By: Rev. Fr. Severo C. Caermare
Rector Saint Mary’s Theologate Seminary
Published by: The Mahogany, the Official Publication of Saint Mary’s Theologate, Gango, Ozamiz City
Speaking about Ars Sur Formans, France or simply Ars, means speaking about St. John Vianney, whose name is identified with the parish where he ministered while he was alive.
With the proclamation of the “Year for Priests” during which the life and catechesis of St. John Vianney serve as points for reflection, perhaps more than ever, we have a growing desire to visit Ars where the incorruptible body of St. John Vianney is displayed and to tread on the holy ground where the saint successfully “sowed the love of God.” To visit Ars could mean: to witness, first hand, “holiness in action” (the impact of a holy priest in a parish) and eventually experience conversion.
I have been to Ars (thanks to the DOPIM bishops) but I have never been a parish priest. The title “parish priest” has been so elusive since I was ordained a priest. Influenced by the thought that the fulfillment of a priest is to become a parish priest, I keep asking myself: “Where is my Ars? “Where ‘Ars’ you? “When would I become a parish priest?”
I am quite sure that I’m not alone with this feeling. We who are assigned to institutions long for a day when our appointments expire and a parish assignment be given. But what if it does not happen? Are we left sulking and discontent with our priesthood?
Having visited Ars during the feast of St. John Vianney, where Holy Hour, confessions, a procession of the Eucharist were prominent, opened to me many realizations. Ars may not be too far away. It is not somewhere out there. Much more it is not necessarily a parish. It is right at our doorstep, the place where our bishop assign us: whether in schools seminarians, chancery or other religious institutions. They are our “Ars.” As Ars is the mission territory of St. John Vianney, our individual assignments are our place of mission, where through our preaching and witnessing, we sow the seeds for love of God.
Ars is where we are called to live out our vocation in an intimate union with God and become an apostle of conversion.
The great saint did not begin well: he had to face hostile priest in the neighborhood, to go through the ordeals of spiritual life, a target for opposing villagers and he even felt so unworthy of his charge that he tried to run away from his parish three times. Yet his love overcame his inner sufferings.
With St. John Vianney, patron of all priests (diocesan and religious) assigned in a parish or other ministries may we attain holiness not by doing great and extraordinary things for the Lord but by doing ordinary things yet with great love and devotion in dispensing our priestly duties wherever we may be. Ars is where we are now!