Saint John Vianney and the storm at sea


(Yesterday, or the day before, or even before that) was the feast of Saint John Vianney, and that is an important feast day. He is the patron saint of parish priests. The gospel for his day is the one where Jesus commands Peter to walk on water during a storm at sea. Saint John Vianney went through some turbulent times, he kept his eyes on Christ and walked on water. His era was that of the French Revolution and that was one of strong anti-Catholicism. John wished to be a priest, the social climate made that difficult. John was also not the most gifted at academics and that contributed to his struggles. He weathered his storm, being born in an anti-Catholic era and poor at academics, and became the parish priests of a small community. The gospel reading paints an abstract  picture of the climate that the Apostle Peter lived in, it was again a period of much social upheaval . Jesus Christ taught His disciples to conquer the storms of that day. Jesus taught them to “walk on water.” Turmoil marked the beginning of Christianity, and has been part of its history ever since. The storms at sea are the turbulence of the times we live in, life has never been smooth sailing.

In Persona Christi, the parish priest guides his parishioners through the storms of their lives. John Vianney guided his parishioners through the destruction of the French Revolution. He was also known for his devotion to the sacrament of confession. We all have our own storms, look at some of the larger storms of today’s culture.

One leading secular news story of the past decade has been the gay pride movement, and that effort merged into the redefinition of marriage by many countries. A storm difficult to navigate? I think so, and for Catholics it is the parish priest that guides those in his care through that shift in culture. That is no easy task. That storm deals not only with gay lifestyle, it encompasses marriage and divorce, and the role of marriage. Is but one issue that started fifty plus years ago. Multifaceted, complex, and deceptive. It has dominated the secular news, the pulpits, and continues with the pope’s synod of the family. It is a difficult storm. Storms are not new to Christianity.

Look at those that confront the issue guided by a press or a president, or an entertainer, or an ideological agenda, or political campaign. How far have they veered off course ? Were they always aware of the shift, or were they caught off guard?  And for the Christian, their eyes are focused on Christ, do they weather a storm of shifting and changing morals? I think so, but one opinion. Christ guides them through the issue, and He guides them through His Priests. Saint John Vianney is the patron saint of priests. One group makes it across the sea, while the other is lost . In this era the family is going through turbulent times. Saint John Vianney, pray for us. Pray for our priests.

At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

To continue with the storms of our days, there is another that has been in the news for decades. That is the storm of the Abortionists, and the storm lead by corporations like Planned Parenthood. Corporations for profit, with slick advertising campaigns and influential political action committees. The storm of their mission, and their campaign. I mention their campaign because it is both organized, focused, and funded. It is a very powerful storm indeed, and again it is often the parish priest that tries to keep his people on course while also trying to change the course of those winds. The priest preaches a different course, a course guided in Christian teaching. In the age of communications, and politics, and capitalism, and campaigns the abortionists are powerful opponents.

Sometimes it is good to look our environment, to look at the battles we face today. These are our storms. Christ calls us to walk on water, His priests are the ones that remind us of that. They keep our eyes focused on the Lord, guiding us through turbulent times. They command us to focus on the sacredness of life. In this battle against the abortionists, I mention one priest giving direction . Frank Pavone leads through his organization, Priests for Life. Saint John Vianney, pray for us. Pray for our priests. His eyes are focused on Christ to guide s through turbulent times, no easy task

When Pope Francis released his encyclical on the environment, I don’t t think his approach was typical of the modern day environmentalist. While there was the concern for our natural world, the Pope had concern for the environment of our souls. . A cultural sea, a cultural environment. These are only a couple of storms we are pastored through by priests. To the list add migration, human dignity, trafficking, slavery, and concern for the poor, sick, and marginalized. They are our storms, and often what influences our spiritual environment. They bring relevance to the gospel message. In those gospel messages Jesus guides disciples through turbulence and upheaval, just as He guided His Apostles. Jesus guides us often through His priests. Saint John Vianney, pray for us. Pray for our priests.

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