Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia - Encyclical on the Priesthood - Pope John XXIII - Part 16

Preacher and Catechist
76. Because, as is recorded, "he was always ready to care for the needs of souls," (80) St. John M. Vianney, good shepherd that he was, was also outstanding in offering his sheep an abundant supply of the food of Christian truth. Throughout his life, he preached and taught Catechism.

77. The Council of Trent pronounced this to be a parish priest's first and greatest duty and everyone knows what immense and constant labor John Vianney expended in order to be equal to carrying out this task. For he began his course of studies when he was already along in years, and he had great difficulty with it; and his first sermons to the people kept him up for whole nights on end. How much the ministers of the word of God can find here to imitate! For there are some who give up all effort at further study and then point too readily to his small fund of learning as an adequate excuse for themselves. They would be much better off if they would imitate the great perseverance of soul with which the Cure of Ars prepared himself to carry out this great ministry to the best of his abilities: which, as a matter of fact, were not quite as limited as is sometimes believed, for he had a clear mind and sound judgment. (81)

Obligation to Learn
78. Men in Sacred Orders should gain an adequate knowledge of human affairs and a thorough knowledge of sacred doctrine that is in keeping with their abilities. Would that all pastors of souls would exert as much effort as the Cure of Ars did to overcome difficulties and obstacles in learning, to strengthen memory through practice, and especially to draw knowledge from the Cross of Our Lord, which is the greatest of all books. This is why his Bishop made this reply to some of his critics: "I do not know whether he is learned; but a heavenly light shines in him." (82)

Model for Preachers
79. This is why Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, was perfectly right in not hesitating to offer this country Cure as a model for the preachers of the Holy City: "The holy Cure of Ars had none of the natural gifts of a speaker that stand out in men like P. Segneri or B. Bossuet. But the clear, lofty, living thoughts of his mind were reflected in the sound of his voice and shone forth from his glance, and they came out in the form of ideas and images that were so apt and so well fitted to the thoughts and feelings of his listeners and so full of wit and charm that even St. Francis de Sales would have been struck with admiration. This is the kind of speaker who wins the souls of the faithful. A man who is filled with Christ will not find it hard to discover ways and means of bringing others to Christ." (83)

80. These words give a wonderful picture of the Cure of Ars as a catechism teacher and as a preacher. And when, towards the end of his life on earth, his voice was too weak to carry to his listeners, the sparkle and gleam of his eyes, his tears, his sighs of divine love, the bitter sorrow he evidenced when the mere concept of sin came to his mind, were enough to convert to a better way of life the faithful who surrounded his pulpit. How could anyone help being moved deeply with a life so completely dedicated to Christ shining so clearly there before him?

81. Up to the time of his blessed death, St. .John M Vianney held on tenaciously to his office of teaching the faithful committed to his care and the pious pilgrims who crowded the church, by denouncing evil of every kind, in whatever guise it might appear, "in season, out of season" (84) and, even more, by sublimely raising souls to God; for "he preferred to show the beauties of virtue rather than the ugliness of vice." (85) For this humble priest understood perfectly how great the dignity and sublimity of teaching the word of God really is. "Our Lord"—he said—"who Himself is truth, has as much regard for His word as for His Body."

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