St John Marie Vianney, Our Life’s Companion

Jean-Marie Vianney (1786 – 1859), Catholic saint and priest of Ars-sur-Formans (France) Date 28 August 2005 Source picture taken by Herwig Reidlinger Author Herwig Reidlinger

Recently, as I was reading, I came across a very intriguing quote by Robert Lee Fulghum, who said: The solution to alone-ness is not more solitude, but companionship and community. In our world, where alone-ness and solitude are becoming the order of the day, we certainly need more community. A great companion in this existential darkness which, somehow, is touching us all, is certainly St John Marie Vianney, the holy Curé of Ars whose feast is today, the 4th of August.

This common man of a simple education has inspired thousands and thousands of people by what the Holy Spirit said through his lips. When one reads his numerous writings and sermons one immediately understands that they are simple to comprehend and most efficacious when put into practice! Their inspiration speaks splendidly to both the educated and uneducated alike. Hence, let us make his words our own, and allow them to change us.

For the Curé God demands for us prayer but impedes us from anxiety. He said: God commands you to pray, but forbids you to worry. After this initial precept, so to say, he swiftly starts talking to us about Mary, Our Mother. In this regard St John Vianney has some very fine insights.

To be with Mary means reigning with her. To serve the Queen of Heaven is already to reign there, and to live under her commands is more than to govern. As a loving Mother, Mary is solicitous for us until the last judgement is over. Here is his reflection: Only after the Last Judgment will Mary get any rest; from now until then, she is much too busy with her children. For Christian women, this patron of us, priests, has some wonderful advice when he said: Christian wife! Follow in the footsteps of the ideal of all womanhood, the Blessed Mother of God; in joy and in sorrow, she will be your advocate at the throne of her Son.

Moreover, after giving us Himself, Jesus gave us the greatest belonging he could ever have had, his holy and wonderful Mother! St John writes: Jesus Christ, after having given us all he could give, that is to say, the merit of his toils, his sufferings, and bitter death; after having given us his adorable body and blood to be the food of our souls, willed also to give us the most precious thing he had let, which was his holy Mother. When we involve our Mother Mary in our prayers we make our prayers fragrant before God’s throne. Thus, St John Vianney said: When our hands have touched spices, they give fragrance to all they handle. Let us make our prayers pass through the hands of the Blessed Virgin. She will make them fragrant.

In his writings, St John Vianney follows the principle ad Jesum per Mariam – to Jesus through Mary. After giving us an extraordinary taste of who our Mother Mary is, then, the holy Curé, introduces us to who Jesus is, specifically in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, the Eucharist. His quotations are encouraging.

About the moments spent with Jesus before the tabernacle: We should consider those moments spent before the Blessed Sacrament as the happiest of our lives. Only God can satiate the hunger of our soul. The holy Curé affirms: The soul hungers for God, and nothing but God can satiate it. Therefore He came to dwell on earth and assumed a Body in order that this Body might become the Food of our souls. Let us have an intimate relationship based on reciprocal trust with Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. He advises us: When we go before the Blessed Sacrament, let us open our heart; our good God will open His. We shall go to Him; He will come to us; the one to ask, the other to receive. It will be like a breath from one to the other.

The Eucharist is the miracle of divine love for you and me. St John Vianney exhorts us: The many wonders of creation can only fill us with astonishment and admiration. But when we speak of the most holy Eucharist we can say that here is to be found the miracle of divine love for us…. Has there been, or will there ever be, a nobler or more magnanimous love than that which He has shown us in the sacrament of love?

From these sayings of the good priest, we soon start to realize the centrality prayer had in the life of the holy Curé, all deriving from his own daily life of holiness. Prayer is to our soul what rain is to the soil. Fertilize the soil ever so richly, it will remain barren unless fed by frequent rains. And, Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.

Only such a man, who spent twenty four hours with God each day, could really appreciate to its minutest detail the priestly life and ministry. He reminds us that when we see a priest we have to think of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He says: The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. When you see a priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ. The priest’s identity is so interconnected with the Lord and the divine dignity, that the holy Curé once cried out: O, how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die. Finally, through the priest we have access to the treasures of heaven. In this St John Vianney reminds us: Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption here on earth…What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods…Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest and they will end by worshiping the beasts there… The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.

St John Vianney, our faithful companion, pray for us and our priests!

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.