Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia - Encyclical on the Priesthood - Pope John XXIII - Part 14

The Good Shepherd

61. We have no intention of trying to make a list of all the wonderful things done by this humble Cure of a country parish, who drew such immense crowds to the tribunal of Penance that some people, out of contempt, called him "a kind of nineteenth-century rabble-rouser"; (77) nor do We see any need of going into all of the particular ways in which he carried out his duties, some of which, perhaps, could not be accommodated to our times.

62. But We do want to recall this one fact—that this Saint was in his own times a model of pastoral devotion in a tiny community that was still suffering from the loss of Christian faith and morals that occurred while the French Revolution was raging. This was the mission and command received just before taking over his pastoral office: "You will find love of God in that parish; stir it up yourself." (73)

63. He proved to be a tireless worker for God, one who was wise and devoted in winning over young people and bringing families back to the standards of Christian morality, a worker who was never too tired to show an interest in the human needs of his flock, one whose own way of life was very close to theirs and who was prepared to exert every effort and make any sacrifice to establish Christian schools and to make missions available to the people: and all of these things show that St. John M. Vianney reproduced the true image of the good shepherd in himself as he dealt with the flock entrusted to his care, for he knew his sheep, protected them from dangers, and gently but firmly looked after them.

64. Without realizing it, he was sounding his own praises in the words he once addressed to his people: "Good shepherd! O shepherd who lives up to the commands and desires of Jesus Christ completely! This is the greatest blessing that a kind and gracious God can send to a parish." (74)

65. But there are three things in particular of lasting value and importance that the example of this holy man brings home to us and it is to these in particular that We would like to direct your attention, Venerable Brethren.

His Esteem for the Pastoral Office

66. The first thing that strikes Us is the very high esteem in which he held his pastoral office. He was so humble by disposition and so much aware through faith of the importance of the salvation of a human soul that he could never undertake his parish duties without a feeling of fear.

67. "My friend"—these are the words he used to open his heart to a fellow-priest—"you have no idea of how fearful a thing it is for a priest to be snatched away from the care of souls to appear before the judgment seat of God." (75)

68. Everyone knows—as We have already pointed out—how much he yearned and how long he prayed to be allowed to go off by himself to weep and to make proper expiation for what he called his miserable life; and We also know that only obedience and his zeal for the salvation of others got him to return to the field of the apostolate when he had abandoned it.

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