My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As I continue my summer focus on the lives of saints, I write this week about the life of St. John Marie Vianney, the Curé D’Ars, whose feast day is Aug. 6.
The story of St. John Vianney is a captivating one. This man who began his seminary training late in life and who had little adaptation for studies, eventually was ordained to the priesthood as the French
Revolution came to an end. He lived until the age of 74; his life was one of austere penance and great success of preaching and administering the sacrament of penance.
St. John Vianney was declared to be the patron saint of parish priests. It was his dedication to his people that was most important in his life. He remained in one parish during his entire priesthood. This parish, located in Ars, France, became a place of pilgrimage for people from all over France and beyond, as they came to confess their sins to a humble priest who had the gift of reading souls and directing them to a better life. It was the saint’s intense life of prayer that enabled him to live this life that accomplished so much good for so many people. The lessons of his life are what we need in our own lives today, not only for clergy, but also for the laity.
One of the famous stories about the life of John Vianney is that as he sat in the confessional, he noticed one poor farmer come into the church at the same time every day after his work was finished to sit before the Blessed Sacrament. Out of curiosity, one day the Curé D’Ars asked the farmer, “What do you do when you come to Church each day?” The old man simply replied, “I look at Jesus and He looks at me.”
This was truly a prayer of contemplation that the farmer had begun; words were not necessary, but the union of hearts made his prayer important.
As we find ourselves in the middle of summer, perhaps the hustle and bustle of our daily lives can give way to a little bit more time for prayer and reflection.
St. John Vianney put out into the deep every day. He arose at four in the morning to celebrate the Eucharist and began hearing confessions by 6 a.m. There were some days that he did not finish hearing confessions until midnight. There was no leisure in the life of John Vianney, yet he knew how to pray.
Let us not waste the leisure that we have at this time of year. Let us take care of ourselves by looking more to prayer and contemplation of the God who loves us.