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Leonard Goffine

German Norbertine, b. 1648; d. 1719.

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Goffine, (or GOFFINI), LEONARD; b. at Cologne, or according to some, at Broich, December 6, 1648; d. August 11, 1719. At the age of nineteen he entered the Norbertine Abbey of Steinfeld, in the Eifel district of Germany, and commenced his two years novitiate in July, 1667. Having made his solemn profession on July 16, 1669, he was sent for his course of philosophy and theology to the Norbertine college at Cologne. Ordained priest on Ember Saturday before Christmas, 1676, Goffine was sent to Dunwald to assist the priests who were charged with the direction of the parish and the convent of Norbertine canonesses. In the same capacity he was afterwards sent to Ellen, where there was also a convent of Norbertine nuns. Goffine remained four years in each of these places, being recalled by the abbot, February 26, 1680, to fill the office of novice master in the abbey. He was next given charge of the parish of Clarholz, which was incorporated with the Norbertine Abbey of the same name, in the Diocese of Osnabruck, for owing to the dearth of priests due to the Lutheran heresy and the Thirty Years War, abbots and bishops were obliged to have recourse to other dioceses and religious orders to fill the vacancies.

Goffine remained at Clarholz five years (1680-85), and was sent thence to Niederehe, a priory which the Abbey of Steinfeld possessed in the Archdiocese of Trier. He remained in Niederehe but a very short time, being sent in 1885 to assist the clergy of St. Lambert’s at Coesfield, in the Diocese of Munster. He left Coesfeld in 1691, when, at the urgent request of the Archbishop of Trier, he undertook the charge of the parishes, first of Wehr (1691-94), then of Rheinbollen (1694-96), and afterwards of Oberstein on the Nahe, from December, 1696, until his death in 1719. While parish priest of Oberstein he had also to attend the Catholics living at Weiersbach, in the Diocese of Mayence. The inhabitants of Oberstein were mostly Protestants, and at times Goffine had much annoyance to bear from them. Animated with apostolic zeal, Goffine was all things to all men, and, as Dr. Joseph Prickartz, president of the Norbertine college at Cologne, wrote, in a sketch of his life, “Goffine was a truly apostolic pastor, filled with an untiring zeal for souls, who edified everyone by his word and by his example. The purity of his life, the integrity of his morals, the fervor of his sermons, the pleasing style of his writings, commanded the respect of even the enemies of his religion. From the rudest and most forwards of these he had often to endure the bitterest insults, but at these he showed himself the more cheerful, since by them he became the conformable to those who had the happiness to suffer insults for the name of Jesus”. This is a character sketch of the saintly priest, not only during the twenty-three years he worked at Oberstein, but even from the day of his ordination to the priesthood.

In the month of July, 1719, he returned to the Abbey of Steinfeld in order to be present at the feast of St. Norbert (July 11), and to follow the spiritual exercises during the octave. On the Sunday during the octave he preached the panegyric of the holy founder, and on July 16 he celebrated the golden jubilee of his own religious profession.

After the octave he returned to Oberstein, and less than a month later he rendered his well-tried soul to God. Goffine himself states that he had taken St. Norbert, the founder of his order, as his model, “because St. Norbert cared and worked so much for the salvation of souls.” Observing that so many had gone astray through ignorance of Catholic doctrine, he was most anxious and always ready to instruct the people, both old and young, for whose benefit he wrote and published no fewer than ten books. While he was at Coesfeld he wrote his well-known work, “Handpostille oder Christkatholische Unterrichtungen auf alle Sonn and Feyer-tagen des ganzen Jahrs” (brief commentaries in the form of question and answer on the Proper of the Mass, principally on the Epistle and Gospel of the day). This book was ready in 1687, and in 1688 it received the imprimatur of the Vicar-General of Munster, and in 1690 the approbation of Rev. William Heimbach, Norbertine prior of Meer, and of Rev. John Dirking, Rector of the Jesuit college of Hildesheim. The first edition, printed at Mayence in 1690, was soon exhausted, and a second edition was printed at Cologne in 1692. Since then other editions have appeared at short intervals, and it is said that hardly any book, with the exception of the “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A Kempis, has had as many editions and translations as Goffine’s “Handpostille”. As far as can be ascertained translations have been made into Moravian, Bohemian, Hungarian, English, French, Italian, and Flemish.

A writer in “Le Magasin Catholique Illustre”, says of the worth of this book: “How many souls has this book not saved and preserved from error, during the last two centuries that it has been known in Germany? Here is an instance: Wherever in this classical land of Protestantism this book has become popular, the door was shut to heresy. Goffine’s instructions, the like of which we have nothing in France, gives the dogmatic, moral, and liturgical teaching of the Church“, etc. As Father Hattler, S.J., writes: “The child reads from it, for father and mother; the bride is presented with it on the day of her wedding; it is given to the emigrant when he leaves his country for the New World.” Goffine also published the following books: (I) “Auslegung der Regel des heiligen Augustinus” (Cologne, 1692); (2) “Trostbuch in Triibsalen” (Cologne); (3) “Cibus animae matutinalis, etc.” (Cologne, 1705); (4) “Sermons for the whole year”, 2 vols. (Nuremberg, 1705); (5) “Erklarung des Katechismi Petri Canisii” (Cologne, 1712); (6) “Die Lehre Christi” (Cologne, 1715); (7) “Kleiner Kinder-katechismus” (Cologne, 1717); (8) “Der Wachter des gottlichen Worts” (Cologne, 1718); (9) “Praxes Sacrae seu modus explicandi caeremonias per annum” (Frankfort, 1719).



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