1959 Sacerdotii nostri primordia EN




AUGUST 1, 1959

To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction.

When We think of the first days of Our priesthood, which were so full of joyous consolations, We are reminded of one event that moved Us to the very depths of Our soul: the sacred ceremonies that were carried out so majestically in the Basilica of St. Peter's on January 8, 1905, when John Mary Baptist Vianney, a very humble French priest, was enrolled in the lists of the Blessed in Heaven. Our own ordination to the priesthood had taken place a few short months before, and it filled Us with wonder to see the delight of Our predecessor of happy memory, St. Pius X (who had once been the parish priest of the town of Salzano), as he offered this wonderful model of priestly virtues to all those entrusted with the care of souls, for their imitation. Now as We look back over the span of so many years, We never stop giving thanks to Our Redeemer for this wonderful blessing, which marked the beginning of Our priestly ministry and served as an effective heavenly incentive to virtue.

2 It is all the easier to remember, because on the very same day on which the honors of the Blessed were attributed to this holy man, word reached Us of the elevation of that wonderful prelate, Giacomo M. Radini-Tedeschi, to the dignity of Bishop; a few days later, he was to call Us to assist him in his work, and We found him a most loving teacher and guide. It was in his company that, early in 1905, We made Our first pious pilgrimage to the tiny village called Ars, that had become so famous because of the holiness of its Cure.

3 Again, We cannot help thinking that it was through a special design of God's providence that the year in which We became a Bishop— 1925—was the very one in which, toward the end of May, the Supreme Pontiff of happy memory, Pius XI, accorded the honors of sainthood to the humble Cure of Ars. In his talk on that occasion, the Supreme Pontiff chose to remind everyone of "the gaunt figure of John Baptist Vianney, with that head shining with long hair that resembled a snowy crown, and that thin face, wasted from long fasting, where the innocence and holiness of the meekest and humblest of souls shone forth so clearly that the first sight of it called crowds of people back to thoughts of salvation." (1) A short while after, this same predecessor of Ours took the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his own ordination to the priesthood to designate St. John Mary Vianney (to whose patronage St. Pius X had previously committed all of the shepherds of souls in France) as the heavenly patron of all "pastors, to promote their spiritual welfare throughout the world." (2)

1. AAS 17 (1925) 224.
2. Apostolic letter "Anno Iubilari, AAS" 21 (1929) 313.

A Time for Tribute

4 We have thought it opportune to use an Encyclical Letter to recall these acts of Our Predecessors that are so closely bound up with such happy memories, Venerable Brethren, now that We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the day—August 4, 1859—on which this holy man, completely broken from forty years of the most tireless and exhausting labors, and already famous in every corner of the world for his holiness, passed on most piously to his heavenly reward.

5 And so We give thanks to God in His goodness, not only for seeing to it that this Saint would twice cast the brilliant light of his holiness over Our priestly life at moments of great importance, but also for offering Us an opportunity here at the beginning of Our Pontificate to pay solemn tribute to this wonderful shepherd of souls on this happy 100th anniversary. It will be easy for you to see, Venerable Brethren, that We are directing this letter principally to Our very dearest sons, those in sacred orders, and urging each and every one of them—especially those engaged in pastoral ministry—to devote all their attention to a consideration of the wonderful example of this holy man, who once shared in this priestly work and who now serves as their heavenly patron.

