Today on the Novus Ordo Calendar the Church celebrated the Memorial of Saint John Vianney, the Cure D’ Ars (1962 Calendar is August 8). This is a remarkable Saint, a zealous priest, and the Patron Saint of priests.
If you haven’t been in a cave, you have seen or heard on the news about the terrible things done by certain priests, bishops, and even a Cardinal of the Catholic Church. Also those who knew about such perverted activity but did nothing to stop it. It is enough to make one sick.
Yet today’s feast could give us a ray of hope. All the saints in some way show us the joy of heaven. They are like rays of heaven that we get to experience here on earth. This great saint grew up in the ashes left by the French Revolution. This revolution that promised “equality, fraternity, liberty” only brought about death and blasphemies against the one true God. Blood ran through the streets of France. Bishops and priests were acting as priests of the state, not as priests of Jesus Christ. John grew up attending covert Masses and the family risked their lives to attend Mass.
After he barely made it through seminary and was ordained (he struggled with Latin), he was sent to a tiny village to “bring the love of God there”. So off he went to the village of 230 or so people. He famously got lost on the way and met a small boy. He told him, “if you show me the way to Ars, I will show you the way to Heaven”.
The faith was practically in shambles there. People danced and drank but didn’t come to Mass. At one point Saint John even made a sign that he put over a side chapel: “The price Saint John the Baptist paid for a dance was his head”. In other words: you might enjoy some satisfaction now in dancing but not worshipping God, but you’ll pay the price if you die in that state and are in hell forever separated from God.
He worked tirelessly to return souls to God. He had a great love for our Lord in the Holy Eucharist (as any priest and Catholic should!!!). He also worked to restore souls to Christ through the Confessional. He would sit for up to 16 hours a day in a tiny confessional–without the help of air conditioning or heating! He fought the devil at every turn, and the devil even lit his bed on fire. Life was not easy for this priest. He was even calumniated and accused of all sorts of terrible behavior, which his innocent life proved wrong, but he still suffered through this. He suffered this in order to bring about the conversion of his people.
For all of us who tend to be armchair saints, his life points us in the right direction. This priest who responded wholeheartedly to God’s call in his life, was the instrument of conversion for thousands of souls. Ars was slowly changed from a wild debauched place to a holy, hard working town. He didn’t simply complain about the failures of the world: he did something. He lived his vocation to the full.
We should heed this. If we want to bring healing to the Church we need to be converted. We need to spend our time praying, working, being faithful to our state in life. So turn off the 24 hour news, put down the smart phone, get to Daily Mass, make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, get to confession regularly (once a month at least), pray a rosary everyday…for seven habits of faithful Catholics, read this.
That’s how we can do our part to bring healing. We each need to stand up and get to work, so to speak. The world could care less about our souls, so worldly ideas and programs won’t help. We need to spend time gazing at our Lord in the Eucharist, and not the latest movie or show. We need to take responsibility for our sins, and not simply blame our lack of prayer or holiness on the failures of others.
For brother priests: do we spend at least one hour a day in front of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament? What could possibly be more important? When we have couples who come to us with difficulties, what do we encourage—communication, right? We cannot be good priests if we do not have interior life and that is rooted in our spending time with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Maybe Fulton Sheen can give us some good inspiration. If we are not putting our Lord at the center of our lives, we cannot expect the people to do that either. Do we rush through Mass? Why? Do we offer confession opportunities to the people of God other than 5 minutes at an inconvenient time on a Saturday afternoon or “by appointment only”? Once I was studying in Germany and wanted to get to confession. The secretary at the Church demanded I make an appointment–I was intimidated enough already because of the language barrier. So I didn’t go there.
From Dom Chautard’s, The Soul of the Apostolate:
“If the priest is a saint (the saying goes) the people will be fervent; if the priest is fervent, the people will be pious; if the priest is pious, the people will at least be decent. But if the priest is only decent, the people will be godless. The spiritual generation is always one degree less intense in its life than those who beget it in Christ.”
This is not to excuse anybody from holiness if their priest is a scoundrel, but it’s a powerful aid to the people to have holy priests. We can see how a holy priest truly helps his people to respond to their call to holiness in the life of Saint John Vianney. The vocation to Holy Orders is a Sacrament of service, and the priest is called to lead his people by example. It is evident how if a priest falls, the flock scatters, and nothing pleases the devil more than to have a scattered and lost flock. We priests really must have interior life, we must be saintly. We must lead by example. So please pray for your priests (Side note: it is always nice to know people are praying for me, as their priest, so let your priest know you are praying for him!). Please pray for more holy, faithful priests. We need GOOD FAITHFUL priests. We need priests who are men after the heart of Christ.
Completely worn out, Saint John Vianney collapsed at the last day of May, 1859, and died peacefully in the Lord without any agony on August 4. His body was exhumed in 1859 due to the impending beatification, and was found to be incorrupt. His heart, later removed, was placed in a relizuary and is kept in a building known as the Shrine of the Cure’s Heart.
Pope Pius X beatified St John Vianney and Pope Pius XI canonized him and made him the patron of all priests who have the care of souls. Benedict XVI named him the patron saint of all priests.
If you want to read more about Saint John Vianney and be inspired by his life:
The Cure D’ Ars by Trochu (the classic and definitive biography)
The Grace of Ars by Fr. Frederick Miller (A great book for priests and seminarians)
And here is an audio book of the Sunday Sermons of the Cure D’ Ars: