“[…] I have been asking for so long a time: that being released from a post which I am not worthy to hold by reason of my ignorance, I may be allowed to retire into a little corner, there to weep over my poor life” – St John Vianney
When Fr Vianney heard that several of his priest-colleagues in surrounding parishes were forbidding parishioners from going to Ars to see him he was pained. These men had begun writing letters to the Bishop against him saying he was too ignorant to be a shepherd.
“Poor little Curé of Ars,” he said. “What do they not make him say! What do they not make him do! They are now preaching on him and no longer on the Gospel!”
One neighbouring priest, jealous of the Curé’s fame started a petition to remove him from Ars. Many of the other priests signed this petition as it was being passed around. When this petition mistakenly came to St John Vianney’s possession, he saw the signatures of many of his brother-priests, guess what he did? he signed it himself and sent it to the bishop! [beautiflly silly if you ask me 😍]. The latter judging the situation prudently ignored the petition. St John honestly wondered if he was actually fit to lead the Church in Ars and really wanted the bishop to send another more “capable” priest since everyone around him called him “uneducated”.
One of the priests to send his hate in form of a mail was Fr Jean-Louis Borjon who wrote, among other things:
“When a man knows as little theology as you, he should not go into the confessional.”
Fr. Vianney responded:
“Most dear and most venerated confrere, what good reasons I have for loving you! You are the only person who really knows me. Since you are so good and kind as to take an interest in my poor soul, do help me to obtain the favor for which I have been asking for so long a time: that being released from a post which I am not worthy to hold by reason of my ignorance, I may be allowed to retire into a little corner, there to weep over my poor life.”
Fr. Vianney’s humility deeply moved the priest to remorse that he hurried to beg for Fr John’s forgiveness who embraced him warmly. The young priest went on to become one of Vianney’s greatest supporters.
The Bishop had grown tired of hearing the complaints of priests against St John and as a means to vindicate the Saint he sent a canon of the cathedral to examine the situation. St Vianney submitted to him up to 200 difficult cases of conscience he had encountered in the confessional along with his solutions. The results were out – solutions were perfect!
However, after this investigation, some priests still continued calling John “mad”, to which the bishop is known to respond:
“Gentlemen, I wish that all my clergy had a small grain of the same madness!”
The bishop gave him faculties, rare at the time, to hear confessions anywhere throughout the diocese. After a while, with the bishop’s support, most of the priests came to learn to support and love him too. But the greatest redemption of St. John Vianney’s reputation among his brother priests occurred in subsequent clergy convocations. Even though he was listed as one of many official confessors, most of his brother priests chose to confess to him.
They began to see the beauty and value of having a holy priest as a neighbor!