One of the most common phrases I hear is “today’s culture is falling apart.” With economic crises, countries with problematic governments, hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their countries in the Middle East, and countless moral issues, we often ask ourselves, “Where is society going? Can we do anything?”
From 1789 till 1799, which wasn’t so long ago, France underwent one of the most horrifying periods of its history, the French Revolution. Although one could argue that the world progressed because of it, the period itself was quite frightening. Terror reigned in the country, with people living for a decade under the constant fear of being guillotined. Death and blood were so common, that people didn’t even stop to look twice when they heard the blade of Madame La Guillotine split the heads of their neighbors and compatriots. In the year from 1793 to 1794 alone, the Revolution executed 40,000 people. That’s almost 110 people a day, four people an hour, one person every fifteen minutes, for a whole year. And that’s only the approximation not including those who were killed fighting against the Revolution. Scary, right? People lived in fear, religion outlawed, dissidents silenced. It was a period which changed France and, you could say, the world forever.
Shortly after the French Revolution ended, a young man was ordained to the priesthood. Not the brightest guy, he was forbidden at first from hearing confessions and preaching in public because of his low marks at school. In addition, he was sent to a small, insignificant village, probably so he couldn’t mess up too much. One thing he did have, though, was an intense love for God, and this was enough to make a difference.
Fast forward several years. News about this priest started to spread throughout the country and people started to flock in hordes to this little town to meet him, seek spiritual guidance, and confess their sins. They came from all backgrounds: rich, poor, pious, and sinners. He wasn’t the smartest or the most talented or the most eloquent, but he was able to touch the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people (According to some counts, 100,000 visited his town in the last year of his life). His name is Jean Marie Vianney and he is the Curé d’Ars and now the patron of all priests.
Fast forward even more to today’s world. There are 7.4 billion people, 196 countries, 6500 languages, innumerable points of views, beliefs, convictions, personalities, and religions. Add to that all the problems we are facing on numerous levels. Can we do anything to help make things better? How? I think that St. Jean teaches us that we can. He did. He didn’t have talents nor intellect nor the culture on his side. What he did have was love for God, and that, as we can see, made all the difference.