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The Clergy Speaks
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Bishop Jesse Mercado of the Diocese of Paranaque (left) and Fr. Robert Rivera, SJ of the Loyola House of Studies.

August 6 is a significant day for the members of the clergy being the Feast Day of their Patron and inspiration, St. John Mary Vianney. Born on May 8, 1786, St. John Vianney was the son of simple peasants.

Grace attracted him heavenward from the beginning. But it was only after much toil and trouble in France that St. John Vianney was admitted to the priesthood. He was then seventeen years old, but scarcely had any schooling. Study proved very difficult for him and he did not show natural talent.

But his tutor was convinced that this upright and innocent youth would serve the Church well by his holiness if not by his learning, and did not lose patience. It was through his intercession that the young John was finally granted admission to the seminary and ordained as a priest. As parish priest of Ars for 41 years, he had a long struggle for the conversion of the people and their wayward ways. It took many years but eventually, all hearts were conquered. Today, he is admired as the edifying example of the pastor in the church and in his humble and modest manner of life.

In the Mass celebrated by Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado D.D., last August 6, the celebration of the feast of St John Mary Vianney, he exhorted the Church ordained ministers in their role to empower the laity through suitable formation programs; through the celebration of the sacraments, especially Eucharist and Reconciliation and by giving particular attention to the formation and spiritual accompaniment of lay Christians and ecclesial groups engaged in social and political life (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 539). He reminded them that parishioners expect them to be present in their parishes, like shepherds who never abandon their flocks. They are to be available and approachable as their spiritual fathers and brothers and to give good preaching, whether through homilies, conferences, recollections, retreats, etc. He reminded them that the laity look to the clergy as men of prayer who, like our Lord, will teach them how to pray.

These, he said, correspond to what they promised during their ordination. He asked them to "stir into flame the gift of God" that they received through the imposition of hands quoting 2 Timothy 1:6.

Fr. Robert Rivera, SJ from the Loyola House of Studies said that St. John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, is a genuine inspiration in his priestly life in two ways.

First, he is a fine example of what can be accomplished when one entrusts the whole self fully to the Lord. John Vianney had physical and intellectual obstacles that many would consider insurmountable. But because of his abiding faith in God, he was able to fulfill his aspirations to be a priest, even though many of his superiors and peers were saying this could not be so. His was a life that proclaims "with God, all things are possible!" Second, having been given this gift of the priesthood, he utilized it fully to care for God's people. The accounts especially of the time he would spend in the confessional are legendary. He would stay there practically the whole day, with little regard to personal rest and nourishment, so as to extend God's mercy to the flock. People would seek him out from far and wide because of his gentle care and the wisdom he brought to the sacrament of reconciliation.

Fr. Rivera said that St Vianney is rightfully a patron and inspiration to priests. They are constantly reminded through St. John Vianney that the priesthood is a gift from God, not a priest’s personal project. He said that “Through him, I and all of us priests are reminded that with God on our side we need not fear. But with God on our side we are also tasked to care for all, especially the least in the world”.

The life of St. John Vianney is the story of a humble and holy man who barely succeeded in becoming a priest, but who converted thousands of sinners. This ignorant priest ended well and worthy to be The Patron Saint of Priests.

To quote him, “The saints did not all begin well, but they all ended well.” St. John Vianney, pray for us.



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