Earlier Popes on the Priesthood

6 The Supreme Pontiffs have issued many documents reminding those in sacred orders of the greatness of their priestly office, and pointing out the safest and surest way for them to carry out their duties properly. To recall only the more recent and more important of these, We would like to make special mention of the Apostolic Exhortation of St. Pius X of happy memory entitled "Haerent Animo ," (3) issued early in Our priesthood, which urged Us on to greater efforts to achieve a more ardent devotion, and the wonderful encyclical of our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, that began with the words "Ad catholici sacerdotii," (4) and finally the Apostolic Exhortation "Menti Nostrae" (5) of Our immediate predecessor, along with his three allocutions on the occasion of the canonization of St. Pius X that give so clear and complete a picture of sacred orders.(6) Undoubtedly you are familiar with all of these documents, Venerable Brethren. But permit Us also to mention a few words from a sermon published after the death of Our immediate predecessor; they stand as the final solemn exhortation of that great Pontiff to priestly holiness: "Through the character of Sacred Orders, God willed to ratify that eternal covenant of love, by which He loves His priests above all others; and they are obliged to repay God for this special love with holiness of life... So a cleric should be considered as a man chosen and set apart from the midst of the people, and blessed in a very special way with heavenly gifts—a sharer in divine power, and, to put it briefly, another Christ... He is no longer supposed to live for himself; nor can he devote himself to the interests of just his own relatives, or friends or native land... He must be aflame with charity toward everyone. Not even his thoughts, his will, his feelings belong to him, for they are rather those of Jesus Christ who is his life." (7)

3. "Acta Pii X," IV, pp. 237-264.
4. AAS 28 (1936) 5-53.
5. AAS 42 (1950) 657-702.
6. AAS 46 (1954) 313-317, 666-77; TPS 5,1, no. 2, pp. 147-158.
7. Cf. AAS 50 (1958) 966-967.

Subject of the Encyclical

7 St. John Mary Vianney is a person who attracts and practically pushes all of us to these heights of the priestly life. And so We are pleased to add Our own exhortations to the others, in the hope that the priests of Our day may exert every possible effort in this direction. We are well aware of their devoted care and interest, and well acquainted with the difficulties they face each day in their apostolic activity. And even though We regret the fact that the surging currents of this world overwhelm the spirit and courage of some and make them grow tired and inactive, We also know from experience how many more stand firm in their faith despite many hardships, and how many constantly strive to stir up an ardent zeal for the very highest ideals in their own souls. And yet, when they became priests, Christ the Lord spoke these words so full of consolation to all of them: "I no longer call you servants but friends." (8) May this encyclical of Ours help the whole clergy to foster this divine friendship and grow in it, for it is the main source of the joy and the fruitfulness of any priestly work.

8. "Pontificale Rom.;" cf.
Jn 15,15.

8 We have no intention, Venerable Brethren, of taking up each and every matter that has any reference to the life of a priest in the present day; as a matter of fact, following closely in the footsteps of St. Pius X, "We will not say anything that you have not already heard before, nor anything that will be completely new to anyone, but rather We will concentrate on recalling things that everyone ought to remember."(9) For a mere sketch of the qualities of this Heavenly soul, if done properly, is enough to lead us readily to a serious consideration of certain things that are, it is true, necessary in every age, but which now seem to be so important that Our Apostolic office and duty force Us to put special emphasis on them on the occasion of this centenary.

9. Exhortation "
Haerent animo , Acta Pii X," IV, p. 238.

A Model for the Clergy

9 The Catholic Church, which elevated this man in sacred orders, who was "wonderful in his pastoral zeal, in his devotion to prayer and in the ardor of his penance"(10) to the honors of the saints of heaven, now, one hundred years after his death, offers him with maternal joy to all the clergy as an outstanding model of priestly asceticism, of piety, especially in the form of devotion to the Eucharist, and, finally, of pastoral zeal.

10. Prayer of the Mass on the feast of St. John Mary Vianney.

10 You cannot begin to speak of St. John Mary Vianney without automatically calling to mind the picture of a priest who was outstanding in a unique way in voluntary affliction of his body; his only motives were the love of God and the desire for the salvation of the souls of his neighbors, and this led him to abstain almost completely from food and from sleep, to carry out the harshest kinds of penances, and to deny himself with great strength of soul. Of course, not all of the faithful are expected to adopt this kind of life; and yet divine providence has seen to it that there has never been a time when the Church did not have some pastors of souls of this kind who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, did not hesitate for a moment to enter on this path, most of all because this way of life is particularly successful in bringing many men who have been drawn away by the allurement of error and vice back to the path of good living.

