With All His Heart
Dear Friends in Christ:
What a blessing it is for us to welcome back Fr. Patrice from the Shrine of Ars Sur Formans, France, the parish where our beloved patron saint, Jean-Marie Vianney, served and ministered. What an incredible honor we have in not only welcoming our friend, Fr. Patrice, but also the Administrative Director of the Shrine, Alain Splettstoesser. Together, they bring to us the incredible gift of the relic of the incorruptible heart of St. John Vianney. For many of us, as Americans, we fail to understand the power of such a relic of the saint’s body. Many today perhaps do not understand the importance or even the fascination with holy relics that has enthralled and inspired the faithful for centuries. Yet even in our modern age of instant digital imaging, videos and selfies, we can perhaps see a connection to wanting and needing to be connected. In our own families, we hang on to mementos of those whom we love. They are reminders of something important, they convey a meaning beyond the thing itself. This was brought home to so many of us when precious heirlooms passed down through generations were destroyed in the recent floods. To people from around the world, even today, the idea of actually having the physical heart – the symbol of love – of the holy priest of Ars, who so loved God, the Church, the people, and the priesthood with such devotion – in fact, with his whole heart, it is not garish but emotionally uplifting and inspiring. In coming to view the physical heart, which has miraculously not deteriorated after 150 years since the saint’s death, you and I can be reminded of the love we should also strive for in our lives.
While they are here in Texas Fr. Patrice and Alain will also be doing research and looking to follow the footsteps of a missionary from France, Fr. Emil Fleury. This priest who, as a young boy, was an altar boy for St. John Vianney in Ars, answered the Lord’s call to serve Him as a priest. Young Emil, with a heart on fire with love for Christ, came to Texas in the 1800’s to be a missionary. He was ordained for the newly created Diocese of Galveston and served along with other missionaries from France in the rugged and wild frontier of Texas. At that time the Diocese of Galveston covered the entire State of Texas. Fr. Fleury served in numerous places, from the piney woods of East Texas to the Hill Country of Central Texas. His life is one of inspiration, tragedy and redemption. Unable to cope with the harsh and brutal conditions of being isolated in the Texas wilderness, he eventually became an alcoholic and ashamed of his condition, he abandoned his priestly vocation. Returning to Europe and then venturing back to America, after a series of most improbable occurrences, he was able to hear again the Lord’s call of priestly service. This was the same call he heard as a young boy serving holy Mass for the Curé of Ars. After years of being away, he returned to the Lord who gave him his vocation. He returned to Galveston and there served orphaned children, the sick, and a community of religious sisters until his death. By those who knew him in those later years, Fr. Fleury is remembered as living his priestly vocation with a tender and merciful heart. No doubt he was aided by the intercession of the holy parish priest, St. John Vianney.
What are the difficulties that you or those in your family face? What are the struggles that are weighing you down? What are those things which cause sadness in your life? What are those parts of your life that you can’t live with because of shame or fear? Come and give them to Lord.
Come and visit the holy relic of the heart of St. John Vianney and ask God to once again fill your heart with His Divine Love and Grace. Come and ask for St. John Vianney’s continued prayers and intercession for you, your loved ones, and our parish family.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately