Tuesday, August 4th, 2009
We are fellow-workers with God;
you are his harvest field, you are the temple he builds.
Years ago, August 4 was the feast of St. Dominic. Now it is the feast of St. John Vianney, the patron of parish priests, who went home to the Lord 150 years ago today.
This nineteenth-century French pastor remains a model of charity for all priests charged with the care of souls. John Vianney spent himself, to the point of ill health, preaching to his flock and administering to it the sacraments of Christ. What drove him to such love and sacrifice was his profound understanding of the sacrifice of Christ, its salvific character, and the service rendered it by the priests of the Church. In other words, John Vianney grasped the unique dignity enjoyed by the priest as a minister of Christ’s grace, and he sought to conform his whole life to this mystery. As the following quotations reveal, he deeply understood what the priest is for, especially his divinely-willed service to Christian truth.
“When men want to destroy religion they begin by attacking the priest, because where the priest is no more, there is no more sacrifice, and where there is no more sacrifice, there is no more religion.”
“Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and beasts will be worshipped there.”
How fitting then that Pope Benedict XVI has chosen the 150th anniversary of St. John Vianney’s death to call the whole Church to observe a Jubilee Year for Priests, during which he hopes priests and laity alike will grow in the understanding of the ministerial priesthood and its essential teaching, sanctifying, and governing roles in the life of the Church.
For more on the life and holiness of St. John Vianney, click here.
Below the break you’ll find reprinted an account of the meeting between John Vianney and Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, the diocesan priest turned Dominican who reestablished the Order of Preachers in France after the French Revolution. In May of 1845, God brought these two holy priests together for a memorable day of prayer and conversation.
Father of mercy,
you made Saint John Vianney outstanding
in his priestly zeal and concern for your people.
By his example and prayers,
enable us to win our brothers and sisters
to the love of Christ
and come with them to eternal glory.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.