Year of the Priest

His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. –Mark 6:34

The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. –St. John Vianney

st-john-vianneyIt is difficult to keep up with all the ecclesiastical news. We were just getting into the Year of St. Paul. But the Pauline Year came to an end last month. Now another significant anniversary is upon us.

We parish priests have a pretty cushy life. Kind people love us and take care of us. Our daily duties are sweet and sublime: Offering the Holy Sacrifice, administering the sacraments, praying for the people, teaching the Word of God.

The life of a parish priest is so delightful, in fact, that we run the risk of getting lazy and self-indulgent. All the other priests I know are very dedicated and diligent, but I am speaking about myself.


Because of the grave danger of priestly sloth, the good Lord gave the world an infallible means of pricking parish priests’ consciences. Christ gave the world a parish priest who was so tireless, so consumed with zeal for his ministry, so self-sacrificing, so humble, so holy–that all other parish priests can only look at this man with awe–and feel ashamed of ourselves.

CureSt. John Vianney was the Curé of Ars, a small town near Lyons, France, for 41 years. From 1818 to 1859, the Curé did not simply do his daily priestly duty. He also fasted on potatoes and water for years. He prayed through the night. He sat in the confessional for hours on end. He performed miracles, did battle with the devil, and thundered from the pulpit against all the evils of sin.

St. John Vianney spent every ounce of strength he had to save the souls of his people. He offered his whole life as a sacrifice to God, and he made this offering for his people, to win graces for them and help them get to heaven. His prayer was:

Lord, grant me the conversion of my parish. I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life.

He said:

If a priest were to die in consequence of his labors and sufferings for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, it would not be a bad thing!

When he died on August 4, 1859, the Curé’s health was completely broken by his unending labors and penances. It was a miracle that he lived to be 73 years old.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of this patron saint of priests. As we noted earlier, this Year of the Priest follows on the heels of the Year of St. Paul, who was himself a zealous, holy priest.

Remarking on how fitting it is to have these Holy Years one after the other, the Pope recalled these words of the Apostle: “We live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and was raised for us.” (II Corinthians 5:15) This sentence is the perfect summary of St. John Vianney’s life. “We live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and was raised for us.”

ars basilica
The Basilica of St. John Vianney in Ars, France

The all-consuming zeal of the Curé of Ars is a source of inspiration not just for priests, but for all Christians. St. John Vianney’s entire life was perfectly unified in serving Christ. All of us have to unify our lives in the same way. In our day and age, it can take heroic courage to live a life of integrity.

Recently a Catholic doctor was nominated for a prominent government post. Regarding this doctor’s Catholic faith, a couple of so-called ‘experts’ said the following:

We all have our religions, but when you speak as a doctor, it’s not about your religion…You kind of have to park your personal beliefs at the door when they conflict with what your role is.

The life of St. John Vianney teaches us that such statements are utter nonsense. The Lord does not hire Catholics part-time. Christ demands our fidelity and obedience always and everywhere.

It is true that not everyone is called to a priest or a nun. Every individual person has a particular path to follow. But every path involves unswerving dedication to truth and justice and zeal for the Kingdom of God. No one can get to heaven by dubious fidelity, selective obedience, and lukewarm devotion.

Inside the Basilica
Inside the Basilica

If St. John Vianney were here, he would thunder vehemently against any suggestion that a Catholic doctor—or any Catholic—could make peace with crimes against human life, like abortion, euthanasia, or killing embryos for research. The saintly priest would not hesitate to warn us that the fires of hell are stoked for anyone who divides his loyalties for the sake of worldly success—and ignores the human rights of the weak and defenseless in the process.

May St. John Vianney intercede for us all during his Holy Year. May he win graces for us poor, lazy priests. And may he lead us all to a unified life like his own, completely consecrated to the service of Christ the King.

2 thoughts on “Year of the Priest

  1. “It is true that not everyone is called to a priest or a nun. Every individual person has a particular path to follow. But every path involves unswerving dedication to truth and justice and zeal for the Kingdom of God. No one can get to heaven by dubious fidelity, selective obedience, and lukewarm devotion.”

    Amen, Father. Could you imagine what a fire would blaze on this earth if everyone performed his vocation, whatever that is, with the intensity and zeal of John Vianney? Amazing.

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