The month of June we traditionally remember the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The image of the Sacred Heart came into sharp focus during the period that Europe experienced the Black Plague and other natural disasters and hardships that took their toll on human life. In a way it was a reminder of the merciful love of Jesus and that despite present troubles we are not abandoned. The Sacred Heart reminds us even though God does not shield us from suffering and the troubles of life, He is always there to help us through and strengthen our broken hearts.
It also reminds us that, as the Scriptures repeat over and over again, that what afflicts humanity is a "hardness of heart" and only with hearts supple and open can we connect with the love of God through Jesus. That's why it's good for us to have an image of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary on display in our homes. When we are tempted to hardness of heart or the things that make our hearts hard, like resentment, unforgiveness, anger, lack of gratitude, the image of the Heart of Jesus can call us back and remind us to soak our hearts in the love of Jesus.
This year during our Priest Convocation we had the opportunity, all of the priests of our Diocese, to venerate the relic of St. John Vianney, who is the Patron Saint of Parish Priests. Actually, the relic was not scheduled to come to Phoenix on its US tour, but somebody made a phone call and we had it for about a day. Funny that our convocation was originally scheduled for September but as I told you got moved to May. So, I am sure there was a divine scheduling intervention to make both things converge. To my surprise the relic was the heart of St. John Vianney, completely intact even though it is several hundred years old! He was a priest who above all loved his people and did whatever it took to ensure their salvation.
For all of us Parish priests in the Diocese whose own hearts have been deeply troubled by the sins and crimes of some of our brothers it was a powerful uplift and a moment to remember that even though John Vianney suffered much hardship and rejection and harassment he never wavered in his love for souls. That's the primary duty of every Parish priest.
As I was praying with the relic, it seemed like a ton of grace washed over me. In my heart I heard the Saint say, "Do not worry, I have raised up many faithful and holy priests in this Diocese. Be not afraid." I realized that it will be alright. Policy and Procedures and training can help us a lot but they are no substitutes for sanctity. By the end of the Convocation it was obvious that the priests of our Dioceseunderstood that more than anything.
St. John Vianney lived at a time when faithlessness was rampant as was hostility to the Church in France. But his ministry in Ars set his parish on fire and helped bring aboutmuch renewal in the hearts of the faithful.
Let's pray that God raises up more John Vianney's for our age, Parish priests who can set the hearts of their parishioners on fire with divine love. Let's remember the Promises of the Sacred Heart for those who show devotion,that Jesus gave to St. Margaret Mary:
Holy Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment .
Fr. John B.