Humdingers from the Saints: St. John Vianney

Have you seen this video circulating?

I’m not sure that it’s gone viral, but I have seen it pop up on my newsfeed many times.

The man’s main point: the best way to disarm a bully is to show them that you are aware of all your weaknesses and imperfections, and you aren’t ashamed of them.

St. John Vianney did just this. Many things kept him from being ordained a priest, including poverty and wars, but the biggest issue was his academic intelligence. John Vianney was not a good student, and he failed his seminary examinations. Despite this, he was finally ordained at the age of 29; it was decided by his superiors his zeal and devotion, his sincerity, his love of God, and his humility compensated for his “academic under-qualification.”

He was assigned to be the pastor at a small country parish that had been without a priest for years. After a rocky start, and a lot of resistance, the townspeople finally realized the depth of their priest’s love for his flock. He was a gifted confessor; able to read souls and correct them in a firm yet gentle manner. Though he was terrified of public speaking and forgot his homily from time to time, people from neighboring villages flocked to his parish. John Vianney ignited a passion for Christ in the hearts of all those who came to him.

While his success in ministry should have been celebrated, pastors of the nearby churches became jealous. How was it that this “stupid” priest could even be ordained? These brother priests began to circulate a petition, demanding John Vianney unfit to be a priest. They recommended that the bishop remove him from his pastoral setting.

When St. John Vianney’s parishioners got hold of the petition, they brought it to their beloved shepherd. Heartbroken, they showed it to him, expecting him to be upset. Instead, after reading all the arguments that were laid out as to why he was unfit for priesthood, St. John Vianney nodded in agreement and added his own name to the petition. Obviously, the bishop did not remove him from his post.

I love this story. While St. John Vianney signed the petition out of his great humility (he knew he was unfit to be a priest, but allowed God to work through his weaknesses), I find it to be quite humorous. Can you imagine how the other priests must have reacted when they got the news that this man they hated actually agreed with them? Talk about disarming…

Actions really do speak louder than words.

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