My Spring Reading List!

After the heavier reading of Lent, I thought I'd like to continue some inspirational spiritual reading through the Easter season as well. 

Here's my book list!

Private and Pithy lessons from Scripture - Mother Angelica
Little Book of Life Lessons - Mother Angelica
Three to Get Married - Fulton Sheen
The Little Oratory
Diary Sister Faustina
Getting Past Perfect - Kate Wicker
The Words We Pray - Amy Welborn
Perfectly Yourself - Matthew Kelly 
Crossing the Threshold of Hope - Pope John Paul II

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Feast of St. John Vianney

St. John Vianney

Feast day: August 4

St. John Vianney was born Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney on May 8, 1786 in Dardilly, France. He was the fourth of six children born to Matthew, a poor peasant farmer,  and Marie Vianney
Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney. Three years later, the French Revolution started, and the year after that persecution of the clergy started in earnest. He had to prepare for his first holy communion in private with two nuns who had last their convent in the revolution. He also prepared for his confirmation in secret.

At age 20 he was allowed to travel to Ecully to study, but the gaps in his education hurt his progress and he struggled with Latin, but worked hard. A victim of his times, St. John was drafted into Napoleon Bonepart's army but became ill two days into his conscription and eventually became a deserter.

After the war, he was able to return to his studies and was eventually ordained in 1815. In 1818 he was sent to be the parish priest of Ars-en-Dombes, an isolated village some distance from Lyon. He quickly became a noted preacher and a celebrated confessor with a reputation for insight into the hearts of his penitents.  He was able to convert even the most hardened sinner with a word. He would spend as many as 18 hours a day in the confessional. Tens of thousands of people came to visit this obscure parish priest and Ars turned into a place of pilgrimage. 

Pilgrimages to the Shrines of France

St. John worked hard and lived simply. he was swarmed by people and loved by the crowds.
The devil tormented St. John throughout his ministry. He rocked his bed and made noises at night. The devil even mocked the saint by calling him a "potato eater!"  One story goes that St. John was so tired one evening that when the devil started his torments, the saint looked at him and simply said, "Oh, it's you," before he went back to sleep.  The French State recognized his eminence by awarding him the medal of the Légion d’Honneur in 1848, and he sold it and gave the money to the poor.

He died August 4, 1859

On  October 3, 1874, Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney was proclaimed Venerable by Pius IX and on January 8, 1905, he was enrolled among the Blessed. Pope Pius X proposed him as a model to the parochial clergy. On May 31, 1925, Pope Pius XI canonized him. His feast is kept on August 4.

Favorite Quotes from Saint John-Marie Vianney:

"Contradictions bring us to the Foot of the Cross, and the Cross brings us to the Gates of Heaven . . ."

The Cur d'Ars on the Priesthood:

"O how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office until he is in Heaven . . . Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an Angel. Will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No.

If I were to meet a priest and an Angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the Angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, "There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul. " At the sight of a church tower, you may say, "What is there in that place?" "The Body of Our Lord. " "Why is He there?" "Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass. "

The priest has the key to of the Heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of his wealth . . . the priest is not a priest for himself, he does not give himself absolution, he does not administer the Sacraments to himself . . . he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish 20 years without priests; they will worship beasts. When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because when there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice, there is no religion."

The Curé d'Ars
Father Lawrence Lew, OP via Flickr, licensed cc. 

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"We must never lose sight of the fact that we are either saints or outcasts, that we must live for Heaven or for Hell; there is no middle path in this. You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God.

"If people would do for God what they do for the world, what a great number of Christians would go to Heaven."

This is a re-posting of something I wrote in 2005. It still gets a lot of people looking for it.
There has been much discussion, much of it heated, and misunderstanding regarding a quote by St. John Vianney to a married woman regarding childbearing. I have found the context and quote in its entirety from a reliable source.

