There’s been a monkey on my back since last year, 2018, when – out of the blue – I was contacted by Father Patrice Chocholski, Rector of the Shrine of Saint Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney in Ars-sur-Formans. As you know, his famed predecessor is the patron saint of priests, the Curé d’Ars, as far as I know, the only canonized priest who lived and died as a diocesan priest (though even he was also a T.O.S.F.). Sanctity is not easy for mere diocesan parish priests!
Father Chocholski was after me because Pope Francis has instituted me a Missionary of Mercy, and therefore as someone who is given to hearing confessions as much as this is possible. That’s what Father Chocholski needed: confessors! Saint John Vianney spent his life as a priest in the confessional. When people visit the Shrine in Ars they want to go to confession. This isn’t easy throughout the rest of France as there are so few priests, and so few among them hearing confessions. Two to three churches every day are attacked in France. No one speaks of this. The situation is dire.
Having put this to my ecclesiastical superiors, I awaited a decision, and waited, until just the other day. I pushed for an answer given that I would need to start on a religious worker visa, given that airline tickets would soon skyrocket in price for the Summer. A replacement for me in the parish here was sought, but as time went on it didn’t look good. In fact, just these past couple of weeks told the story, with various religious communities leaving parishes. This left the diocese stretched for resources. In the face of this the answer was given: “Not this year.”
So, what that means is, “Yes, this year, Andrews will be my Ars.” A profound feeling of being at home came over me.
All the same, at this late stage, I hope Father Chocholski might be able to find an English speaking confessor for the Shrine in Ars… Hail Mary…
Meanwhile, the renovation of the confessional is making good progress in the parish here. More on that later.