The Evangelical Counsels

11 The wonderful devotion in this regard of St. John Vianney—a man who was "hard on himself, and gentle with others" (11) —was so outstanding that it should serve as a clear and timely reminder of the important role that priests should attribute to the virtue of penance in striving for perfection in their own lives. Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, in order to give a clear picture of this doctrine and to clear up the doubts and errors that bothered some people, denied that "the clerical state—as such, and on the basis of divine law—requires, of its very nature or at least as a result of some demand arising from its nature, that those enrolled in it observe the evangelical counsels," (12) and justly concluded with these words: "Hence a cleric is not bound by virtue of divine law to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, obedience." (13)

11. Cf. "Archiv. Secr. Vat.," C.SS. Rituum, "Processus," 5,227, p. 196.
12. Allocution "Annus sacer, AAS" 43 (1951) 29.
13. "Ibid."

12 And yet it would undoubtedly be both a distortion of the real mind of this same Supreme Pontiff (who was so interested in the sanctity of the clergy) and a contradiction of the perpetual teaching of the Church in this matter, if anyone should dare to infer from this that clerics were any less bound by their office than religious to strive for evangelical perfection of life. The truth is just the opposite; for the proper exercise of the priestly functions "requires a greater interior holiness than is demanded by the religious state." (14) And even if churchmen are not commanded to embrace these evangelical counsels by virtue of their clerical state, it still remains true that in their efforts to achieve holiness, these counsels offer them and all of the faithful the surest road to the desired goal of Christian perfection. What a great consolation it is to Us to realize that at the present time many generous hearted priests are showing that they realize this; even though they belong to the diocesan clergy, they have sought the help and aid of certain pious societies approved by Church authorities in order to find a quicker and easier way to move along the road to perfection.

14. St. Thomas, "Summa Theologiae"
II-II 184,8, in c.

13 Fully convinced as they are that the "highest dignity of the priesthood consists in the imitation of Christ"(15), churchmen must pay special attention to this warning of their Divine Master: "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me." (16) It is recorded that "the holy parish priest of Ars often thought these words of the Lord over carefully, and determined to apply them to his own actions." (17) He made the resolution readily, and with the help of God's grace and by constant effort, he kept it to a wonderful extent; his example in the various works of priestly asceticism still points out the safest path to follow, and in the midst of this example, his poverty, chastity and obedience stand forth in a brilliant light.

15. Cf. Pius XII, Allocution, 16 April 1953: AAS 45 (1953) 288.
Mt 16,24.
17. Cf. Archiv. Secret. Vat., 5,227, p. 42.

The Poverty of St. John Vianney

14 First of all, you have clear testimony of his poverty. The humble Cure of Ars was careful to imitate the Patriarch of Assisi in this regard, for he had accepted his rule in the Third Order of St. Francis and he carefully observed it.(18) He was rich in his generosity toward others but the poorest of men in dealing with himself; he passed a life that was almost completely detached from the changeable, perishable goods of this world, and his spirit was free and unencumbered by impediments of this kind, so that it could always lie open to those who suffered from any kind of misery; and they flocked from everywhere to seek his consolation. "My secret"—he said—"is easy to learn. It can be summed up in these few words: give everything away and keep nothing for yourself."(19)

18. Cf. ibid., 5,227 p. 137.
19. Cf. ibid., 5,227 p. 92.

15 This detachment from external goods enabled him to offer the most devoted and touching care to the poor, especially those in his own parish. He was very kind and gentle toward them and embraced them "with a sincere love, with the greatest of kindness, indeed with reverence."(20) He warned that the needy were never to be spurned since a disregard for them would reach in turn to God. When beggars knocked at his door, he received them with love and was very happy to be able to say to them: "I am living in need myself; I am one of you."(21) And toward the end of his life, he used to enjoy saying things like this: "I will be happy when I go; for now I no longer have any possessions; and so when God in his goodness sees fit to call me, I will be ready and willing to go."(22)

