Tag Archives: St John Vianney

St John Vianney

john vianneyLiturgically 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.”

Saint John Vianney

St John VianneyToday we recall as a memorial the feast day of Saint John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. We typically pray for our priests in a particular way today. But our prayer for priests raises questions about the nature of priesthood and what we hope for in our priests and their service to the Church.

What is it about the ministry of the secular priest that we need, desire, revere? What is the Catholic priesthood all about? Why do we need the priesthood? What does the Catholic priest do and whom does he follow? Saint Pope John Paul II instructed us in “Pastores dabo vobis” that:

The ministry of the priest is, certainly, to proclaim the word, to celebrate the sacraments, to guide the Christian community in charity “in the name and in the person of Christ,” but all this he does dealing always and only with individual human beings…. In order that his ministry may be humanly as credible and acceptable as possible, it is important that the priest should mold his human personality in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humanity. It is necessary that, following the example of Jesus who “knew what was in humanity” (Jn. 2:25; cf. 8:3-11), the priest should be able to know the depths of the human heart, to perceive difficulties and problems, to make meeting and dialogue easy, to create trust and cooperation, to express serene and objective judgments” (PDV, 45).

And, in priests need…

“… to be balanced people, strong and free, capable of bearing the weight of pastoral responsibilities. They need to be educated to love the truth, to be loyal, to respect every person, to have a sense of justice, to be true to their word, to be genuinely compassionate, to be men of integrity and, especially, to be balanced in judgment and behavior…. Of special importance is the capacity to relate to others. This is truly fundamental for a person who is called to be responsible for a community and to be a “man of communion.” This demands that the priest not be arrogant, or quarrelsome, but affable, hospitable, sincere in his words and heart, prudent and discreet, generous and ready to serve, capable of opening himself to clear and brotherly relationships and of encouraging the same in others, and quick to understand, forgive and console” (PDV, 45).

Saint John Marie Vianney

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Almighty and merciful God, who made the Priest Saint John Vianney
wonderful in his pastoral zeal, grant, we pray, that through his
intercession and example we may in charity win brothers and sisters for
Christ and attain with them eternal glory.

The August liturgical memorial for Saint John Marie Vianney, the patron of priests, is yet another reminder we ought to have in interceding on behalf of priests. God needs to hear from us n this subject…

May Saint John Vianney approach the Throne of Mercy for all priests.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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