Thursday, September 18, 2014

On St. John Vianney: Does a person's holiness affect everyone even those not part of the Body of Christ?

Question

Someone told me that in the story of St. John Vianney, the Devil hated him so much because the Devil acknowledged that it would take only three people as holy as St. John Vianney to destroy his kingdom in France.  Does that mean one person's holiness affects everyone, even those who are not part of the body of Christ?

REPLY

Affect here can mean many things: a person can affect the emotions, thoughts, and actions of others. This is normal part of human interaction.  But based on the question, it seems that "affect" is more in the context of "saving".  So let us use this context of "saving" and consider three instances in the Bible where holy men has the power to save others and even the entire nation.  And after this we shall discuss the role of the priest and his powers of affect-ion.

A. Job

Job was a just man.  His sufferings seems to prefigure the sufferings the Church shall experience during the End Times, as explained in my other post (in my old Wordpress blog):
At the end of Job's trial, God said to Job's friend Eliphaz the Temanite:
My anger blazes against you and your two friends!* You have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves, and let my servant Job pray for you.* To him I will show favor, and not punish your folly, for you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job. (Job 42:7-8)
Because of Job's prayers, God forgave the sins of Job's friends.

B. Elijah

Concerning Elijah, James the Apostle wrote:
The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. 17 Elijah was a human being like us; yet he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain upon the land.k 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the earth produced its fruit. (Jas 5:16-18)
Thus, one righteous man can change the climate of a country through his prayers.

C. Aaron

The background story is Korah's rebellion, which is based on the claim that the laity has equal in dignity to the ordained priesthood of Aaron and his lineage:
You go too far! The whole community, all of them, are holy; the LORD is in their midst. Why then should you set yourselves over the LORD’s assembly? (Num 16:3)
So Korah and his men also offered incense to the Lord.  Because of this, God became very angry: the earth opened up and swallowed Korah and his men.  The censers of those who were burned were then beaten to serve as covering for the altar:
So taking the bronze censers which had been presented by those who were burned, Eleazar the priest had them hammered into a covering for the altar, 5 just as the LORD had directed him through Moses. This was to be a reminder to the Israelites that no unauthorized person, no one who was not a descendant of Aaron, should draw near to offer incense before the LORD, lest he meet the fate of Korah and his faction. (Num 17:4-5)
The following day, the people of Israel grumbled that Moses killed the people of the Lord.  God again became very angry and wishes destroy Israel.  The story is best quoted in full:
But while the community was assembling against them, Moses and Aaron turned toward the tent of meeting, and the cloud now covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. 8 Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, 9 and the LORD said to Moses: 10 Remove yourselves from this community, that I may consume them at once. But they fell prostrate. 11 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer, put fire from the altar in it, lay incense on it, and bring it quickly to the community to make atonement for them; for wrath has come forth from the LORD and the plague has begun.”a 12 Aaron took his censer just as Moses directed and ran in among the assembly, where the plague had already begun among the people. Then he offered the incense and made atonement for the people, 13 while standing there between the living and the dead. And so the scourge was checked. 14 There were fourteen thousand seven hundred dead from the scourge, in addition to those who died because of Korah. 15 When the scourge had been checked, Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting. (Num 17:7-15)
Notice that it is through Aaron's offering of incense that the scourge was checked, which could have wiped out all of Israel.

D. Catholic Priest

We have seen that Job can pray for the forgiveness of his friends by God, Elijah can pray for rain, and Aaron can pray to stop the plague.  A Catholic Priest can do all these, because he can offer masses for all these intentions.  And his prayer becomes more efficacious the more he lives a holier life and conform himself to Christ.  And this requires much denial of life's pleasures:
To a priest who complained about the indifference of people in his parish, St. John Vianney answered: "You have preached, you have prayed, but have you fasted? Have you taken the discipline (a self imposed scourge)? Have you slept on the floor? So long as you have done none of these things, you have no right to complain." (The Story of St. John Vianney)
A priest who followed the advice of St. John Vianney would also be given lots of graces by God for the conversion of his parish.  Indeed, a priest can affect his whole parish by converting it to the Gospel, and his influence may extend to the city, the nation, and the world.  And even after death, the priest can still continue to pray for all of us as one of the saints in heaven, even if we are not part of the Body of Christ.  As St. Therese said:
My mission - to make God loved - will begin after my death," she said. "I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses. (St. Therese, "The Little Flower")
St. John Mary Vianney Biography Holy Card (800-208) - 10 pack
St. John Mary Vianney Biography Holy Card (800-208) - 10 pack
Job: Ignatius Catholic Study Bible
Job: Ignatius Catholic Study Bible
The Cure D'Ars : St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney
The Cure D'Ars : St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney
Mount Carmel
Mount Carmel
The Sermons of the Cure of Ars
The Sermons of the Cure of Ars
'Israel in the Wilderness', Or, Gleanings from the Scenes of the Wanderings: With an Essay on the True Date of Korah's Rebellion - Primary Source Edit
'Israel in the Wilderness', Or, Gleanings from the Scenes of the Wanderings: With an Essay on the True Date of Korah's Rebellion - Primary Source Edit
The Cure D'Ars Today: St John Vianney
Eucharistic Meditations: Extracts from the Writings and Instructions of Saint John Vianney
Eucharistic Meditations: Extracts from the Writings and Instructions of Saint John Vianney