Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Universal Church rejoices and celebrates together the occasion of the Feast of St. John Vianney, the renowned patron of all saints, whose life and dedication to God became a great source of inspiration for many Christian faithful of the past two centuries. The dedication and zeal with which St. John Vianney carried out his mission and works should also inspire each and every one of us as Christians in our own way of living as well. St. John Vianney’s life is an epitome of true Christian discipleship and virtue, an example for all of us.
St. John Vianney was born into a devout Catholic family and experienced the hardships of the years of persecution of the Church, especially for the priests and ministers of the Church during the French Revolution era. He saw and experienced how priests braved the hardships and risked themselves and their lives as they continued to minister to the faithful people of God, often in hiding from the revolutionaries and all those who were hostile to the Church. That experience inspired St. John Vianney who was therefore inspired to follow their path and he aspired to be a priest later on in his life.
St. John Vianney was not exactly a model seminarian in his seminary days, with regards to his academic achievements. Not only that part of his studies were disrupted by the wars which happened at that time, but he was considered as a slow learner and did not pass his Latin exams, and was hence almost failed in his seminary studies and therefore almost did not become a priest at all. Yet, eventually he managed to pull through, completed his seminary preparations and was finally ordained as a priest, given the assignment to be the parish priest of a small town of Ars, from which his famous nickname, the Cure (parish priest) of Ars would originate from.
St. John Vianney had a difficult start in that town and parish of Ars, precisely because the Revolution and wars, which lasted over two decades had caused the people to lose their faith and became indignant and lukewarm, with some even being outright hostile against the Church and the clergymen. Nonetheless, those things and obstacles did not deter St. John Vianney from his commitment to his missions and works, as he continued to labour day after day, spending a lot of time with the parishioners and the townspeople, slowly getting them to open their hearts and minds once again to the Lord.
St. John Vianney was remembered for his great love and care for the flock entrusted to him, and he spent patiently a lot of hours and time reaching out to them and caring for their needs. He spent many hours in the confessional box, reputedly spending about sixteen hours each day to listen patiently to the people who came to him to confess their sins. As a great confessor and caring priest, soon a long line formed of people who came even from afar, seeking to find him and to confess their sins to him, while others came to him seeking for help and advice. News also spread that miracles had happened through St. John Vianney’s works, and evil spirits particularly feared him.
St. John Vianney continued to inspire many generations of priests and laity alike for years, decades and centuries after his passing, right to this very day, because he truly embodied what a priest is called to do, as the shepherds modelled after the Lord Himself, as the Good Shepherd. As our shepherds, priests have been called to give themselves to the service of the Lord and His people, and to help reach out to those who have been lost and wayward, separated from God, so that they might find their way back to the Lord. That is also why the Church and our world today has the great need for many holy, good priests like that of St. John Vianney.
As the Scripture passages today mentioned to us, there has been many opportunities present in our world today for more mission and work of the Church. The Lord has called more people to be His servants and followers, to become His workers and labourers, in the field of this world. Unfortunately, while the opportunities are aplenty, but those who listened and responded to the call of the Lord are often few, and likely in the coming future to be even lower. In the past few decades, the vocations to the priesthood had been on the decline, and while there had been rejuvenations and growth in some areas, the ever expanding works and scope of the Church’s missions mean that there is never enough hands on deck to do the works of the Lord.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on top of that, we do not just need any priests, as we surely have known how scandals involving priests and members of the Church in the past decades and more had led to the alienation and disillusionment among not just the members of the Church and the faithful, but also the misunderstanding and the loss of trust from those outside the Church. As we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading today, those who are wicked shall have to account for their sins and wickedness, while those who are righteous shall be rewarded for their faith and righteousness. Our priests in particular are under constant attacks and surrounded by many challenges and temptations in the midst of their ministries and works.
Hence, the calling and the mission of priests are really not an easy one, as they are expected to do even more than what we have been expected to do as the Christian laypeople and laity. There is a great need all over the world for more holy and devout priests, in the manner that St. John Vianney and many other holy priests of the past had done and there is a need for more of those holy priests who placed their flock and the needs of their flock ahead of their own needs. That is why today we should pray for all of our priests and ask for the intercession of St. John Vianney, that all of our priests may continue to serve the Lord and His people wholeheartedly, full of faith and love.
May the Lord continue to guide us all, and especially our priests, that all of them and all of us may commit ourselves ever more to the good works and missions of the Church, now and always, evermore. Amen.