Friday, September 23, 2011

Priest’s Model

St. John Vianney was one of the greatest priests of the Church, and this article from The Catholic Thing reminds us why.

The collected sermons of this saint are available and a must read, as fresh and potent today as when they were preached.

An excerpt from The Catholic Thing article.

“Saint John Vianney (1786-1859) was the curĂ© of the parish of Ars in France and, because of his simple but great gifts as a pastor, was made the Patron of Priests and Parish Priests. I try to read his biography each year and am regularly struck by some of the features of his daily life.

“The reason for my fascination is that he was a pastor before the wholesale professionalization of the clergy. So he spent more time in his parish church than anywhere else. But he was not a desk jockey, although there were certainly some among the pastors of his circle.

“The church building back then had not yet become a place of limited use. Rather it was like the courtyard of God, much after the fashion of the vision in Isaiah: “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1) There were people crowding in to pray at all hours of the day or night. They were coming for grace and truth. The good pastor was right there in the middle of that crowd.

“Here is the eyewitness account of Monsieur La Croix in the church: “What mighty influence did he exercise over his hearers! . . . The multitude was crowded around him; at his feet, on the steps of the altar, on the pavement of the choir, were pressed together persons of every age, sex, and condition . . . all absorbed in breathless attention.” And all to hear a priest giving instruction in catechetics – and doing it daily.

“He was in the church from midnight on to deal with the crowds. The remarkable thing is that the whole day passed in the church, and divided among prayer, instruction, and the sacraments. Of course, the sacrament that occupied the most time was Confession. Observers noted that he spent about sixteen hours a day in confession. This was of course before confession was obliterated by psychologizing and theories about the impossibilities of really sinning.

“When did you last hear a homily on sin? It was the reason for Christ’s death and yet it is an almost unknown category in people’s thought, even Christians. Yet people become less human because of sin. We are watching the whole possibility of humanity trickle away into the sand.”