Organizers see the invitation to pray with St. John Vianney as particularly timely.
The shrine of Ars, France, has entrusted the Knights of Columbus with the major relic of St. Jean Mary Vianney’s incorrupt heart for the national tour in the U.S..
The Knights of Columbus welcomed as providential this special opportunity to offer for veneration a major relic of the patron of parish priests, whose holiness and integrity is a model for clergy and laity alike.
The patron saint of parish priests, St. John Vianney died August 4, 1859. A century later, Pope John XXIII reflected on the life of the saint, and what it means to be a holy priest.
The pastor of Ars lived a life of great penance, whose “only motives were the love of God and the desire for the salvation of the souls of his neighbors,” John XXIII said. The saintly pope reflected on the life of Vianney in an encyclical titled Sacerdotii nostri primordia, written in 1959 for the 100th anniversary of Vianney’s death.
After struggling with his studies, Vianney was ordained a priest in 1815. Shortly afterward, he was assigned to Ars, France, near his hometown of Dardilly. There, he spent most of his priesthood. He was noted for his dedication to the poor, his counseling to those in need, and for founding an orphanage for girls.
“This detachment from external goods enabled him to offer the most devoted and touching care to the poor,” said the pope. “He passed a life that was almost completely detached from the changeable, perishable goods of this world, and his spirit was free and unencumbered by impediments of this kind, so that it could always lie open to those who suffered from any kind of misery.”
Pope John XXIII wrote that the preservation of chastity breaks the restraints of self-interest and grants a person greater dedication to those in need. “St. John Mary Vianney has this pertinent comment to make in this regard: ‘A soul adorned with the virtue of chastity cannot help loving others; for it has discovered the source and font of love – God.’”
The pope also pointed to Vianney’s dedication to the virtue of obedience. The saint had desired a contemplative life rather than the heavy burden of pastoral duties, but he was obedient to the bishops.
“All his life he longed to lead a quiet and retired life in the background, and he regarded pastoral duties as a very heavy burden laid on his shoulders and more than once he tried to free himself of it,” the pope said.
While God never allowed him to achieve this goal, it was certainly God’s way of forming the saint in the virtue of obedience, he said.
He also highlighted Vianney’s prayer life and devotion to the Eucharist, as well as his commitment to the Sacrament of Confession.
Pope John XXIII said Vianney “habitually restrained his own will” to further dedicate himself to the Church.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson referred to the current upheaval in the Church in his announcement of the St. John Vianney relic tour.
See the schedule of the tour here.