Homily for August 4, 2005
St. Jean Marie Vianney, Curé of Ars
The first time I encountered the name Jean Marie Vianney was in Cagayan de Oro. We all know that the Society has a very important work in northern Mindanao, and that is the formation of diocesan clergy.
I had a co-teacher then who was a regent of St. Jean Marie Vianney Theological Seminary, and I asked him, who is St. Jean Marie Vianney? He answered, ‘the patron of all diocesan priests.’
I would like to assume, that aside from being the patron of diocesan priests, we are quite familiar with the holiness of this man. He was a Frenchman from Lyons, France. Born on May 8, 1786. Died at Ars, France on August 4, 1859. He served as a parish priest for 41 years. Transformed the lives of the people in the town of Ars by his holy examples.
Before ordination, Jean Marie had almost the same predicament as we all are now. He had difficulties in his studies. Difficult it was, that Mathias Loras, one of the most intelligent in the seminary, was assigned to him to teach Latin. Mathias was later on named first bishop of Dubuque in the Americas. One story that Mathias remembered while in the seminary was this. While teaching Jean-Marie Latin, Mathias lost temper for this young man. Latin was most difficult to Jean-Marie that many mistakes were committed. Jean-Marie knelt infront of Mathias and asked for his forgiveness. Mathias was moved by Jean’s reaction, that he never was surprised to hear that Jean as a priest was a holy man.
The town of Ars was not a big town. Nevertheless, worldly pleasures were very rampant. One of the center of this worldliness, and the main target of Jean was the local tavern. Jean Marie sanctified himself while at work in the field or in the house. He showed the people how he lived out what he preached. The people of Ars saw this parish priest as different and slowly emulated him because they could see that his life was an example of holiness. It took ten years to convert the town of Ars. The change was drastic enough that the local taverns closed shop. This change was so noticeable that outsiders started to make pilgrimages to the town of Ars to see this holy man and hear their confessions. Many came to Ars, as his reputation to be a holy confessor spread. Sometimes he would spend 13-15 hours in the confessional. Weeping as the penitent confesses his sins. Together with this, he never loosened his mortifications, which all the more attracted the people who come to him.
What probably attracted the people of Ars and the outsiders about Jean Marie was his familiarity with his God. A familiarity that allowed him to convey to the people Gods’ plan for them. A familiarity that flows in the life of Jean Marie. Shown in his words and deeds. A familiarity that is similar to our gospel reading for today. Where we hear Peter confessing that JC is the messiah. Bible commentaries say that this is not a personal insight or an individual confession, but a view of all the disciples. We can see the familiarity, which either, peter alone or with the other disciples, have towards Jesus. For one to confess that he is the messiah, brings about that such faith in that person. For one does not utter what he does not totally believe in. Whether Peter’s confession is taken as a collective response, does not rule out the fact, that even before this confession is said, the disciples have in fact known him well.
You are the messiah! There is so much faith , so much knowledge, so much familiarity that we hear in this statement. Moreover, in the life of Jean Marie we hear this statement in the kind of life he led. His closeness with his God was his primary method of teaching. Living a life full of faith and familiarity with his God. You are the messiah; one cannot say this without knowing the person well.
If we go back to our SpEx, the grace begged for the whole of 2nd week, was nothing but familiarity with our God. From birth to crucifixion, we are asked to know the heart and mind of our Lord. I remember being instructed to stay with my Lord in the hope that I emulate our Lord’s ways and act as he ought to. A familiarity that we are all invited to. I now invite you brothers, to ask ourselves, how familiar am I with my God? Do I know his heart and mind? Does my action speak of my relationship with my God?
As we celebrate today St. Jean Marie Vianney, we beg the Lord to give us the grace of the 2nd week. The grace which is obvious in the life of Jean Marie. That we too may follow Christ more closely, follow him more nearly and love him more dearly. St. Jean Marie Vianney, pray for us.