Last year I developed a strong connection to St. John Vianney. I learned something about him I never knew before. John Vianney experienced abandonment and rejection, something I know very well from my abortion.
In an article from Homiletic & Pastoral Review about St John Vianney, I learned Vianney who had been accepted to the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of Lyon, was drafted into Napoleon’s army because of an administrative mistake. Someone forgot to put his name on the list of the seminarians exempt from the draft. John Vianney was listed among the deserters. he lived as a criminal with an assumed identity
When granted amnesty because of his brother’s enlistment in the army in his place, Vianney returned home. He expected a warm welcome from his family. On his arrival, his father, Matthew, informed him that his younger brother, Francis, had been drafted to take his place in the army and had died on the battlefields of Spain. He also told John that his mother, believing that both of her sons had died at war, herself died of a broken heart. Blaming John for the death of his wife and son Francis, Matthew Vianney slammed the door in John’s face. John was never welcomed back into his father’s house. He begged his father repeatedly for forgiveness. There is no evidence that the forgiveness was ever granted.
How does a man live with such an accusation, with such rejection, and with the refusal of forgiveness?
John Vianney had to make a decision of utmost importance. He could maximize Divine Justice and minimize Divine Mercy in his relationship with God. He could indulge the vengeful image of God scrupulosity and self-loathing. He might have acted out the rejection he experienced at home through a variety of different sins,.
On the other hand, Vianney had the option, as we all do, of finding salvation in the crucified Christ. Vianney believed that on the Cross Jesus saw him, knew him, and loved him with all of his human weaknesses and sins. He was certain that Jesus felt what he felt when his father rejected him. He also knew that Jesus lovingly suffered for the personal sins that may have resulted from that rejection.
the Holy Spirit prompted Vianney to open the wound in his heart to the love of Christ. In this experience, the Spirit of God created the heart of a priest in the wounded heart of John Vianney.
He does the same for us.
Perhaps these words of St. John of the Cross best describe the transformation of Vianney. He writes in his Living Flame of Love:
“When a wound of love [of Christ] touches a soul that has already been wounded by its own sins and miseries, that soul becomes wounded by love. At the same instant all of these wounds of the soul that came from other causes suddenly become wounds of love.3
John of the Cross does not say that all wounds are healed. He says, rather, that wounds caused in a person by his or her sins or by the sins of others can be transformed by Christ’s love into sources of love.
The wound inflicted on Vianney by his earthy father who refused to forgive him became the source of an inner impulse to bring mercy to all, especially those who were furthest from God. He often said that he felt a river of mercy flowing through him. Fatherless, he became the father of everyone who crossed his path. Whatever happened in his confessional, those who came were overwhelmed by the merciful love of a father.
I get it. Abandonment =the ultimate pain & suffering = to surrender=to the ultimate love.
This place of excruciating pain becomes a place with Jesus and Mary. Is the pain still there? Yes but so are they and I feel as though there is a willingness to suffer this dreaded place-it is even becoming a place of longing because it is the place, I am joined with them most intimately in love.