20. Cf. ibid., 5,3897, p. 510.
21. Cf. ibid., 5,227 p. 334.
22. Cf. ibid., 5,227 p. 305.

16 All of this will give you a clear idea of what We have in mind, Venerable Brethren, when We exhort all of Our beloved sons who share in the priesthood to give careful thought to this example of poverty and charity. "Daily experience shows"—wrote Pius XI, with St. John Mary Vianney specifically in mind—"that priests who live modestly and follow the teaching of the Gospel by paying little attention to their own interests, always confer wonderful benefits on the Christian people."(23) And the same Supreme Pontiff issued this serious warning to priests as well as to others in the course of a discussion of the current problems of society: "When they look around and see men ready to sell anything for money and to strike a bargain for anything at all, let them pass right through the midst of these attractions of vice without a thought or care for their own desires; and let them in their holiness spurn this base pursuit of wealth, and look for the riches of souls rather than for money, and let them long for and seek God's glory rather than their own."(24)

23. Encyclical letter "," AAS 29 (1937) 99.
24. Encyclical letter "
Ad Catholici Sacerdotii ," AAS 28 (1936) 28.

The Use of Possessions

17 It is very important for these words to sink deep into the mind of every priest. If someone owns things that are rightfully his, let him be careful not to hang on to them greedily. Instead he should remember that the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law dealing with church benefices make it clear that he has a serious obligation "to use superfluous income for the poor or for pious causes."(25) May God grant that no one of Us ever lets that terrible sentence that the parish priest of Ars once used in rebuking his flock fall on him: "There are many people keeping their money hidden away while many others are dying of hunger."(26)

25. C.I.C.,
CIS 1473.
26. Cf. "Sermons du B. Jean B.M. Vianney," 1909, 5,1, p. 364.

18 We know very well that at the present time there are many priests living in great need themselves. When they stop to realize that heavenly honors have been paid to one of their own who voluntarily gave up all he had and asked for nothing more than to be the poorest of all in his parish,(27) they have a wonderful source of inspiration for devoting themselves carefully and constantly to fostering evangelical poverty. And if Our paternal interest can offer any consolation, We want them to know that We are very happy that they are serving Christ and the Church so generously with no thought of their own interests.

27. Cf. "Archiv. Secret. Vat.," 5,227, p. 91.

Unbecoming Indigence

19 However, even though We praise and extol this wonderful virtue of poverty so much, no one should conclude that We have any intention of giving Our approval to the unbecoming indigence and misery in which the ministers of the Lord are sometimes forced to live, both in cities and in remote rural areas. In this regard, when St. Bede the Venerable explained and commented on the words of the Lord on detachment from earthly things, he excluded possible incorrect interpretations of this passage with these words: "You must not think that this command was given with the intention of having the saints keep no money at all for their own use or for that of the poor (for we read that the Lord himself... had money-boxes in forming his Church...) but rather the idea was that this should not be the motive for serving God nor should justice be abandoned out of fear of suffering want."(28) Besides, the laborer is worthy of his hire,(29) and We share the feelings of Our immediate predecessor in urging the faithful to respond quickly and generously to the appeals of their pastors; We also join him in praising these shepherds for their efforts to see to it that those who help them in the sacred ministry do not lack the necessities of life.(30)

28. In "Lucae Evangelium Epositio," IV, in c. 12; Migne, PL 92, Col 494-5.
29. Cf.
Lc 10,7.
30. Cf. apostolic exhortation "Menti Nostrae, AAS" 42 (1950) 697-699.

Model of Chastity

20 John M. Vianney was an outstanding model of voluntary mortification of the body as well as of detachment from external things. "There is only one way"—he used to say—"for anyone to devote himself to God as he should through self-denial and the practice of penance: that is by devoting himself to it completely." (31) Throughout his whole life, the holy Cure of Ars carried this principle into practice energetically in the matter of chastity.

31. Cf. "Archiv. Secret. Vat.," 5,227, p. 91.

21 This wonderful example of chastity seems to have special application to the priests of our time who—as is unfortunately the case in many regions—are often forced by the office they have assumed to live in the midst of a human society that is infected by a general looseness in morals and a spirit of unbridled lust. How often this phrase of St. Thomas Aquinas is proved true: "It is harder to lead a good life in the work of caring for souls, because of the external dangers involved" (32) To this We might add the fact that they often feel themselves cut off from the society of others and that even the faithful to whose salvation they are dedicated do not understand them and offer them little help or support in their undertakings.