This is from the book The Cure D'Ars: St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney by Abbe Francis Trochu

This book is described thus:

The Cure D'Ars - Trochu. The definitive life, based on the official "Process of Beatification and Canonization," and thus totally factual and documented. Of humble education and assigned to a forgotten farmers' village, he attracted the whole world to Ars and was proclaimed "Patron Saint of Parish Priests" in 1929. He ate one meal a day, slept only a few hours a night, heard confessions up to 17 hours a day, converted thousands. His body remains incorrupt. A grace-filled story of total love of God!

Page 311-312

Married people were shown the nobility of their calling and he exhorted them to fulfill holily its duties. A lady of the name of Ruet, of Ouroux, in the department of the Rhone, had already a large family and was about to become a mother once more. She came to Ars in order to seek courage at the feet of its holy Cure. She had not long to wait, for M. Vianney summoned her from amid the crowd. "You look very sad my child." he said, when she was on her knees in his confessional. "Oh! I am so advanced in years Father!" :He comforted , my child... if you only knew the women who will go to hell because they did not bring into the world the children they should have given to it."

"Come now my little one, he said with fatherly kindliness to the woman who confided to him her anxiety because of her large family. "do not be alarmed at your burden' our Lord carries it with you. The good God does well all that he does: when he gives many children to a young mother it is that he deems her worthy to rear them. It is a mark of confidence on his part."

Now note what he is not saying. Father John is not saying that infertile women through no fault of their own are going to hell. Nor is he saying that women who for grave and serious reasons who have practiced marital chastity with their spouses are going to hell. Those two mischaracterizations of what the saint said are simply wrong. He said nothing of the sort.

So why would a woman who does not bring children into the world possibly be damned to hell for it?

First let's look at what the church actually teaches:

1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"616

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."618

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."619

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":621

Father, accept this offering

from your whole family.

Grant us your peace in this life,

save us from final damnation,

and count us among those you have chosen.622

So what did St. John really say?

He affirmed that hell exists. The church teaches this. He affirmed that it is possible to go there and that in fact, Hell is not empty. The church teaches this. The church teaches that to die in a state of mortal sin dooms one to Hell. The church teaches that contraception is an intrinsically evil act and in fact could be mortally sinful. Abortion is murder and likewise could be a mortally sinful act.

The church teaches and affirms that as well.

What St. John said in his own way, was absolutely solid Catholic teaching and absolutely true.

But I also see something else besides the teaching on birth control and abortion. Having a lot of children wears you down, literally. It takes your time, your energy, your body etc and while it does that, at least in my experience it allows the mother to be molded and more pliable in a special way to become holy! Yes, there are opportunities for other sins, like impatience, but in a special way, we can see the simplicity of what God wants for us in the faces and lives of our children as they grow from babies to adulthood. And I think in particularly tough cases... like me!! it takes a lot of children to wear away that stubbornness, willfulness, and selfishness. The physical act of giving birth to the recovery to dealing with a teenager who has willful issues of his own, it all works together to make me a better person!

I realize that all of that might be foreign to a "once saved, always saved" variety Christian, but that is what I believe St. John Vianney was saying, I think that's what he meant, and that is why I love that particular quote.

St John Mary Vianney
Father Lawrence Lew, OP via Flickr, licensed cc. 

More Information!
Saints and Angels OnLine
Miracles in Ars


Priest peg saints
Prayer of St. John Vianney

St. John Vianney has a special place in the heart of our family.  When my firstborn was getting ready for his first confession, we read The Cure of Ars: The Story of Saint John Vianney, Patron Saint of Parish Priests.   It has since become our tradition to read it for each child before they make their confession.  It is an engaging book even for adults and it made a big influence on my children.  They were particularly impressed with how St. John withstood mocking and insults from the devil and got to the point of actually unimpressed with Satan's antics.  Many a dinner time my children would tease one another by jeering, "Potato eater!" at one another as they dug into their mashed or baked potatoes, as that was one of the insults Satan used against St. John because his diet consisted in large part of potatoes.

My third son, Gabriel, actually took John Vianney as his confirmation name.  When the bishop confirmed him however he only called him "John."  That was a little disappointing. There are several St. Johns and each of them have a story and had special gifts; I guess I wanted to hear the differentiation. This St. John is certainly a standout.