St. John Vianney’s seminary education got off to a rather rocky start. In fact, his poor previous education nearly kept him out of the seminary. Then he had trouble understanding lectures in Latin. He was only able to overcome this with some private tutoring and amazing dedication to his calling to become a priest. He was eventually ordained, and in sainthood, he is the patron saint of parish priests.
The Psalmist today sings, “The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock.” St .John Vianney is the image of the good shepherd who guarded the flock zealously. He considered it his mission to heal the broken and drive out the demons of sin. He was known to spend 11 or 12 hours in the confessional every day in the winter, 16 hours in the summer! He said that he drew his strength for this ministry from the Eucharist.
In fact, he tried to bring everyone together for the public worship that was the Eucharist. About public and private prayer, he said: “Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.”
As we are gathered here for our public prayer today, we pray for that mighty fire to well up in all of us so that our dark world can be set ablaze with the fire of God’s love.