32. "Summa Theologiae"
II-II 184,8, in c.

22 We want to use this letter, Venerable Brethren, to exhort, again and again, all of them, and especially those who are working alone and in the midst of very serious dangers of this kind, to let their whole life, so to say, resound with the splendor of holy chastity; St. Pius X had good reason to call this virtue the "choicest adornment of our order." (33)

33. Exhortation "
Haerent animo ; Acta Pii X," IV, p. 260.

23 Venerable Brethren, do all you can and spare no effort to see to it that the clergy entrusted to your care may enjoy living and working conditions that will best foster and be of service to their ardent zeal. This means that every effort should be exerted to eliminate the dangers that arise from too great an isolation, to issue timely warnings against unwise or imprudent actions, and last of all to check the dangers of idleness or of too much external activity. In this regard, you should recall the wise directives issued by Our immediate Predecessor in the Encyclical Sacra Virginitas. (34)

34. AAS 46 (1954) 161-191; TPS (1954) 5,1, no. 1, pp.101-123.

St. John Vianney on Chastity

24 It is said that the face of the Pastor of Ars shone with an angelic purity. (35) And even now anyone who turns toward him in mind and spirit cannot help being struck, not merely by the great strength of soul with which this athlete of Christ reduced his body to slavery, (36) but also by the great persuasive powers he exercised over the pious crowds of pilgrims who came to him and were drawn by his heavenly meekness to follow in his footsteps. From his daily experiences in the Sacrament of Penance he got an unmistakable picture of the terrible havoc that is wrought by impure desire. This was what brought cries like these bursting from his breast: "If there were not very innocent souls to please God and make up for our offenses, how many terrible punishments we would have to suffer!" His own observations in this regard led him to offer this encouragement and advice to his hearers: "The works of penance abound in such delights and joys that once they have been tasted, nothing will ever again root them out of the soul.... Only the first steps are difficult for those who eagerly choose this path." (37)

35. Cf. "Archiv. Secret. Vat.," 5,3897, p. 536.
36. Cf.
1Co 9,27.
37. Cf. "Archiv. Secret. Vat.," 5,3897, p. 304.

Priest's Chastity as Help to Others

25 The ascetic way of life, by which priestly chastity is preserved, does not enclose the priest's soul within the sterile confines of his own interests, but rather it makes him more eager and ready to relieve the needs of his brethren. St. John Mary Vianney has this pertinent comment to make in this regard: "A soul adorned with the virtue of chastity cannot help loving others; for it has discovered the source and font of love—God."

26 What great benefits are conferred on human society by men like this who are free of the cares of the world and totally dedicated to the divine ministry so that they can employ their lives, thoughts, powers in the interest of their brethren! How valuable to the Church are priests who are anxious to preserve perfect chastity! For We agree with Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI, in regarding this as the outstanding adornment of the Catholic priesthood and as something "that seems to Us to correspond better to the counsels and wishes of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, so far as the souls of priests are concerned." (38) Was not the mind of John Mary Vianney soaring to reach the counsels of this same divine charity when he wrote this lofty sentence: "Is the priesthood love of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus?" (39)

38. Encyclical letter "
Ad Catholici Sacerdotii , AAS" 28 (1936) 28.
39. Cf. "Archiv. Secret. Vat.," 5,227, p. 29.

The Obedience of St. John Vianney

27 There are many pieces of evidence of how this man was also outstanding in the virtue of obedience. It would be true to say that the fidelity toward his superiors in the Church which he pledged at the time he became a priest and which he preserved unshaken throughout his life drove him to an uninterrupted immolation of his will for forty years.

