John Mary Vianney was born into a farmer’s family in the small town of Dardilly in France on 8 May 1786. His family was materially poor but rich in humanity and in faith. Baptized on the day of his birth, as was the good custom in those days, he spent most of his childhood and adolescence years working in the fields and tending the flocks that even at the age of 17 he was still illiterate. St. John Mary Vianney’s mother was a woman of great piety and who led her son into the faith at an early age. He once remarked; and I quote “I owe a debt to my mother. Virtues go easily into the hearts of their children”.
He was a man with a vision who overcame the numerous obstacles in Pastoral Ministry and performed deeds that seemed impossible. The first place he visited on his appointment to Ars was the parish church which was in an absolute dilapidated condition and which saddened him greatly; he also noticed that the lamp in the sanctuary not burning and the tabernacle was empty. In the face of such grim reality, he never gave up hope; instead he firmly resolved to ensure that the house of God should always be opened to all.
His pastoral zeal brought about radical spiritual transformation in the community due to his exemplary saintly life. He knew that he had to live by example. His neighbours often noticed him walking to the church through the cemetery with a lantern in his hand, long before daybreak to pray in the church. He combined prayer with action, visited his parishioners’ and understood their problems and hardships and tried to solve them.
He instilled in his parishioners the value of prayer especially the gift of the HOLY MASS. He instructed them using simple language, the events of daily life through enduring faith and special love of God, this was his principle throughout his life. By day or at night he was always available to his parishioners. Through his selfless life he brought about a spiritual renewal that touched the lives of people of his parishioners. He often told his parishioners’, “You have less to suffer in following the cross than serving the world and its pleasures.”
His work as a confessor was his most remarkable accomplishment. The great miracle of the Cure d’ Ars, “was his confessional, besieged day and night.” It can be said with equal truth that his greatest miracle was the conversion of sinners. Once, a hardened sinner approached him for confession “How long is it since your last confession?” “Forty years” the man replied. “Forty years!” exclaimed the saint. After the man had made a hasty calculation he replied “Yes it is true”. Later through the long hours of confession the man was converted. St. John Mary Vianney possessed the gift of being able to understand the troubling soul of people instantly and to feel at once their spiritual trouble afflicting them; it is through such times of confessions that he was able to draw people from their sins and drawn into becoming faithful Christians.
St. John Mary Vianney gave God, the permission to use him as a vehicle for thousands of conversions. He is for the priests today an example of how God works wonderfully to those who dedicate their lives to Him and seek to do his will. He was a man devoted to his vision of a priestly vocation. Today the Catholic Church looks up to him as one of its greatest saints simply because he was faithful to his duties and to the flock of Christ. Through his pastoral approach, he brought about a spiritual renewal that touched the people of the whole of France.
To live the vision of St John Mary Vianney, Archdiocese of Calcutta, under the guidance of Archbishop Thomas D’Souza, in collaboration with Archdiocesan pastoral core team members (APPCoT) has been regularly planning and executing the pastoral plan for last two and half years so as to bring renewal and make our parishes participatory, vibrant and a communion of communities . In this process of evolving the pastoral plan more effectively, we have recently completed the zonal –wise pastoral plan animation programme of the 12 concerns at all the four deaneries by July 2015.
In this regard, Inauguration of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan in the Parishes – the last, crucial and imperative phase of the plan - will be on 9th August, 2015.
Parish involvement and facilitation is the one and only way to make this Pastoral initiative meaningful, action-oriented and successful. As we celebrate the feast day of St John Mary Vianney with great rreverence, joy and happiness, let us also reflect today on the challenges that confront our churches and parishes with the vision and foresight of Saint John Vianney.
- Fr. Dominic Gomes ( Vicar General)