Today is the feast day of St. john Vianney, the Cure d’ Ars and the patron saint of parish priests. He was a simple man, who barely made it through his priestly studies because he had difficulties with Latin. He would spend 12-16 hours in the confessional box, hearing confessions bringing healing and forgiveness to literally thousands of troubled souls. And he spent hours more in prayer.
Today I think and pray for my many priest friends – “selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”
It is touching how priests are always welcome into homes and families, even those they are meeting for the first time. It is also remarkable how priests keep showing up in all the important events in our lives: weddings and anniversaries, births and birthdays, deaths and funerals, and all the sad and happy occasions in between. More spirits are healed and made whole again in the confessional than on psychiatrists’ couches. More disputes and quarrels are settled before priests than before judges. More lives are changed and renewed by priests than by political leaders.
And yet, it can be a lonely life. In the midst of all the celebrations, the priest is aware that he is dedicated to God and God alone. In the midst of all the busyness, the priest knows that he must be about the Father’s business. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, the priest is called to a life of solitary prayer – alone with God. Yes, the life of a priest is storm and the greatest storm he has to face is the storm of loneliness. I think of and pray for my priest-friends. May they always hear the Lord’s words, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Because he belongs to a community, the life of a priest can also be full of people. The other storm a priest faces is being overwhelmed by the people in his life: all those people asking for help, all those people seeking his attention, all those people wanting his favor, all that clamor and all that noise. There is always the temptation of believing solely in one’s talents rather than in God’s handiwork in the good he is doing. There is the blandishment of the power he enjoys in people’s lives. There is the addiction to all the adulation and attention he receives from people. When inundated by all that, I pray that they find the time and the strength to “go up on the mountain by himself to pray.”
I pray for priests that the Lord bless them with dedication and perseverance in their priestly vows. Priests take on the vows of obedience and celibacy. May they always humbly surrender to the will of the Father, expressed in the words of their superiors. May they remain faithful to their pledge of total dedication and devotion to the Church and to no other. Some priests also take on the vows to poverty and chastity. I pray that they continue to witness faithfully to us and show that there is another lifestyle possible than the all too prevalent choices of greed and selfishness we witness in the rat race; that there is another option than the all too common choice of self-seeking pleasure and hedonistic gratification so prevalent in today’s materialistic culture.