Fr. Frederick L. Miller was on point in his book, The Grace of Ars. He stated, “Let us go to Ars in spirit. In that small town, out-of-the-way place that has been so profoundly touched by God, there is hardly a thing to do except pray and only one person to get to know!” Now, Ars is a small city northwest of Lyon, France. Not much is out there. Yet, many make their way to this small out-of-the-way place to be with one man. His name is John Vianney. He was the Curé of Ars. I was there in 2012 with seminarians from all parts of the United States.
When it came to his formation in seminary, Vianney was not the smartest cookie in the cookie jar or the brightest pencil in the box. Yet, despite his challenges, he was a man deeply rooted in prayer. In one of his catechetical instructions as a priest, he wrote:
My little children, reflect on these words: the Christian’s treasure is not on earth but in heaven. Our thoughts, then ought to be directed to where our treasure is. This is the glorious duty of man: to pray and to love. If you pray and love, that is where a man’s happiness lies.
Vianney believed that prayer was nothing more than communion with God and man. He knew that as little children our hearts were small, yet prayer stretches our hearts in order for us to love the eternal God.
He also believed that prayer makes time pass. He wanted his people to immerse into prayer as fish immerse themselves into water. When we become people of prayer, Sunday Mass becomes a beautiful response to our love to Almighty God, more than an obligation to be fulfilled.
Vianney’s love for Christ in his priesthood changed that little village in France and called many back to the sacraments. Can our love for Christ be so attractive? Let our love for Him draw many to him and not to ourselves? We don’t have to travel far to experience John Vianney in that out of the way place. Whenever we gather for Eucharist, there we encounter this simple man whose humility, courage, and openness to God’s will in all things, led many to Jesus.
Vianney is the patron of all priests. Let us take the day today to commend to God all our priests who mean a great deal to us. They need our prayers! Here is a beautiful prayer we prayed regularly in 2009. It was a remarkable year as Pope Benedict XVI declared it a Year for Priests and made the Curé, patron of all priests.
We pray that the Blessed Mother wrap her mantle around your priests
and through her intercession strengthen them for their ministry.
We pray that Mary will guide your priests to follow her own words,
“Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5).
May your priests have the heart of St. Joseph,
Mary’s most chaste spouse.
May the Blessed Mother’s own pierced heart inspire them to embrace
all who suffer at the foot of the cross.
May your priests be holy, filled with the fire of your love
seeking nothing but your greater glory and the salvation of souls.
Amen. Saint John Vianney, pray for us.