Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin celebrated the liturgical feast of Saint John Vianney with a Mass on Tuesday 4 August, at the shrine of the patron saint of priests in the French town of Ars.
St. John Mary Vianney was a priest who with simplicity, tenderness and fidelity to the sacraments, conformed himself to the will of God, thus following the path of holiness. Thus Cardinal Parolin described the figure of the 19th Century French saint during Mass Tuesday morning in Ars. He is also often referred to as the Curè, or parish priest, of Ars, the small town, some 40km north of Lyon, where Vianney served as parish priest from 1818 until his death in 1859.
In his homily, Cardinal Parolin recalled his own childhood when he was greatly impressed after reading the biography of St. John Vianney. He said that perhaps the Curé of Ars had helped him discover his priestly vocation. Marking the 40th anniversary of his priestly ordination this year, the Cardinal expressed gratitude for the grace to be able to visit the shrine of the saint whom Pope Benedict XVI described as “a model of priestly ministry in our world”.
Reflecting on the Mass readings, Cardinal Parolin noted that the vocation of St. John Vianney was to be “an authentic prophet-sentinel”, interested only in the salvation of souls, struggling unceasingly against the Evil One. Thus he became “the loudspeaker”, “the resounding voice of God Himself”, leading a consummate life “in total fidelity and coherence” until his death.
Harvest of priestly vocations
The Vatican Secretary of State recalled that the Curé of Ars not only healed people like Jesus but also fostered numerous vocations. On the occasion of the Saint’s 160th death anniversary last year, Pope Francis wrote to priests urging them not to be discouraged by the damage caused by the “wayward behaviour” of some priests. He said they always need to keep in mind that vocation is “a free gift”, “totally undeserved”, to be gratefully accepted “with humility and prayer”.
Relevance of the Curé of Ars
Earlier, on the occasion of the 150th death anniversary of the Curè of Ars in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI had pointed out that the saint is greatly relevant in our difficult times because he “teaches us to transmit joy and hope through the testimony of our personal life and to be constant and persevering in our ministry .”
The ministry of the 19th-century priest was nourished by the Word of God, the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation as well as by tenderness towards the wounded and sinners.
Path of holiness
In order to be authentic Christians or saints, Cardinal Parolin said, we need to learn from the Saint’s “simplicity, disinterestedness, purity of intention and action, asceticism, fidelity to God, and the sacraments”. Above all, it is the “intimate personal union with Christ” that leads us to conform our desires to the will of God that “fills us with joy and happiness, and helps us to be the salt and light of the world”.
With thanks to Vatican News and Robin Gomes, where this article originally appeared.