The Church celebrates today the patron saint of all priests, St. Jean-Marie Vianney, the Cure d’Ars. He is famous and beloved for his depth of holiness and his exceptionally dedicated service to the people of his parish.
The collect in the missal for this memorial recalls and praises Jean-Marie’s “priestly zeal.” Mindful of that prayer, I found a certain irony in the way I spent this day for the first time as a priest, myself. As the schedule worked out, I was “off” today and went kayaking with another priest and a transitional deacon.
Yet, while I didn’t spend the day going about the labors that are typical of my life as a parish priest, I realize that I did do the most essential work I have as a priest. That is, I celebrated Mass today. Just like I have done every day since my ordination, I offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. No other efforts I undertake on any day―no matter how enthusiastically―amount to anything by comparison to what is accomplished by the offering of the Mass. How could one be any more consumed with “priestly zeal” that to seek to celebrate Mass faithfully, fervently, and fruitfully?
In the words of the Cure d’Ars, himself: “All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison, for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.”