Liturgically we recall the memory of Saint John Vianney. We have linked as saintly patron of secular priesthood Vianney for a very long time; the weight of Vianney’s example led Pius XII to say, “The wonderful example of St. John Mary Vianney retains all of its force for our times.” But this designation was refined by Pope Pius XI as the heavenly patron of all “pastors, to promote their spiritual welfare throughout the world.” Until this time he was spoken of as the patron of priests in France.
Pope Pius XI spoke of Saint John Vianney in this way: “the gaunt figure of John Baptist Vianney, with that head shining with long hair that resembled a snowy crown, and that thin face, wasted from long fasting, where the innocence and holiness of the meekest and humblest of souls shone forth so clearly that the first sight of it called crowds of people back to thoughts of salvation.”
Reflecting on priesthood, Pope Pius XII stated: “Through the character of Sacred Orders, God willed to ratify that eternal covenant of love, by which He loves His priests above all others; and they are obliged to repay God for this special love with holiness of life. . . So a cleric should be considered as a man chosen and set apart from the midst of the people, and blessed in a very special way with heavenly gifts–a sharer in divine power, and, to put it briefly, another Christ. . . He is no longer supposed to live for himself; nor can he devote himself to the interests of just his own relatives, or friends or native land. . . He must be aflame with charity toward everyone. Not even his thoughts, his will, his feelings belong to him, for they are rather those of Jesus Christ who is his life.”
You see the importance of the holy priesthood and the reason why the Church would look to John Vianney for special help. In 1959 Saint John XXIII fine tuned this point in saying about Vianney, “The Catholic Church, which elevated this man in sacred orders, who was “wonderful in his pastoral zeal, in his devotion to prayer and in the ardor of his penance” to the honors of the saints of heaven, now, one hundred years after his death, offers him with maternal joy to all the clergy as an outstanding model of priestly asceticism, of piety, especially in the form of devotion to the Eucharist, and, finally, of pastoral zeal.”
One last point today from Pius XII: the holds that the secular priesthood “requires a greater interior holiness than is demanded by the religious state.”