Sunday, June 28, 2009

Father George Rutler on Saint John Vianney and the Year for Priests


by Fr. George W. Rutler
June 28, 2009

On Friday, June 19, Pope Benedict XVI inaugurated a special “Year of Priests” with a special ceremony in Saint Peter’s Basilica, during which he venerated relics of Saint John Marie Vianney, which had been brought from the French village of Ars where the saint had been parish priest in the nineteenth century. The Pope declared that Vianney, who has been patron saint of parish priests, will from now on be patron of all priests, whatever their particular priestly work may be.

     The Pope chose to begin the Year of Priests, which will include the 150th anniversary of Vianney’s death on August 4, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart represents Christ’s merciful love for the world, as Vianney’s own heart, which is one of the preserved relics, represents the saint’s love for his parishioners. He once said that “the priesthood is the love for the Heart of Jesus.” Pope Benedict XVI echoed those words, saying that “the gift of our priesthood originated directly from that Heart.” He said that he wants the Year to be a chance for priests to grow in intimacy with the Divine Love and become “in today’s world, messengers of hope, reconciliation, and peace.”

     Not long after I became pastor here, I placed a statue of Saint John Vianney, the “Holy Curé d’Ars,” in our church. Many were unfamiliar with this saint. Around the same time I also restored the altar cross and candles which I found tarnished in the basement (one individual expressed surprise, being under the impression that Vatican II had abolished this arrangement). I am gratified now that the Pope has brought Vianney to wider attention, just as he has called for the restoration of altar crosses and lights as we have them here, to emphasize the mystery of the Blessed Sacrament. Since we erected the statue of the Curé d’Ars, our parish has been remarkably blessed with priestly vocations.

     The Gospel (Mark 8:24) records a severe storm on the Sea of Galilee during which Our Lord seemed to be asleep in the stern of the boat, his head on a cushion. Pope Benedict has provided this Year of Priests because the world is storm-tossed: politically, economically, morally, and spiritually. Some have thought that God is paying no attention. The fact is that when he seems to be sleeping he is preparing to calm the storm as Jesus did when he rebuked the wind. Along with that is the other fact that many Christians have indeed been asleep and now must be awakened. The Pope is calling on priests to do that, but not before they commit themselves anew to the saving power of Christ who has called them to show people the road to Heaven, as Saint John Vianney promised to do when he arrived in that little village of Ars in 1818, and which he did do in an amazing way.


Elizabeth said...

I love the life story of St. Jean Marie Vianney...I love listening to Fr. Rutler, too!
I look forward to this wonderful year.
Pax Christi.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Father! Enjoyed reading this tremendously. Powerful to read that the statue of St John Vianney induced more vocations to the priesthood.

Jeffrey S. J. Allan said...

You gotta love Father Rutler, it's the eleventh Commandment :-)

By the way, Leonardo Defilippis, a familiar name to EWTN viewers, will be touring the United States soon playing the role of Saint Jean Marie Vianney, in the play: “Vianney, Curé of Ars."

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