Thursday, October 1, 2009

International Priests Retreat in Ars, France - 2

St. Jean Vianney, the Curé d'Ars (the Pastor of Ars) became pastor of this town with a parish of 200 souls at the age of 32. At that time it was a little, unknown village about 40 km from the city of Lyon in France. I am sure that most priests would hope for more. He spent forty one years there as pastor to these people. Over this time he was to touch the hearts his people by showing to them God's mercy and the joy of being children of God. He awakened their faith by his preaching and expeccially by his prayer and his way of life.

His reputation soon grew as a confessor, and he drew to his side numerous pilgrims in search of the forgiveness of God and peace of heart. More than 90,000 people visited him during the last year of his life. When one reads his catechisms and sermons, you would hear over and over again of the goodness and mercy of God. He died in August, 1859 after giving his life up to the very end to Love. He was proclaimed a Saint by Pope Pius IX, and proclaimed "patron of all the pastors of the universe."

The mornings begin with a talk by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, O.P., Archbishop of Vienna. His talk on Tuesday was "Towards the Sources of Mercy." He used two episodes from the Gospels as the basis of his talk: Mark's account of the feeding of the 5000 and Matthew's telling of the healing of the Canaanite woman. The quote of the day for me was taken from the diaries of St. Faustina. Having given all of herself to Christ in love of him, Jesus says to her that she had however not given everything. She asks what else she could possibly give him. Jesus replies: "Give me your suffering and your miseries. They are the only things that you have that do not come from me."
Cardinal Schönborn also spent time on the account in the Gospels of the calling of the very first disciples, Andrew and John, in John's Gospel. When they ask him "where do you live" he simply replies "come and see." Jesus had no home, rather he lived "in the heart of his Father." He invites us to come and find our true home there as well.

Each morning concludeds with the Celebration of the Eucharist. Immediately behind me in the procession is Bishop Guy-Marie Bagnar of theDiocese of Belley-Ars. And behind him dimly is Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, USA.

The Mass was celebrated this day by Cardinal André Vingt-trois, the Archbishop of Paris. Cardinal Vingt-trois an I share one thing in common: we were both named Archbishop in 2005 and received the Pallium from Pope Benidict at the same Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in June of that year.

I ended up as one of the principal concelebrants at this Mass. On my right is Cardinal Schönborn and on my left, hidden by the candle, Bishop Sabio of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. On Cardinal Vingt-trois' right is Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, Bishop Guy-Marie Bagnard of Ars and a bishop from Benin, Africa.

The Deacon proclaims the Gospel. The server standing in front of the Ambo where the Gospel is read, is swinging the censer, going well above his head on either side.

Cardinal Vingt-trois spoke on John's Gospel, 1: 47-51, in particular on the references to the angels going up and down between heaven and earth. They are God's messengers. The priests are also God's messengers bringing heaven to their people and their people to heaven - a sacred, special and wonderful calling.

The Eucharist was celebrated with great solemnity. Here there are six servers kneeling before the altar at the Consecration of the Mass, four with incense, which is why the altar is somewhat blurred by the smoke from the incense. Surprisingly there was no coughing in the congregation!

One of the newer religious communities in France: the Community of the Beatitudes supplied the music ministry with some very talented musicians such as this Sister on the concert harp.

The 1200 priests present vested in the Basilica where the conferences were held, as there was no sacristy big enough for this amazin number of priests from all over the world.

Here's Fr. Tubale from our Archdiocese getting in place for the Mass.
The day resumed at 3:00 pm with a talk "The Holy Priest of Ars, witness of mercy," then an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament followed by the singing of Vespers, or Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. Following supper, there was an evening focusing on the Mercy of Christ in the lives of priests.
And that ended the day. More tomorrow.

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