of Blessed Seelos Meet
the Positio Author Angela
One of the Persons Behind the Cause
Father Carl Hoegerl, C.SS.R., — historian, linguist, author and archivist for the Baltimore Province of Redemptorists — has a special reason to rejoice in the beatification of Father Francis Xavier Seelos.
Without Father Hoegerl’s massive contribution of the “Positio” — the official examination of the life, virtues and reputation for holiness of Father Seelos — the canonization cause could not have proceeded to this stage.
It was in the early 1980s, when Father Hoegerl was working in Rome as head of the Commission for Redemptorists and Alphonsian Spirituality, that the Postulator General, Father Nicola Ferrante, began urging him to work on the cause of Father Seelos. Father Ferrante himself had successfully brought to conclusion the canonization cause of Bishop John Neumann, C.SS.R., but could not finish the work on Father Seelos because of declining health.
Father Hoegerl has the gifts needed for such an undertaking: He knows German, English, Italian and Latin, and holds a master’s degree in History from The Catholic University of America. “In 1984, I got a note from the Superior General, Joseph Pfab, asking me would I work on the cause of Seelos,” Father Hoegerl said. “I was working on a book, a translation of the Rules, so I could only work part-time on the cause.”
That changed in 1987 to full-time work and, Father Hoegerl said, “in 1998 my part was finished.” In the intervening years he became thoroughly acquainted with Father Seelos, making several visits to his birthplace in Germany and reading and translating the extensive documentation, which includes Father Seelos’ letters, poems, sermons, and testimony gathered about him from eyewitnesses in the early 1900s. Father Hoegerl pointed out that his confrere, Father Michael Curley, had done a tremendous amount of research for his book, Cheerful Ascetic. “I stand on his shoulders,” he said.
The work itself, he said, “was not particularly hard, but very exacting.... The great problem is methodology. There are letters, scraps, accounts — how to present this? Every now and then, I would say, ‘Father Seelos, it’s your business,’ and a light would go on.”
Father Seelos “certainly is a very attractive figure, always cheerful,” Father Hoegerl said. “He liked to tell jokes and little stories; he made people feel so wonderfully at ease.” Hoegerl described him as “such a benign, beautiful soul” and “a great spiritual director for women.”
Father Hoegerl also admires the zeal of Father Seelos, who served the apostolate for 23 years, being the rector of a parish even during the period when he was prefect of students. He said that even after Father Seelos contracted the yellow fever that proved fatal, “he made one last sick call before he went home to bed.”
While Father Hoegerl’s official work for the canonization cause is complete, he is still writing articles about Father Seelos and has published a short biography of him (A Life of Blessed Francis X. Seelos, Liguori Publications). He also would like to publish a book of Father Seelos’ letters, he said.