindrance created by the guilty state of the whole human creation. This hindrance was only removed at the price of the blood of Christ. And therefore before the Passion of Christ no one could enter the heavenly kingdom, to obtain that eternal happiness that consists in the full enjoyment of God.
Christ by His Passion merited for us an entrance into heaven, and removed what stood in our way. By His Ascension, however, He, as it were, put mankind in possession of heaven. And therefore it is that He ascended opening the way before them.
This princess, the greatest glory of her noble family, was the daughter of Theodoric, a powerful Saxon count, and Reinhilde, a princess of Denmark. Her parents placed her very young in the monastery of Erfort, of which her grandmother Maude had become the Abbess. The young girl became in that house an accomplished model of all virtues and domestic arts. She remained there until her parents married her to the virtuous and valiant Henry, son of Otto, Duke of Saxony, in 913. On the death in 919 of the Emperor of Germany, Conrad I, Henry was chosen by his troops to succeed him. Henry was a pious and diligent prince, and very kind to his subjects. By his arms he checked the insolence of invading neighboring armies, and enlarged his dominions by adding to them Bavaria.
Saint Mathilda, during those years, gained over the enemies of God spiritual victories yet more worthy of a Christian and far greater in the eyes of heaven. Blessed with five children, whom she raised in the fear of God, she nourished in their souls the precious seeds of devotion and humility through prayer and good works. It was her delight to visit, comfort, and exhort the sick and the afflicted; to serve and instruct the poor, and to afford her charitable assistance to prisoners. Her husband, edified by her example, concurred with her in every pious undertaking which she proposed, and his military victories served for the propagation of the Gospel in pagan lands. The two sovereigns labored concertedly for the reign of justice in all their domains, and for the happiness and welfare of their subjects, constructing hospitals, churches and monasteries. Their three sons became Saint Bruno, Archbishop of Cologne; Otto the Great, who succeeded his father as emperor of Germany; and Henry, Duke of Bavaria. The two daughters married Louis d’Outremer, King of France, and Hugh Capet, first of the Capetian race of French kings.
After twenty-three years of marriage God was pleased in the year 936 to call the king to Himself. Before his death, he thanked his worthy companion for having moderated his sometimes too-severe justice, and praised her in the presence of the entire court. Saint Mathilda persevered long in prayer, continuing her good works as before, but could not avoid the difficulties which jealousy of sovereigns almost invariably provokes. She was successfully accused to her own son, Otto, of concealing great riches, and he caused guards to be posted around her, and he led his brother Henry into his own error, to oblige her to leave the court. Without bitterness towards them, she took refuge elsewhere. Eventually Edith, wife of Otto, saw in the mortal illness threatening Henry, a sign of God’s anger provoked by their conduct toward their mother, and recommended the return of Saint Mathilda. Her sons begged her pardon with tears, and afterwards perfect understanding reigned between the mother and sons.
Henry died not long afterwards, and his mother thereafter retired almost completely from court life to concern herself with the care of prisoners, the poor and the sick, and the construction of a very large monastery for women at Nordhausen. Eventually she herself entered it, and on March 14, 968, after spending her final years in prayer and penance, she died lying on the floor, having spread ashes upon her head herself. She was venerated as a Saint immediately after her death.
Reflection. The beginning of true virtue is to desire it ardently, and to ask it of God with perseverance and earnestness. Fervent prayer, holy meditation, and reading of pious books are the principal means by which the interior life and virtue must be constantly strengthened.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 3; The Catholic Encyclopedia, edited by C. G. Herbermann with numerous collaborators (Appleton Company: New York, 1908); Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894)
The Introit of this day’s Mass, which begins with the word Laetare, is as follows:
INTROIT Rejoice, O Jerusalem, and come together all you that love her; rejoice with joy you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. (Isai: LXVI. 10. 11.) I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord. (Ps. CXXI. 1.) Glory be to the Father, etc.
COLLECT Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who justly suffer for our deeds may be relieved by the consolation of Thy grace. Through etc.