Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia - Encyclical on the Priesthood - Pope John XXIII - Part 17

The Obligation to Teach

82. So it is easy to realize what great joy it brought Our predecessors to point out an example like this to be imitated by those who guide the Christian people; for the proper and careful exercise of the teaching office by the clergy is of great importance. In speaking of this, St. Pius X had this to say: "We want especially to pursue this one point and to urge strongly that no priest has any more important duty or is bound by any stricter obligation." (86)

83. And so once again We take this warning which Our predecessors have repeated over and over again and which has been inserted in the Code of Canon Law as well, (87) and We issue it to you, Venerable Brethren, on the occasion of the solemn celebration of the centenary of the holy catechist and preacher of Ars.

84. In this regard We wish to offer Our praise and encouragement to the studies that have been carefully and prudently carried on in many areas under your leadership and auspices, to improve the religious training of both youngsters and adults by presenting it in a variety of forms that are specially adapted to local circumstances and needs. All of these efforts are useful; but on the occasion of this centenary, God wants to cast new light on the wonderful power of the apostolic spirit, that sweeps all in its path, as it is exemplified in this priest who throughout his life was a witness in word and deed for Christ nailed to the cross "not in the persuasive language devised by human wisdom, but in a manifestation of spiritual power." (88)

His Ministry in the Confessional

85. All that remains for Us to do is to recall at a little greater length the pastoral ministry of St. John M. Vianney, which was a kind of steady martyrdom for a long period of his life, and especially his administration of the sacrament of Penance, which calls for special praise for it brought forth the richest and most salutary fruits.

86. "For almost fifteen hours each day, he lent a patient ear to penitents. This work began early in the morning and continued well on into the night." (89) And when he was completely worn out and broken five days before his death and had no strength left, the final penitents came to his bed. Toward the end of his life, the number of those who came to see him each year reached eighty thousand according to the accounts. (90)

His Anguish Over Sins

87. It is hard to imagine what pain and discomfort and bodily sufferings this man underwent as he sat to hear Confessions in the tribunal of Penance for what seemed like endless periods of time, especially if you recall how weakened he was by his fasts, mortifications, sicknesses, vigils and lack of sleep.

88. But he was bothered even more by a spiritual anguish that took complete possession of him. Listen to his mournful cries: "So many crimes against God are committed"—he said— "that they sometimes incline us to ask God to end this world!... You have to come to the town of Ars if you really want to learn what an infinite multitude of serious sins there are. . . Alas, we do not know what to do, we think that there is nothing else to do than weep and pray to God."

89. And this holy man could have added that he had taken on himself more than his share of the expiation of these sins. For he told those who asked his advice in this regard: "I impose only a small penance on those who confess their sins properly; the rest I perform in their place." (91)

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