Holy Nation, Chosen Race, God’s own People and Royal Priesthood! See how beautifully St Peter describes the most exalted status of Christians!
We should thank God at all times about our legacy, which is not because of our merits, but because God’s grace made us so. For the chosen race, God chose royal priests as well. Seven sacraments, which are the channels of grace, are being administered by priests. We are God’s own people blessed with God’s anointed priests in large numbers to serve us in the name of the Lord.
Whenever we think of priests, the first name coming to our mind is that of St John Maria Vianney. He was an ordinary priest bestowed with extra ordinary gifts. If he could remain in the confessional for hours together, often extending to sixteen hours, how can we explain it but for the special grace with which God blessed him?
He was an ordinary student, a mediocre seminarist, an armed forces deserter who hid himself with a group of army deserters for more than one year. He was no great orator. Then what made this man the most sought after priest in his times, not only in France, but other countries as well? How come that around 20000 pilgrims travelled to Ars from distant places every year, just to visit him?
The reason is that he was a true pastor. He followed none but Jesus Christ. He taught nothing but the gospel. He administered nothing but sacraments. He preached nothing but repentance. It may be difficult for us to believe that such a priest lived among us in the not so distant past. He was concerned about nothing but the salvation of souls.
Catholic Church has rightly designated him as the patron saint of parish priests and honours his memory on 4th August, which is his date of birth into eternal bliss.
What he did in Ars was the same thing any true pastor is supposed to do. He tended his flock with love. He foretold them about the traps the devil had set for them. And most important, he went out in search of the lost sheep. Until the last sheep was brought back he didn’t know rest. He was the quintessential pastor.
“Thus said the Lord my God: Be a shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter” ( Zecheriah 11:4). As for the people of Ars they were a lot doomed to slaughter when John Maria Vianney reached there. It was the period after the French revolution which brought with it large scale devastation and loss of faith. People of Ars had forsaken their faith and set aside Sundays for drinking and dancing. An old church stood there sans the faithful.They were treading the wrong path, totally unconcerned about the destiny of their souls. They were on the fast track to the slaughterhouse of the devil.
He recaptured them from the clutches of the devil. He made them his own flock and tended them well. May his memory be blessed.
After reading this, many would wonder; ‘But our parish priest is not like John Maria Vianney”. True, there can be worthless shepherds too.
“Then the Lord said to me: Take once more the implements of a worthless shepherd. For I am now raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed, or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs” ( Zecheriah 11:15-16).
If it happened in Israel, it can happen in the Church too. But we are told to follow the good shepherd. Look around and you will see hundreds of good priests in the Church. Each one is a miniature of the Saint of Ars. Remember the video of a young Catholic Priest braving heavy rain in a busy street of an American city and rushing to a person, who was in his last moments following a motor accident. This good shepherd hurried there without anybody inviting him. His intention was to console the victim and give him the last sacrament. We don’t know his name, nor did he care for telling us who he is.
Remember the group of eight priests in the Dallas diocese, who volunteered to take the sacraments to those dying of Covid-19. Remember the hundreds of priests across countries, who against all odds, ensured that their flock are not deprived of the most essential things: the Holy Communion, Confession and Anointing the sick.
Let us thank God for sending us such wonderful pastors who risk everything to save a soul. They love their flock because they themselves love God. It is all about loving God of which St John Vianney used to sing:
“I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life.
I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You.
I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally…
My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You,
I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath”.
If you find yourself blessed with this article, do not hesitate to share it with your pastor.
May Jesus the good shepherd keep all of us safe in this perilous times.