Today we recall the patron saint of parish priests throughout the world, who was the special patron of the Year of Priests (June 19, 2009-June 11, 2010): Jean Marie Vianney, a man with vision.
Jean Marie wanted to become a priest, but he had to overcome his meager formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies. His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue, but his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, Jean Marie was ordained.
Situations calling for “impossible” deeds followed him everywhere. As pastor of the parish at Ars, Jean Marie encountered people who were indifferent and quite comfortable with their style of living. His vision led him through severe fasts and short nights of sleep, for some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.
With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls. Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home.
His work as a confessor is Jean Marie Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day.
Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But Jean Marie had no thoughts of retirement. As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God’s people. Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil.
Who, but a man with vision, could keep going with ever-increasing strength? In 1929, Pope Pius XI named him the patron of parish priests worldwide.
Indifference toward religion, coupled with a love for material comfort, seem to be common signs of our times. A person from another planet observing us would not likely judge us to be pilgrim people, on our way to somewhere else. Jean Marie Vianney, on the other hand, was a man on a journey with his goal before him at all times.
Recommending liturgical prayer, John Vianney would say, “Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.” (from www.americancatholic.org/saintoftheday)
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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 win brothers and sisters in charity for Christ and attain with them eternal glory. Through our Lord.
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FORTY YEARS OF MARRIAGE
On Sunday, my sister Marion and her husband John Bayfield quietly celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary at their cottage on Lake of Bays with several family members who were able to attend.
We gathered at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Huntsville, where pastor Father Gerard McMahon invited me to preside at the 9:30AM Sunday Eucharist. At the close of Mass, I invoked God's blessing on the happy couple. Then we enjoyed brunch at nearby Deerhurst Lodge, repairing back to the cottage for a lovely afternoon lazing by the water.
Marion and John, son Mark, daughter-in-law Aarthi
The gathered family members pose for a photo
The Prendergast siblings, left to right: Vincent, Marion, John (missing: Kevin)