Tuesday, March 23, 2010

St. Jean Vianney: Holy Impatience

The Cure of Ars suffered wrongs to himself throughout the whole of his life, but especially during his ministry as a priest. He was mocked for being stupid when in fact he was just too materially poor to afford a good education. He was sent to “the worst assignment” in the diocese, the place where no other priest wanted to be assigned. Ars was known for its religious indifference, its high incidence of alcoholism, its tepid faith and widespread immorality. His candid denunciation of these sins, at least during his initial years, reaped sharp criticism and even slander. Dom Ernest Graf wrote of him, “The Cure’s success led to an explosion of rage on the part of his enemies: such a man was bound to make enemies! This fury vented itself in the vilest calumnies and the grossest libels… and no persecution was deemed too petty or too coarse where he was concerned.” Fr. Vianney responded not with anger or resentment but with increased prayer, greater fasting and patient endurance.

However, the Cure of Ars was not patient with wrongs done to others. He did not stand by idly when orphans had no one to care for them, when Sunday Mass and the Sabbath rest were neglected, and where sexual promiscuity was encouraged as a harmless pursuit when in fact it caused great unhappiness, broken hearts and sick relationships. He followed with courage the advice of St. Boniface, “Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and to the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season.”

Because his ministry began shortly after the Church’s bloody persecution during the French Revolution, ignorance of the faith was abysmal and religious practice was minimal or non-existent. In his preaching he targeted the sins, not the sinners, and did so with clarity, even vehemence. Because many frequented the taverns instead of the church on Sundays, he minced no words about the consequences. In one sermon, he declared, “The tavern is the devil’s own shop, the market where souls are bartered, where the harmony of families is broken up, where quarrels start and murders are done.” Eventually, every tavern in Ars closed its doors on Sundays; and morning Mass as well as evening Vespers became a widespread practice among believers. Sunday in Ars became, once again, the Lord’s Day.

~ By Bishop Thomas Olmstead: excerpts from here . ~

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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