The Salvation of Souls
If today were not a Sunday, we would be celebrating the feast of one of my favourite saints – St John Mary Vianney (1786-1859), also known as the Curé of Ars, who happens to be the Patron Saint of Parish Priests, and was one of my inspirations to want to be a priest. He always wanted to be a priest, but struggled with his studies, and it seemed he would never be ordained. But a kindly priest took him in hand and he overcame the obstacles. Although he was very devout, even after ordination he was regarded as being a rather unpromising priest and was sent to the small town of Ars, not far from Lyons, where there was very little practice of the Faith. He immediately began making severe fasts and endured sleepless nights and other penances to convert his Parish. Very soon stories of miracles began to circulate about him and Ars and the surrounding areas suddenly enjoyed a great spiritual revival. Not everyone appreciated him and other local clergy were envious of him.
St John Vianney is best known for spending sixteen to eighteen hours a day hearing Confessions and people would often queue for a week to go to him. How times have changed! He had the gift of reading souls and would remind penitents of sins they had forgotten or were too afraid to confess. He suffered attacks from the devil for over thirty years and these attacks would increase in their ferocity when a big sinner was about to confess to him the following day. The devil at one point said that if there were three men like St John Vianney in the world, his kingdom would be ruined.
So what we see in St John Vianney is an ardent desire to save souls. All those hours in the confessional, all the penances and the prayer was to win souls back for Christ and save them from Hell. He would often weep in the confessional, and the penitents would sometimes ask him, “Father why are you weeping?” He would respond, “I weep because you do not.”
In today’s Gospel Our Lord tells us to make ourselves rich in the sight of God. The richest person is not the one with the most money but the one with a beautiful soul and which is pleasing to God. This includes sharing our possessions. As the First Reading from Ecclesiastes suggests; a man who has nothing but money to show for a long life of hard work is a fool, because he can’t take his wealth with him when he dies; someone else will inherit it, and it will do him no good. Every act of charity we perform in life will speak for us on the Day of Judgement. Don’t waste opportunities. The time to store up treasure in Heaven is now.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC