Gospel Reflection for the
TwentiethSunday in Ordinary Time
St John Vianney’s Spiritual Force
This highly focused sense of mission is always one of the signs of a mature Christian.
A short anecdote about St John Vianney illustrates this sense of mission simply but eloquently.
St John Vianney was a parish priest in the little town of Ars, in France, in the 1800s.
He spent his entire priesthood ministering to that small village in that small parish church.
But by the final years of his ministry, he was world famous.
Pilgrims from every continent made the cumbersome journey to the backwoods town and waited in huge lines to go to confession with the saint.
St John had the gift of reading souls, and would often list his penitents’ sins before they had a chance to say them, or remind them of sins they had forgotten or were trying to hide.
He was also famous for his nightly battles with the devil, who was so angered by this simple, holy priest that he would throw him around his bedroom and set his bed on fire.
How did a poorly educated French peasant become such a world-renowned spiritual force? It wasn’t extraordinary intelligence – he barely passed his exams in seminary. It wasn’t extraordinary natural talents – he didn’t have any. It was extraordinary love. It was an extraordinary sense of mission: the fire that burned in Christ’s heart had completely consumed his heart too.
When he received his first assignment, he had to travel from the seminary to the parish on foot. And he didn’t know the way. So as he approached the vicinity, he stopped a farmer and asked him if he knew where Ars was. The farmer said yes, and the future saint responded, saying, “If you show me the way to Ars, I’ll show you the way to heaven.”
That’s a man with a mission.
(From ePriest – August 2022)