We hit the trifecta of Eucharistic saints last week: St. Alphonus Liguori on Monday, St. Peter Eymard on Tuesday and St. John Marie Vianney, the model for all priests, on Friday. I wrote about the first two Saints, but my computer got zapped at the Catholic Writers' Guild Conference. My son-in-law just removed the bugs. What follows is what I had intended to share last week.
Like Alphonsus and Peter, St. John Vianney gets to the heart of what it should mean to be a Catholic. Here is a sample of his wisdom on the Eucharist.
"There is nothing, so great as the Eucharist. If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us."
"We ought to visit him [Jesus in the Holy Eucharist] often. How dear to Him is a quarter of an hour spared from our occupations or from some useless employment, to come and pray to Him, visit Him, and console Him for all the ingratitude He receives! When He sees poor souls hurrying to Him, He smiles at them. They come with that simplicity which pleases Him so much, to ask pardon for all sinners, and for the insults of so many who are ungrateful."
Do we have sufficient faith, "to see God hidden in the priest like a light behind the glass, like wine mixed with water"? Have we taken our precious priests for granted? The Cure of Ars suggests we have.
"Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright but of love…Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth…What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods."
Our Holy Father held St. John Vianney up to all our priests during the Year for the Priest, affirming what this humble man had said: "A good shepherd, a priest after God’s Heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy."
How well our priests and our Church would be served if all of our priests strove to follow this saint's priestly example, treasured the priesthood as he did, and heeded his advice: "O, how great is the priest!...If he realized what he is, he would die…God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host." It is for these reasons he suggested that "we ought to pity a priest who celebrates Mass as if he were engaged in something routine."
God doesn't make mistakes. He chose each and everyone of our priests. He has called each of them to be "another Christ". He calls each of them, as well as each of us, to holiness. None of us can ever achieve that goal on our own. We can and will if we make the Eucharist, the source, center and summit of our daily lives.
Our priests are under an unrelenting attack. We must appreciate, love and support each of them. We must pray for them. We must fast on their behalf. We must thank them for standing up for the Truth and for making the Eucharist the center of their priestly lives. We must stand by them when they are attacked for defending the Faith.
We must let them know that we want to accompany them on the journey to holiness and eternal life.