28 All his life he longed to lead a quiet and retired life in the background, and he regarded pastoral duties as a very heavy burden laid on his shoulders and more than once he tried to free himself of it. His obedience to his bishop was admirable; We would like to mention a few instances of it in this encyclical, Venerable Brethren: "From the age of fifteen on, he ardently desired a solitary life, and as long as this wish was not fulfilled, he felt cut off from every advantage and every consolation that his state of life might have offered": (40) but "God never allowed this aim to be achieved. Undoubtedly, this was God's way of bending St. John Mary Vianney's will to obedience and of teaching him to put the duties of his office before his own desires; and so there was never a time when his devotion to self-denial did not shine forth"; (41) "out of complete obedience to his superiors, John M. Vianney carried out his tasks as pastor of Ars, and remained in that office till the end of his mortal life." (42)

40. Cf. ibid., c. 227, p. 74.
41. Cf. ibid., 5,227, p. 39.
42. Cf. ibid., 5,3895, p. 153.

29 It should be noted, however, that this full obedience of his to the commands of his superiors rested on supernatural principles; in acknowledging and duly obeying ecclesiastical authority, he was paying the homage of faith to the words of Christ the Lord as He told His Apostles "He who hears you, hears me." (43) To conform himself faithfully to the will of his superiors he habitually restrained his own will, whether in accepting the holy burdens of hearing Confessions, or in performing zealously for his colleagues in the apostolate such work as would produce richer and more saving fruits.

Lc 10,16.

The Importance of Obedience

30 We are offering clerics this total obedience as a model, with full confidence that its force and beauty will lead them to strive for it more ardently. And if there should be someone who dares to cast doubt on the supreme importance of this virtue—as sometimes happens at the present time—let him take to heart these words of Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, which everyone should keep firmly in mind: "The holiness of any life and the effectiveness of any apostolate has constant and faithful obedience to the hierarchy as its solid foundation, basis and support. " (44)

44. Exhortation "In auspicando," AAS 40 (1948) 375.

31 For, as you well know, Venerable Brethren, Our most recent predecessors have often issued serious warnings to priests about the extent of the dangers that are arising among the clergy from a growing carelessness about obedience with regard to the teaching authority of the Church, to the various ways and means of undertaking the apostolate, and to ecclesiastical discipline.

An Exhortation to Obedience

32 We do not want to spend a lot of time on this, but We think it timely to exhort all of Our sons who share in the Catholic priesthood to foster a love in their souls that will make them feel attached to Mother Church by ever closer bonds, and then to make that love grow.

33 It is said that St. John M. Vianney lived in the Church in such a way that he worked for it alone, and burned himself up like a piece of straw being consumed on fiery coals. May that flame which comes from the Holy Spirit reach those of Us who have been raised to the priesthood of Jesus Christ and consume us too.

34 We owe ourselves and all we have to the Church; may we work each day only in her name and by her authority and may we properly carry out the duties committed to us, and may we be joined together in fraternal unity and thus strive to serve her in that perfect way in which she ought to be served. (45)

45. Cf. "Archiv. Secret. Vat.," 5,227, p. 136.


35 St. John M. Vianney, who, as We have said, was so devoted to the virtue of penance, was just as sure that "a priest must be specially devoted to constant prayer." (46) In this regard, We know that shortly after he was made pastor of a village where Christian life had been languished for a long time, he began to spend long and happy hours at night (when he might have been resting) in adoration of Jesus in the Sacrament of His love. The Sacred Tabernacle seemed to be the spring from which he constantly drew the power that nourished his own piety and gave new life to it and promoted the effectiveness of his apostolic labor to such an extent that the wonderful words that Our predecessor of happy memory, Pius XII, used to describe the ideal Christian parish, might well have been applied to the town of Ars in the time of this holy man: "In the middle stands the temple; in the middle of the temple the Sacred Tabernacle, and on either side the confessionals where supernatural life and health are restored to the Christian people." (47)

46. Cf. ibid., 5,227, p. 33.
47. Cf. "Discorsi e radiomessaggi di S.S. Pio XII," 5,14, p. 452.

Prayer in the Life of St. John Vianney

36 How timely and how profitable this example of constant prayer on the part of a man completely dedicated to caring for the needs of souls is for priests in Our own day, who are likely to attribute too much to the effectiveness of external activity and stand ready and eager to immerse themselves in the hustle and bustle of the ministry, to their own spiritual detriment!

