The feast of Saint John Vianney is always something to celebrate. There is something about this priest that is so right, when everything in his life seemed so wrong. He was born into a time of political instability when the Church faced much animosity, yet he was beloved as parish priest. He was thought not intelligent enough for the priesthood, so much so that he was sent to the small community of Ars. At the time the clergy wielded much power, was believed to be corrupt and a burden on the people of France. Powerful priests went to powerful cathedrals. Saint John held little esteem among his contemporaries. The amazing thing about him though is that though held such little esteem among the Church hierarchy, he did win over his countrymen at a time when the church of France was rapidly losing favor among those countrymen. It seems the eloquent speaking and educated clergymen were often viewed as pompous and arrogant, while the simple minded Vianney brought a humble, approachable simplicity the churchgoer so much needed. While the clergy of the cathedrals could carry on many scholarly discussions amongst themselves, Saint John Vianney was able to bring a relevant catechesis to the people. What the elite deemed so wrong with a humble simple minded priest, is exactly what endeared him to his parishioners. He was able to bring the simple message of Christ to a world perhaps tired of its own splendor. His was a focus on the essentials of the teachings, the sacraments, and the parishioners. His was the humility of Christ.
Saint John Vianney is the patron saint of priests, and it was his prayer cards that were passed out to many parishioners during the year of the priest, and it was during that year that many, or at least one, were introduced to his story. Many learned of his dedication to the Blessed Sacrament, and his many hours spent in the confessional. Many also learned his title Cure d’ Ars. Cure simply translates to parish priest; sometimes I think of that word Cure more in line with curator or someone who is overseas a treasured collection. As I think of the word curator, I imagine this parish priest guarding over that church building and its parishioners as if they were a treasure placed under his care. This is in contrast to an administrator simply taking charge of a professional duty. I also think of his struggles with academia, and that persistence in bringing Christ to others. That is inspirations to those who cannot recite cannon law, or take part in scholarly debates related to Church history, or are not well versed in the varied theological schools. He speaks to those who cannot turn out a scholarly paper, but who stumble through writing clumsy articles on faith. His academic struggles bring comfort to those who endured that same struggle; and for that the Cure d’ Ars is particularly to be admired for a unique comfort he brings to church.