THE GRACE OF FORMATION IN ARS

THE GRACE OF ARS

With a little more than a thousand inhabitants, the village of Ars offers a contrast with its smallness and its notoriety. This place would have remained unknown if it had not been for the man who made it famous 150 years ago by living there: St John-Mary Vianney. This pastor became “the heavenly patron of all the Parish Priests of the world” by living the Catholic priesthood in its mystery in an exemplary way, in such a way that he left an unforgettable image and example. It is something unique in Christian history, that the name of the village is so identified with the man who was its Parish Priest. If “contemporary man listens more readily to witnesses than to teachers”, he can find in this ‘fascinating prophet’ the beauty of the Sacrament of Holy Order.

“Words may persuade, but example leads”. In no other place can one feel better how “it is not only a burden that we have received, a function to accomplish in the service of the people of God. People can speak of the priesthood as a function, understanding it as the function of presiding over the Eucharistic assembly. But we are not to be reduced to mere functionaries. Firstly, because it is in our being that we are marked by a special character which configures us to Christ the Priest, making us able to work in the name of Christ the Head in person” (St John XXIII). St John-Mary Vianney fully lived out the demands which flow from this configuration such that he had an eminent sanctity which transfigured the exercise of his priesthood.

THE RELEVANCE OF THE CURÉ OF ARS TODAY

The heroic example and the blazing words of the Curé remain today a source of inspiration for all, but in a particular way for priests. “The figure of the Curé of Ars does not pass away”, but remains like a letter written by the Holy Spirit for the priests of the whole world. What strikes you at first sight is how he was so fully identified with his ministry, through the radical gift of self.

The visit of Pope St John Paul II in 1986 has given a new impetus in underlining all the force of his spiritual figure, as he declared three times: “the Curé of Ars remains, for all countries, a model without equal both of the fulfilment and of the holiness of the ministry.” In this renewed momentum, the Pope named as Bishop of Belley (now Belley-Ars) Mgr Guy-Marie Bagnard, who opened a seminary and created a priestly fraternity under the patronage of the Curé of Ars: the Society of St John-Mary Vianney.

The SJMV seeks to make the figure of St John-Mary Vianney shine out, who, by his life, can bring about a renewal in the life of the priesthood in the universal Church. It wants to broadcast what it has learned of the Curé, and what the Church has recognised as essential for each priest-disciple of Jesus

PRIESTLY IDENTITY AND FORMATION

The figure of St John-Mary Vianney, which expresses clearly what a priest is, remains as the source of inspiration for developing formation coherent with the identity of the priest which is put forward by the Church. Effectively “the knowledge of the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood is the necessary foundation, the most sure guide, and the strongest stimulus for developing in the Church pastoral work for the discernment of priestly vocations and the formation of those who are called to the ordained ministry”. (Pastores dabo vobis)

This identity underpins the type of formation which needs to be given in preparation for the priesthood and throughout the whole of one’s priestly life. That is the first foundation of the International Seminary of the SJMV. The seminary gives a course of priestly formation consistent with the mind of the Church and enlightened within by the living contact with a saint, in the very same place where he lived his priestly ministry. This coming together of Ars and the seminary is a gift of God which offers its contribution to the renewal of the diocesan priesthood desired by the Second Vatican Council.

“The Curé of Ars, in his time, was able to change the hearts and lives of so many people, because he managed to make them perceive the merciful love of the Lord. Our age also has an urgent need for such a proclamation and witness to the truth of Love.”

Benedict XVI

THE GRACE OF ARS

With a little more than a thousand inhabitants, the village of Ars offers a contrast with its smallness and its notoriety. This place would have remained unknown if it had not been for the man who made it famous 150 years ago by living there: St John-Mary Vianney. This pastor became “the heavenly patron of all the Parish Priests of the world” by living the Catholic priesthood in its mystery in an exemplary way, in such a way that he left an unforgettable image and example. It is something unique in Christian history, that the name of the village is so identified with the man who was its Parish Priest. If “contemporary man listens more readily to witnesses than to teachers”, he can find in this ‘fascinating prophet’ the beauty of the Sacrament of Holy Order.

“Words may persuade, but example leads”. In no other place can one feel better how “it is not only a burden that we have received, a function to accomplish in the service of the people of God. People can speak of the priesthood as a function, understanding it as the function of presiding over the Eucharistic assembly. But we are not to be reduced to mere functionaries. Firstly, because it is in our being that we are marked by a special character which configures us to Christ the Priest, making us able to work in the name of Christ the Head in person” (St John XXIII). St John-Mary Vianney fully lived out the demands which flow from this configuration such that he had an eminent sanctity which transfigured the exercise of his priesthood.

THE RELEVANCE OF THE CURÉ OF ARS TODAY

The heroic example and the blazing words of the Curé remain today a source of inspiration for all, but in a particular way for priests. “The figure of the Curé of Ars does not pass away”, but remains like a letter written by the Holy Spirit for the priests of the whole world. What strikes you at first sight is how he was so fully identified with his ministry, through the radical gift of self.

The visit of Pope St John Paul II in 1986 has given a new impetus in underlining all the force of his spiritual figure, as he declared three times: “the Curé of Ars remains, for all countries, a model without equal both of the fulfilment and of the holiness of the ministry.” In this renewed momentum, the Pope named as Bishop of Belley (now Belley-Ars) Mgr Guy-Marie Bagnard, who opened a seminary and created a priestly fraternity under the patronage of the Curé of Ars: the Society of St John-Mary Vianney.

The SJMV seeks to make the figure of St John-Mary Vianney shine out, who, by his life, can bring about a renewal in the life of the priesthood in the universal Church. It wants to broadcast what it has learned of the Curé, and what the Church has recognised as essential for each priest-disciple of Jesus: “the teaching which continues to be broadcast to us of the holy Curé of Ars is that, at the basis of his pastoral commitment, the priest must have an intimate personal union with Christ, which he must cultivate and expand day by day.” (Benedict XVI)

PRIESTLY IDENTITY AND FORMATION

The figure of St John-Mary Vianney, which expresses clearly what a priest is, remains as the source of inspiration for developing formation coherent with the identity of the priest which is put forward by the Church. Effectively “the knowledge of the nature and mission of the ministerial priesthood is the necessary foundation, the most sure guide, and the strongest stimulus for developing in the Church pastoral work for the discernment of priestly vocations and the formation of those who are called to the ordained ministry”. (Pastores dabo vobis)

This identity underpins the type of formation which needs to be given in preparation for the priesthood and throughout the whole of one’s priestly life. That is the first foundation of the International Seminary of the SJMV. The seminary gives a course of priestly formation consistent with the mind of the Church and enlightened within by the living contact with a saint, in the very same place where he lived his priestly ministry. This coming together of Ars and the seminary is a gift of God which offers its contribution to the renewal of the diocesan priesthood desired by the Second Vatican Council.

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