St John Vianney
The Rt Rev Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, preached the first homily of the four-day visit of the relic of the heart of St John Vianney on Thursday evening, telling priests and deacons gathered from across the Diocese of Shrewsbury and beyond that the days of pilgrimage represented a moment to pray for fresh heart in the priesthood, in the mission of our parishes and for those who set out to respond to a vocation to the priesthood.
In the Mass in Wythenshawe, Manchester, concelebrated by jubilarian priests in the presence of the relic of the patron saint of parish priests, Bishop Davies urged the congregation to a renewed recognition of “the irreplaceable gift of Holy Orders and especially the ordained priesthood”.
The Bishop echoed the words of Blessed John Paul II in asking whether “we are doing all that is possible to awaken in the Christian people the beauty and necessity of the priesthood, to awaken new vocations, to encourage them and bring them to maturity”.
He acknowledged the failures and challenges facing many priests in recent times before concluding that this must always lead us back to what lies at the heart of the Catholic priesthood, “no other recognition can renew the heart of the ministerial priesthood except to discover and re-discover in St John Mary Vianney’s striking words … the priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus”.
Bishop Davies said: “Tonight with the jubilarians I would like us to remember those pastors who gave us the Sacraments from our earliest years, who offered the Mass for us, who taught us and cared for our souls throughout the course of our lives. In parish after parish people speak to me of the need of such priests for the future. Tonight we must translate this sense of need into something more than human appreciation to a recognition in faith of the irreplaceable gift of Holy Orders and especially of the ordained priesthood.
The relic of the heart of St John Vianney arrived Manchester Airport on the afternoon of 5 July and was taken to Wythenshaw as part of its first ever tour on British soil.
On Friday 6 July the relic will be venerated at a National Day of Prayer for the renewal of parish life and for vocations in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, before it is taken to St Michael’s and All Angels Church, Woodchurch, Wirral for compline later in the day. The Most Rev. Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, will be among the preachers at the cathedral.
On Saturday 7 July the relic will be venerated at St Wilfrid’s Church, Northwich, Cheshire, before it will be taken to Shrewsbury Cathedral. Later in the day the relic will be taken to the Invocations Annual National Vocations Conference in Birmingham at St Mary’s College, Oscott, Birmingham.
The relic will be present at the festival from Saturday evening when Bishop Davies addresses participants. Archbishop Vincent Nichols, and Archbishop Bernard Longley are expected to preach at the event on the Sunday.
The relic, which has been brought to England at the invitation of Bishop Davies, will be accompanied throughout the visit by the Rt Rev Guy Bagnard, Bishop of Belley-Ars, France, along with two priests of the Ars Diocese. It will return to France on Monday 9 July.