37 "The thing that keeps us priests from gaining sanctity"—the Cure of Ars used to say— "is thoughtlessness. It annoys us to turn our minds away from external affairs; we don't know what we really ought to do. What we need is deep reflection, together with prayer and an intimate union with God." The testimony of his life makes it clear that he always remained devoted to his prayers and that not even the duty of hearing confessions or any other pastoral office could cause him to neglect them. "Even in the midst of tremendous labors, he never let up on his conversation with God." (48)

48. Cf. "Archiv. Secret. Vat.," 5,227, p. 131.

38 But listen to his own words; for he seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of them whenever he talked about the happiness or the advantages that he found in prayer: "We are beggars who must ask God for everything"; (49) "How many people we can call back to God by our prayers!" (50) And he used to say over and over again: "Ardent prayer addressed to God: this is man's greatest happiness on earth!'' (5l)

49. Cf. ibid., 5,227, p. 1100.
50. Cf. ibid., 5,227, p. 54.
51. Cf. ibid., 5,227, p. 45.

39 And he enjoyed this happiness abundantly when his mind rose with the help of heavenly light to contemplate the things of heaven and his pure and simple soul rose with all its deepest love from the mystery of the Incarnation to the heights of the Most Holy Trinity. And the crowds of pilgrims who surrounded him in the temple could feel something coming forth from the depths of the inner life of this humble priest when words like these burst forth from his inflamed breast, as they often did: "To be loved by God, to be joined to God, to walk before God, to live for God: O blessed life, O blessed death!" (52)

52. Cf. ibid., 5,227, p. 29.

Necessity of Prayer Life

40 We sincerely hope, Venerable Brethren, that these lessons from the life of St. John M. Viand may make all of the sacred ministers committed to your care feel sure that they must exert every effort to be outstanding in their devotion to prayer; this can really be done, even if they are very busy with apostolic labors.

41 But if they are to do this, their lives must conform to the norms of faith that so imbued John Mary Vianney and enabled him to perform such wonderful works. "Oh the wonderful faith of this priest"—one of his colleagues in the sacred ministry remarked—"It is great enough to enrich all the souls of the diocese!" (53)

53. Cf. ibid., 5,227, p. 976.

42 This constant union with God is best achieved and preserved through the various practices of priestly piety; many of the more important of them, such as daily meditation, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the Rosary, careful examination of conscience, the Church, in her wise and provident regulations, has made obligatory for priests. (54) As for the hours of the Office, priests have undertaken a serious obligation to the Church to recite them. (55)

54. C.I.C.,
CIS 125.
55. Ibid., CIS 135.

43 The neglect of some of these rules may often be the reason why certain churchmen are caught up in the whirl of external affairs, gradually lose their feeling for sacred things and finally fall into serious difficulties when they are shorn of all spiritual protection and enticed by the attractions of this earthly life. John Mary Vianney on the contrary "never neglected his own salvation, no matter how busy he may have been with that of others" (56)

56. Cf. "Archiv. Secret. Vat.," 5,227, p. 36.

44 To use the words of St. Pius X: "We are sure of this much... that a priest must be deeply devoted to the practice of prayer if he is to live up to his rank and fulfill his duties properly... For a priest must be much more careful than others to obey the command of Christ: You must always pray. Paul was only reaffirming this when he advised, as he did so often: Be constant in prayer, ever on the watch to give thanks; pray without ceasing." (57) And We are more than happy to adopt as Our own the words that Our immediate predecessor offered priests as their password at the very beginning of his pontificate: "Pray, more and more, and pray more intensely." (58)

57. Exhortation "
Haerent animo , Acta Pii X," IV, pp. 248-249.
58. Discourse of June 24, 1939: AAS 31 (1939) 249.

1959 Sacerdotii nostri primordia EN