First, let’s bring to mind a priest whom God has used to touch our lives in some particular way. Maybe it’s a priest who was there for us during an illness or family crisis. Perhaps it’s one whose teaching or personal witness inspires us to greater faith or continued conversion. It could be a priest who has become our spiritual director, a confessor, a personal friend.
Second, let’s also bring to mind a priest with whom, for whatever reason, we’ve found to be a “turn-off.” Rightly or wrongly, we perceive him to be too worldly or lazy or without much talent. Perhaps he’s confused or even scandalized us by his behavior, or his message.
I invite us to think of these two priests, as today is the memorial of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. It’s a day for us to thank God for priests, and also lift them up in prayer.
St. John Vianney was a priest who touched countless lives. He was renowned throughout France as a compassionate and insightful confessor, and he made himself available for confession up to sixteen hours a day.
At the same time, St. John had his struggles, and even his critics. Early on, he was almost not ordained because of his lack of a formal education. As a priest, St. John faced demonic temptations and interferences. What’s more, certain brother priests thought him too “extreme,” an assessment sometimes rooted in envy, ignorance, or even fear.
In short, St. John was a priest whom many gave thanks for but also one whom others thought was in particular need of prayer. As we celebrate his life, let’s hold in our hearts today our two particular priests, that they may be blessed by God to be all that they’re called to be. As St. John himself said, “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy.”