Posts Tagged ‘Holiness’

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Today, at the Invocation 2012 festival, held at Oscott College, Birmingham, young adults and religious alike welcomed the relic of the heart of St John Vianney.

But what are relics? Why venerate them? And what can we learn from St John Vianney? Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury Diocese, who was instrumental in bringing the relic from France to the UK for the first time, gave an inspiring and engaging keynote addressing these topics.

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Bishop Davies began by saying that relics of Saints were brought over by Britain’s first missionaries, as they evangelised the island. They awaken hope of holiness in people, as they provide a tangible link with the Communion of Saints. As relics had a role in the first evangelisation of the British Isles, so they should have a role in the New Evangelisation.

We were reminded that we are given our lives, in order to give them away, to serve God. Each and every person was no accident, but willed and loved by God, and everyone has a place on His team, the winning team. There are different positions- centres, forwards, wing, but God’s team is unlike a football team, as there are no mistakes in God’s team selection. By giving ourselves wholeheartedly, we can serve God.

How can St John Vianney help us to become more holy? Bishop Mark gave us a punchy summary of this inspirational saint, who battled against the odds and overcame many hurdles in order to answer God’s call for him to become a priest.

Born in France in 1786, John Vianney grew up during the French revolution, where attending Mass was illegal and priests were forced into hiding, conducting secret services. Leaving school at the age of 9, he helped his father on the family farm, where eventually, his father reluctantly let him leave to train for the priesthood. He found this challenging, as he had left school at such a young age. His studies were interrupted after he was summoned to fight in Napoleon’s army. He quickly deserted and spent time in hiding. When deserters were pardoned, he returned and was sent to a seminary, although he was kicked out for being ‘too slow’. He eventually became a priest in 1815.

As a priest, he was appointed to the parish of Ars, a small parish known for its lack of faithful. There, his day started at 1am, when he heard confession of the locals and people who travelled far and wide. He spent up to 18 hours a day in the confessional and historians estimate he heard the confessions of 20% of the French population of the day!

As an  elderly priest, unable to talk, he would simply stand on the altar and point towards the altar to the tabernacle, in which the Real Presence was enclosed.

His body was exhumed in 1904, and found to be incorrupt.Image

Saint Vianney abandoned himself to God, filling his days with prayer and service to God. His heart symbolises a heart given and consumed by divine love. How can we draw inspiration from this in our everyday lives? Bishop Davies said we do not need to start our days at 1am in prayer, but had a more practical suggestion: get up two minutes earlier than necessary, and devoting those few minutes to God at the beginning of our day.

May the heart of St John Vianney awaken our hearts and bring  us closer to God, as we hobble along the path to holiness, and may his great sacrifices throughout his life encourage us to make small sacrifices every day.

See the video below for a short clip of Bishop Mark Davies’ talk