Heart of a saint
Three days ago, we had a very special visitor here at the abbey… I mentioned it in the last post but I’ll elaborate on that very special day here today… We had the relic of St. John Vianney – his heart – coming to us all the way from Ars, France.
Just a quick word on relics and veneration of saints… when we venerate saints, it’s not that we’re actually idolizing (in an idolatrous) fashion the saint but we’re recognizing the virtue present in that saint. We know that the church has infallibly declared that person to be in heaven and therefore in the presence of God… as such, we ask that person to pray for us. It’s similar to my asking you to pray for me but in a sense it’s better because the person we’re asking prayers from is directly in front of God… The picture I’ve included here, by the way, is the picture of the incorrupt body of St. Jean Vianney in Ars, France.
Relics are a very old tradition in the church where either body parts or articles owned by saints are kept and treasured by the church. It’s sort of like when we keep the posters of people we admire in our bedrooms… in the old days though, there were no cameras so people took personal articles or other “things” :-p of the person to remember him/her by… At least that’s the way I understand it… maybe if/when I go deeper into theology, I’ll have a better explanation for you.
In any case, St. Jean-Marie Vianney came over to visit us. He spent the whole day at the abbey church and we had numerous visitors coming over to say hello and to pray before his heart. We had a prayer service at 2 pm where Fr. Mark gave a quick homily on the life of St. Jean Vianney…
St. Jean Vianney lived in a very difficult time of France… the French revolution had just ended and part of its outcome was the persecution and martyrdom of many Catholic priests. St. Jean, who grew up going regularly to mass as a child, was deprived of regular Sunday mass for an extended time. I believe his family had often hidden priests from the government in their home and that was among the only times that St. Jean was able to assist at mass. Because the church was also really important in running the schools at the time, the village school of St. Jean was also closed so he was also deprived of an education for a number of years.
A few years after the revolution, he entered into the seminary but he struggled soooo much because he knew no Latin and literally EVERYTHING was taught in Latin. In the middle of his seminary studies as well, he got conscripted into Napoleon’s army but he never fought in battle. As a result of all that, he was tempted to give up, and at times, even encouraged by some of his superiors and peers to give up. He made it through to the end though only because of the fact that France, having lost so many priests, was in desperate need of priests. Because of his intellectual deficiencies, he was then sent to Ars, a remote and very sin-filled village in the middle of nowhere because that’s where he wouldn’t be able to cause that much “damage.”
As a result of his holy life and constant petitions to God for his parishioners, and because of his courage in speaking the truth even though it wasn’t taken as well by his people, he ended up converting his entire village! Miracles were starting to pop up as God was using him to help his parish, his country and the whole of Europe. People by the thousands started flocking to Ars to try and catch a glimpse of this holy priest and to have him hear their confession. He would spend 14-15 hours each day in a tiny little confessional hearing the sins of everyone coming to see him. St. Vianney became the confessor of Europe and soon after his death, he was canonized a saint and became the patron saint of all priests, just a few months ago.
That evening as well, a lot of us drove out to St. Matthew’s in Surrey to watch the one man performance of the life of St. Jean Vianney by Leonardo Defilippis. It was absolutely amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone!! c”,)
That’s quite a lot of stuff I think… I get to go home this weekend for thanksgiving!! Looking forward to it!!