Br Francis believes that it is through our trials that God is shaping us. Photo: Br Francis Tan

Seminarian Francis Tan

Every year, the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint John Mary Vianney, patron saint of all priests on August 4. However, this extraordinary model of holiness and priestly life was actually unknown to me until my Spiritual Director introduced this saint to me in the earlier years of my discernment.

Since then, St John Vianney has been a very close companion in my spiritual life, always gently encouraging and pointing me towards God.

“Show me the way to Ars, and I will show you the way to heaven” were the words of this saint to a young shepherd boy when he was on his way to Ars, his new parish assignment. These profound words of St John Vianney show the richness of his interior life and deep relationship with God. Every earthly moment of his life was directed towards God, putting his entire life into God’s hands, both in times of happiness and amid trials.

And, many trials did he face! St John Vianney faced great discouragement, especially when he was dismissed from the seminary due to his low aptitude for studies, as well as being assigned to Ars, a town of great indifference towards God.

However, despite these setbacks, he kept persevering through constant prayer and many voluntary penances, crying out to God, “O my God, grant me the conversion of my parish: I consent to suffer whatever you wish, for as long as I live.”

Filled with the ardent love that Christ has for his flock, this humble priest not only converted his entire town, but also the huge multitude of people that came from all over the world.

In fact, he would devote more than 15 or more hours daily just to hear confessions and it was there that countless miracles and extraordinary cures  would  take  place.

St John Vianney’s pastoral zeal was rooted in his deep devotion to the Eucharist and his desire to win as many souls as he could for Christ. He conformed his entire life to Christ and would be found deep in prayer even into the wee hours of the morning.

What attracts me to St John Vianney is his deep love and simplicity after the heart of Christ and the Church. One of his teachings included, “Here is a rule for everyday life: do not do anything which you cannot offer to God.”

It is this same single-heartedness and virtue of purity which I greatly desire to emulate and to live out in my life every day. It is definitely not easy but the life of this humble saint shows that it is possible as long as I keep turning to God daily and keep trying!

In my seminary formation, I have also come to a greater awareness of my own limitations and weaknesses. In such moments of discouragement, I would turn to St John Vianney for inspiration and encouragement to teach me to allow God into that very area itself.

Oftentimes it is very uncomfortable and painful but somehow, the grace of God would always see me through all of these moments. Truly it is as the saint himself said, “Do not distrust the providence of God. He who made your corn to grow will assuredly help to gather it in.”

It is through this total dependence on the grace of God that St John Vianney was transformed into the saint he probably never thought he could be! Deep within me, I also believe that it is through facing all of my own trials with the Lord that He is also forming and shaping me to become the saint that He wants me to be!

Life is a miracle with Jesus Christ and the life of St John Vianney is indeed a great testament and witness to the power of Christ’s transforming and redeeming love. Let us turn to St John Vianney for his encouragement especially in these trying times to be renewed in our love and dependence on God.

Let us also seek his intercession as the patron for all the priests in the world, especially for the priests in our diocese. Truly nothing is impossible for those who love God!

St John Mary Vianney, pray for us!

2nd year of formation in St Francis Xavier Major Seminary of Singapore