During the past ten days the "Societe Jean-Marie Vianney" has been holding its annual general summer Session; first in Ars (near Lyons) and then in Lisieux (in Normandy). About sixty priests together with some seminarians from Europe and Canada took part in this gathering.
The "Societe Jean-Marie Vianney" is a priestly fraternity of Pontifical Right whose purpose is the development and exercise of the interior life of the diocesan priest for his apostolic and missionary life. This fraternal and spiritual endeavour is inspired by the witness to priestly holiness of the Cure d'Ars, St John Vianney.
At the heart of this movement is the Holy Eucharist, celebrated and adored, by the priest. A second dimension is built upon priests sharing together their own experience of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A third aspect of this movement is the study of the Teaching of the Church undertaken as a shared responsibility.
It is unusual to see priests in public, and large numbers of priests at that, especially in the UK. Perhaps Europe is unaware at this stage, that its true heart is still beating. Europe certainly possesses the material wealth to develop itself; it also possesses spiritual wealth and the John Vianney Society is called to be at the forefront of of this mission.
A very poignant moment for me was the singing of Midday Prayer of the Church on the cliffs by the Batterie de Longues which overlooks both "Gold" and "Juno" beaches (D-Day landings). Here in view of many tourists we prayed together for the unity of Europe. For, as the Moderator of the Society said as he opened the prayer: "A Europe without God will be a disaster!"
We were graced throughout the Session with the spiritual company of St Therese; in fact we stayed in Lisieux just over the river from the Carmel wall where she was perfected in holiness. We visited the Noman coast and Bayeux with its thousand year-old Tapistry, ending that day with a splendid Norman BBQ.
This society, still so new - it was given Pontifical Right in 2002 - is a flower at the heart of the Church. Please pray for the Society, that it may lead to the holiness of priests, that it be a strong platform of the New Evangelisation and that promote and guide many, many priestly vocations; it is already at the heart of the renewal of the Diocesan Priesthood.