Saturday, 4 August 2007

The Curé d'Ars

Today we celebrate the feast of St John Mary Vianney, who, all these years after his death, is still called the Curé (or Parish Priest) of Ars. This in itself is remarkable – as one writer puts it, ‘his name disappeared in his function’. He was a priest with the cure of souls first; everything else followed.

On paper, it seemed as if the Curé d’Ars' pastoral ministry would not be very fruitful. He only narrowly got through seminary and, because of his poor knowledge of theology, wasn’t even allowed to hear confessions at first! Once in the parish, he often yearned to join a monastery and made plans to run away on two occasions. ‘I should not like to die a Curé’, he once said, and he often noted how few canonised saints have been parish priests. Moreover, he faced many trials. In 1830 a group of parishioners tried to get him removed because he was ‘too strict’ and he even faced rumours of sexual scandal.

However, this simple, semi-illiterate pastor is the patron of parish priests. He won such fame as an insightful confessor, able to read souls, that special trains started running to Ars. He was a man of deep prayer who spent long hours in the Church and, on a number of occasions, had physical encounters with the devil. Whenever he was praised for his holiness and his special gifts, he always tried to detract from himself and focus people’s devotion on his favourite saint, the recently discovered martyr of the catacombs: St Philomena. He inspired his flock with his unsophisticated, accessible sermons. ‘It is all there, my children’, he once said pointing to the tabernacle, ‘What is Our Lord doing in the tabernacle? He is waiting for us’.

Today we pray that the priests of the twenty-first century will follow in the footsteps of the 'Saint Curé', seeking above all else the salvation and cure of souls. May their name – and with it their personal desires – disappear in their function. And, with this in mind, please pray especially for your own Curé - your parish priest.

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Blogger the owl of the remove said...

Under the terms of the Dallas Charter, because of the accusation against him, the saintly John Vianney would have been removed from ministry and never allowed to function again as a priest. I don't know if it's the same under Nolan, but perhaps today we should ask St. John Vianney to pray for all unjustly accused priests.

3:31 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

The accusation against the saint did not involve minors - but your suggestion is a good one.

Under Nolan, priests who have been cleared may return to ministry after appropriate 'risk assessment'.

4:21 pm  

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