Today we celebrate the feast of St John Vianney known as the Cure d”Ars. Pope St. John XXIII encouraged priests to see him as an exemplary model for priests. When Benedict XVI ended the the Year for Priests on the 150th anniversary of his death he proclaimed Jean Vianney as patron of all priests.
Yet his way of life was so different from the life that priests are called to live today. He was born in 1786 and died, aged 72, on this day in 1859. In 1818 he was sent to be the parish priest of Ars-en-Dombes, an isolated village some distance from Lyon, and remained there for the rest of his life because his parishioners would not let him leave. He was a noted preacher, and a celebrated confessor: such was his fame, and his reputation for insight into his penitents’ souls and their futures, that he had to spend up to eighteen hours a day in the confessional, so great was the demand.
I was thinking about what in his life can give me encouragement and hope. He was a slow learner and found studies difficult. Because of this there were doubts about whether or not he should be ordained. It was only thanks to some wise priests – including Father Balley, the parish priest of d’Écully, that he finally received Holy Orders on 13 February 1815, at the age of 29. He visited the poorest families, restored the village church, organised patronal feast days. He also founded La Providence, a home for girls.
The calling of a priest today is be a pastoral person. The priest is a man who tries with God’s grace to care for those under his care. I take great encouragement from his words:
“Man has a noble task: that of prayer and love. To pray and to love that is the happiness of man on earth.”