My husband and I know a wonderful priest, who we are blessed enough to call our spiritual director/confessor, who has really shown us God’s unconditional support and love for us in recent times. What is most remarkable about this priest is his availability for people. He has a posted schedule of when he is in the confessional, which is several times a week, several hours a day. He is also available for talking to people or confession out of this schedule, whenever anyone asks or calls. This is a conscious effort he makes, and definitely a service of love. Once, he explained to me that his job is much like a mother’s: his schedule is dependent on other people’s needs. People ask him when he is going to publish a book he’s been writing for a while (he is also a great scholar) and he says he has no idea and that is not even a priority for him. He explained to me that much like a mother sometimes can’t get to her own personal projects because she’s tending to children, he also doesn’t know how long his penitents are going to need in the confessional.
This has been a remarkable testimony of love for my husband and I. We have been going through changes and major life decision lately and his availability for us and solicitous help has been priceless. He has been a true father figure, listening selflessly and supporting us in our decisions.
This availability for people and dedication to the confessional reminded me of St. John Vianney, when his feast day occurred last week, on August 4th. The site divineoffice.org explains:
“Saint John Vianney was a French parish priest born in 1786. Known as the patron saint of priests, Saint Vianney became internationally respected for his pastoral care, confessional wisdom, and children’s catechesis.[…] He was appointed curé, minister of souls, and was known to spend up to 18 hours a day in the confessional. Over time, his methods rippled internationally, as up to tens of thousands of pilgrims traveled annually seek his counsel.”
I find it interesting that the patron saint of priests is not known for the books he published, great feats or remarkable numbers of conversions, but for his pastoral care. Eighteen hours a day in the confessional spells true dedication for me.
What St. John Vianney and the priest I know have in common ais that their priorities are straight. They aren’t looking for fame, but are truly looking to serve those that are placed in their care. A while back, I wrote about three categories of priorities: the essential, the necessary, and the nice. These two priests seem to have their priorities in order. Their prayer lives come first; both St. Vianney and this other priest I know spend much time in prayer. St. Vianney’s schedule sounds exhausting (like most saints): He would get up at four in the morning to pray before Mass. Then they focus on what is necessary and not what is nice. What is necessary is care for their sheep, especially listening to them and guiding them, like a true father.
The priest I spoke about is director of an oratory and of a student residence. The oratory does not have a lot of “extra” activities like groups or activities or even festivities. What it does have, though, functions like clockwork. It has a lot of Masses, several confessionals available all day, a monthly schedule which tells you saints’ feast days, has a little reflection from the Pope or a saint and announces a monthly conference. It is simple yet it focuses on the necessary: the Sacraments. I always wonder why parishes can’t follow this example.
St. John Vianney and my spiritual director are examples of holiness and of what I want to focus on in my own life. I tend to get caught up in millions of projects, ideas, crafts, errands, social events, etc. What I would really like to dedicate my number one concern to is my prayer life. Then I’d like to be available for my husband and for my daughter, firstly, and also to other people in my life. I’d like to do what is necessary for my vocation and state in life (take care of our home and family life) and, like this priest said, if I get around to publishing that book, I will. If not, it’s really not important.
St. John Vianney, pray for us!