The message of the Holy Curé
The message of the holy Curé for today, summarised in a few points…
A man of prayer
Long periods spent in front of the tabernacle, a true intimacy with God, a total surrender to His will, a face transfigured… elements such touched deeply those who met him and made the depth of his prayer life and union with God perceptible. They were his greatest joy and the ground for a true friendship with God : “I love you, oh my God, and my only desire is to love you until my dying breath”. This was a friendship that implied a reciprocity which Mr. Vianney compared to two pieces of wax which are melted together and can no longer be separated or identified as distinct from each other ; it is thus for our soul with God when we pray…
At the heart of his life, the Eucharist celebrated and adored
“He is there”, the Holy Curé would exclaim as he stared at the tabernacle. He was a man of the Eucharist celebrated and adored ; “There is no reality greater than the Eucharist”, he used to affirm. What touched him most deeply perhaps was the realisation that his God was there, for us, present in the tabernacle : “He awaits us !” The awareness of the real presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament was perhaps one of his greatest graces and one of his greatest joys. Giving God to men and men to God, the eucharistic sacrifice, very quickly became the heart of his day and of his pastoral life.
Tormented by the salvation of mankind
It is perhaps this which best summarises who the Holy Curé was during his 41 years as a priest at Ars. He was tormented by his own salvation and that of others, most especially that of those who came to him or for whom he was responsible. As a priest, he was "accountable to God” he used to say. That each person taste the joy of knowing and loving God, of knowing how much He loves us… this was what Mr. Vianney strove relentlessly to achieve.
A martyr of the confessional
As from 1830 thousands of people came to Ars for confession with him, and more than 100,000 in the last year of his life…. The Curé of Ars was a true martyr of the confessional, John Paul II declared, for he spent up to 17 hours a day ‘imprisoned’ in order to reconcile men with God and among themselves. Smitten by the love of God, filled with wonder at the vocation of mankind, he had grasped the full measure of the folly in wanting to be separated from God. He wanted each person to be freed in order to be capable of receiving a taste of the love of God.
At the heart of his parish, a man with a social awareness
“We cannot imagine what the Holy Curé did not accomplish by way of social work” one of his biographers comments. He saw the Lord present in each of his brothers and sisters and did not rest until he had assisted them, brought relief, appeased their suffering or soothed their wounds, and enabled each one to be free and happy. Nothing was beyond him…starting an orphanage, setting up schools, being attentive to the poorest and the sick, a tireless builder of the Church that he was. He accompanied the families and sought to protect them from all that destroys them (alcohol, violence, egoism…). At the heart of his village he sought to take into account each of the dimensions of the human person (human, spiritual, social).
The patron saint of the priests of the whole world
He was beatified in 1905, and in the same year on April 12th he was declared patron saint of the priests of France by Pius X. In 1929, four years after his canonisation, Pope Pius XI declared him “patron saint of the priests of the whole world”. Pope John Paul II said no less by repeating three times that “The Curé of Ars remains an outstanding and unparalleled model for all nations both of the accomplishment of the ministry and the holiness of the minister”. “Oh, how great a reality lies in the priest !” Jean-Marie Vianney would exclaim, for he can give God to men and men to God ; he is the witness of the tenderness of the Father for each person and the artisan of salvation.
The Curé of Ars, an elder brother in the priesthood, is the saint to whom every priest in the world can come in order to entrust his ministry or his priestly life to the Curé’s intercession.
A universal call to holiness
“I will show you the path to Heaven” he replied to the little shepherd boy who showed him the way to Ars. By this he meant ‘I will help you to become a saint’. “There where the saints go their way, God goes with them”, he would remark later on. Ultimately he invited each and everyone to let themselves be sanctified by God, to seek the means to achieve this union with God here on earth and for all eternity.