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St John Vianney, the Curé of Ars
(southeastern France) (entered heaven this day in 1859)
So, my prosperous young nephew, what is it you will be doing with all that money you’ve made this summer? I know; it’s none of my business. But it is Christ’s business. The talents and opportunities that enabled you to have such a lucrative vacation came, ultimately, from him. And he gives his gifts for a reason. So the least you can do is be responsible with them. So as you savor your treasure, keep today’s saint in mind – he was wise with his dollars.
St John Vianney is the only parish priest who stayed a parish priest his whole life and is now a canonized saint. He was just a country boy from southeastern France. His father resisted his vocation and he had a terrible time completing the studies required for ordination. When he made his way to his assignment in the little town of Ars, where religious fervor had been doused by the bloody persecutions of the French revolution, he began the long and difficult transformation of his parishioners. The first thing he did was take on extraordinary personal penances to make up for their sins. Besides thirty years of daily (and violent) visitations by the Devil (who set his bed on fire one time), constant envious calumny from his fellow priests, and unending financial stress upon his numerous charitable projects (sometimes he had to resort to miracles in order to feed his orphans – one time, for example, the cook ended up making 200 pounds of bread from a few pounds of flour that the saint had blessed), from the very beginning a growing number of pilgrims deluged his confessional morning till night, sometimes requiring him to hear confession for 15 hours a day. Though his dedication and holiness produced prodigious results (he could read souls and he prophesied about people’s future on a regular basis, as a way to help their conversion; he performed a steady flow of miraculous healings; and the people of his town thoroughly cleaned up their act) a burning desire for the silence and solitude of the contemplative life never left him. Three times he even tried to “escape” from Ars to a nearby Carthusian monastery, but upon the bishop’s orders, he always returned.
Towards the end of his life, the flood of pilgrims filled his parish coffers with donations. He was able to finish fixing up the parish grounds and school and pay off his debts. But the money kept pouring in. So what did he do with it? Did he move his “lifestyle” up a notch? Invest in a brand new buggy? Nope. He started to sponsor “perpetual missions” in neighboring parishes. These were like little foundations that would finance a missionary priest (or two) to come yearly to preach a parish mission. They were designed to make sure everyone gets to confession, to rekindle the fire of faith, and to gather in any sheep who may have strayed from the Lord. They were expensive affairs. So St John would save up his pilgrimage donations until he had enough for a mission, then he would send it off. Then he would start saving again, and sponsor another. When he would get close to having the right amount, he would even go begging to make up the difference, so eager was he to get another mission off the ground.
That’s the right attitude to have towards money. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the normal comforts of life, but in the end, using money wisely, in accordance with truly Christian priorities – that’s the way to “store up your treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust can destroy them”, as our Lord said (Matthew 6:20).
Your devoted uncle,