The Parish Thermometer: Weekly Message for 08-03-2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

August 4 is the feast day of Saint John Vianney, patron of parish priests.

Like a lot of saints, the Curé d’Ars was one of a kind. 

By worldly standards, he wasn’t very bright, yet he was known to be able to read souls. 

His diet was lean, his sleep short, his harassment by the devil unnervingly frequent – and his pastoral effectiveness legendary. 

John Vianney would spend up to 16 hours hearing confessions, including those of the countless pilgrims who flocked from afar to seek out the holy curé.

Those long hours in the confessional might have been the most telling thermometer of his effectiveness as a parish priest. For his sacrifices and preaching helped to draw thousands of people to recognize their need for God’s mercy through the sacrament.

One could say that the number of confessions remains a very telling sign of the health of a parish. Steady streams of penitents can indicate that the Gospel is indeed penetrating hearts and minds.

On the other hand, thin confession lines could be a sign that something is lacking in a parish, no matter how good the liturgical music might be.

Frequent use of confession is not only a gauge of parish life. It can serve the same role in our lives.

It’s a sacrament we don’t want to take advantage of only when serious sin has darkened our soul. It’s a sacrament meant to help us grow in virtue and holiness on a continual basis.

To grow in appreciation for the sacrament, you might find From Sorrow to Joy, our Retreat Guide on confession helpful.

Like one of those many electronic thermometers pointed at us during the pandemic, confession can be a way for us to monitor our own spiritual temperature.

In Christ,

Father Edward McIlmail, LC
Ask a Priest contributor

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