Saturday, August 04, 2007

Happy Feast Day, parish priests!!

Today is the memorial of St. John Vianney (1786-1859) who is the patron saint of parish priests. This pastor of souls in Ars, France is the only parish priest who has been canonized a saint by the Church. Even though he struggled mightily with his seminary studies (and left twice), his priestly ministry soared to great heights because of his undying commitment to his people. He prayed and fasted regularly for the conversion of his parishioners. He heard confessions each day between 12 hours (winter) and 16 hours (summer). People from all over France came to him for Reconciliation and for his counsel. He brought so many people (estimates are that over 100,000 people annually came to Ars toward the end of St John’s life) back to Christ that the Devil frequently reared his ugly face in Vianney’s rectory; one night Satan set his bed on fire!

The following is from today’s Office of Readings; a catechetical instruction by St John Vianney:

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.

Prayer is nothing else but union with God. When one has a heart that is pure and united with God, he is given a kind of serenity and sweetness that makes him ecstatic, a light that surrounds him with marvelous brightness. In this intimate union, God and the soul are fused together like two bits of wax that no one can ever pull apart. This union of God with a tiny creature is a lovely thing. It is a happiness beyond understanding.

We had become unworthy to pray, but God in his goodness allowed us to speak with him. Our prayer is incense that gives him the greatest pleasure.

My little children, your hearts are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God. Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven and something of paradise comes down upon us. Prayer never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey that flows into the soul and makes all things sweet. When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.

Prayer also makes time pass very quickly and with such great delight that one does not notice its length. Listen: Once when I was a purveyor in Bresse and most of my companions were ill, I had to make a long journey. I prayed to the good God, and believe me, the time did not seem long.

Some men immerse themselves as deeply in prayer as fish in water, because they give themselves totally to God. There is not division in their hearts. O, how I love these noble souls! Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Colette used to see our Lord and talk to him just as we talk to one another.

How unlike them we are! How often we come to church with no idea of what to do or what to ask for. And yet, whenever we go to any human being, we know well enough why we go. And still worse, there are some who seem to speak to the good God like this: “I will only say a couple of things to you, and then I will be rid of you.” I often think that when we come to adore the Lord, we would receive everything we ask for, if we would ask with living faith and with a pure heart.


At 3:25 PM, Anonymous  said...

I remember you telling us about this guy at one of the Planning Meetings for Youth Group! Thanks for telling the story!

At 10:03 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

A question I've had for a while- it's probably an inconsequential thing, but I often take note of it-

FM always breaks a little triangle out of the Eucharist and (I think) put it into the chalice. He then breaks it in half and eats one half. What happens to the other half? Also, I don't think I've ever seen FG do the same, and he eats the whole piece- why the difference? I know it's a silly question, but the mass seems to be so particular on so many points, and it catches my attention when one priest and/or parish does something differently from another.

At 1:49 PM, Blogger fran said...

To Mindy-
A Catholic website answers one of your questions as follows:

Part of the Communion Rite, the priest takes a piece of the consecrated host and drops it in the chalice of Christ's Blood saying, "May this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it."

In answer to your second question, about what happens to the remaining half of the Eucharist, after it is broken and the small piece removed and placed in the chalice, - it too is broken and placed with the other consecrated hosts for distribution. On occasion, I have been the recipient of this piece of the Eucharist.

As for your third question, I don't know. Guess we'll have to go right to the source for an answer.

One last comment-
I love the beautiful words St. John Vianney used to talk about prayer. Wouldn't it be nice if we had such eloquent speakers in the world today, as we did with so many of the saints?

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

Thanks Fran-
Little things always attract my attention, and at every (really every) mass, I think the same thing- why like that?

In fact, one week, when my son was doing a camp, I went to another church for a later mass, and the priest there broke the host in half and then put it together again before holding it up. Again I thought, why the difference? I was also taken back when everyone there celebrating mass linked hands for the Lord's Prayer. Just before it was said, people started to move closer to one another, and I thought, "Where are they all going?" Then the all held hands to make one big chain. The first day, I didn't move from where I was seated, and therefore wasn't part of the link. In the following days, I kept thinking, why don't they all just sit close to each other to begin with? Why get up during mass to move and then after the prayer move back?Again- it was one of those things that captured my attention each time.


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