Friday, October 9, 2009

St. Jean Vianney: The Power of Sacrifice

When St. Jean Marie Vianney, a simple and humble priest, was assigned to the parish at Ars, he faced the challenge of spiritually renewing parishioners addicted to drinking, excessive pleasure, blasphemy, impurity and not keeping holy the Lord's Day. His first and abiding strategy for their conversion was prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament, where he poured out his heart to Jesus, begging on behalf of the people entrusted to his care. He pleaded for the strength to give more to God and for the grace of suffering for their conversion: "My God, I consent to suffer all that You may wish for all my life...for a hundred years...and the most bitter suffering, but convert them...".

In those early days at Ars, St. Jean slept on the hard floor, ate only enough to sustain life, and slept very little. He said of the devil, "That which beats him is the curtailment of one's food, drink, and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more; consequently, nothing is more pleasing to happened at times that I refrained from food for entire days. On those occasions I obtained, both for myself and for others, whatsoever I asked of Almighty God...I spent a good part of the night in the church; there were not so many people to confess, and the good God granted me extraordinary graces."

Only God knows how many souls were stolen from the devil through St. Jean Vianney's life of deep prayer, penitential practices, and many sufferings. Is it any wonder that the Holy Spirit inspired that he be chosen as patron and role model for priests? This humble priest, who was criticized and belittled by many brother priests, has been elevated to Sainthood and as patron of all priests, but we know little of those who thought they were better than St. Jean.

St. Jean's extraordinary sacrifices, effective for helping to save souls, are possibly not appealing to most of today's Christians. Could it be that many, or most, Christians remain in the stage of spiritual infancy, wanting more to receive than to give back to God, wanting to be coddled more than to contribute? St. Jean Vianney had progressed to spiritual maturity where he desired always to give more, no matter what the cost to him personally. There is a price to pay for the sanctification of souls, just as Jesus paid for our salvation with His suffering and death; and St. Jean was willing to pay it.

40 DAYS FOR LIFE DAY 17: What does God have in store?

Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest, Mother of all priests, and our Mother, help us respond generously to the Holy Spirit's request, through the voice of His Church, to offer up to God Eucharistic adoration for priests. Amen.

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