Posted by: fvbcdm | August 4, 2015

Feast of Saint John Vianney (4 August 2015)

Today we celebrate a little priest in southeastern France in the 19th century by the name of Saint John Vianney, or, as he is better known to many, the Cure of Ars. A cure in French is a parish priest; Ars was a tiny village in the early 1800s when the young priest was sent there to be its first parish priest in many years, since the terrible French Revolution and then the persecution of Napoleon had disrupted church life in France and left many with no priests, no sacraments, no religious education, and not even a sense of being Catholic and Christian.

Saint John assessed the situation and judged rightly that what the people there needed most were instructions in their faith and then the Sacraments, prayer, and penance. But having been paganized by thirty years or so of religious vacuum, they were not interested in spiritual realities. So the zealous little priest decided that if they would not pray, then he must pray for them; if they did not do penance for their sins, he would do penance for them. And thus he embarked upon a career of intense spirituality. He prayed; he fasted; he taught both children and adults; he preached; he celebrated Mass, baptized those who needed it; above all, he heard confessions. His fame began to spread; people from the surrounding towns came to him for the Sacrament of Penance. Toward the end of his life, he spent up to 16 hours a day in the confessional, and the French railway system ran special trains from Lyons to Ars to carry those who wanted access to the Cure of Ars. The devil became aware of his tremendous spiritual power and began to persecute him, especially by making noises in the rectory at night to keep the priest awake so that he would not be alert in the confessional on the following day. He made fun of the devil, calling him “Grappin,” which means something like “Old Claw,” since the devil is sometimes portrayed as an animal with fierce claws.

He received the gift of reading hearts; he often knew what was on someone’s mind and conscience before that person said a word. He also had the real gift of tongues: he understood those speaking foreign languages as if they were speaking French, and they understood his French as if he were speaking their languages.

It is important that we understand, as he did, the fact that spiritual values can be transferred from one to another. It may well be that you and I are the recipients of God’s grace won by the prayers and penances of some holy soul somewhere in this world. And that others may be assisted by our prayers, good works, and the offering of our sufferings for the spread of Our Lord’s kingdom on earth. This is the principle which underlies the contemplative vocation of our cloistered nuns here in this monastery where I have the joy to be chaplain. Only in heaven will it be known how many people have been saved, or advanced in holiness because of the years of prayer and love of God and neighbor which this monastery has produced.  Let us try to live so that we will be healthy cells within the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and will be able to help others as others help us. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

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