04 August 2009

August 4

Today is the feast of St. John Vianney. He is the patron saint of parish priests and the particular patron of this year of the priesthood. So today please pray for priests -- including for me!

One of the points from St. John Vianney's life that I believe it is important for priests to remember is how much the devil hated him. Of course, the devil hates everything that God has made. The devil particularly hates priests because they have the means of dispensing grace and mercy so widely, and the devil really hates grace and mercy. This particular hatred of the devil is one of the reasons, I believe, that we priests find ourselves in trouble so often -- not only big trouble, which is too often the case, but trouble with little sins and failures, which often do just as well to keep people away from the grace and mercy that we could be giving: the petty preference, the small indulgence, the unchecked word in anger or exasperation. These small sins of priests often drive others away. The devil loves to trip us up. That is one of the reasons he hated St. John Vianney so much: his normal method of tripping up a priest, temptation, didn't work very well with the Cure. So the devil resorted to much cruder methods to show his hatred openly as seen in the physical torments St. John Vianney endured from the devil. The devil usually prefers not to show himself, but he was so frustrated by the mercy flowing from the confessional of Ars that could not control himself!

I am not suggesting that I can use Flip Wilson's old excuse: "the devil made me do it." But I do think that we priests should recognize the devil's hand in the little exceptions we might be tempted to make for ourselves. See the ugly hand that offers them and turn away quickly! Unfortunately, the devil is not so frustrated by me. I pray that someday he will be.

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