It was with great interest that I read Fr John Cihak's article, "St John Vianney's blueprint for the priesthood back in favour" (December-January AD2000).
Last September I took part in the International Retreat for Priests at Ars. It was held over six days in the Underground Basilica in Ars, a few hundred metres from St John Vianney's parish church where he preached his great sermons, catechised the youth, heard confessions up to 16 hours a day, strove to celebrate the Liturgy in its full beauty, and lived a life of penance.
This retreat was the best that I have taken part in during the 52 years of my priesthood. It was organised by Catholic Charismatic Renewal together with the Beatitudes Community France (a Carmelite Third Order community of priests, nuns and lay people). Their priests were conducting the retreat, so the organising of it was in the hands of their sisters and lay people.
971 priests from 72 countries took part, with 20 bishops and three cardinals. The official languages were English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, with Latin for the liturgies. The Missa de Angelis was used for the Masses, Benedictions and hymns to the Holy Spirit, with Plain Chant used for the Divine Office. Africans are born singers and there must have been well over a hundred African priests present, so the singing was powerful. Even I could join in with it.
Each day there was teaching by Sr Briege McKenna OSC and Fr Kevin Scallon CM who have been preaching retreats for priests internationally for the past 20 years.
The themes for the six days of the retreat included: "The Spirituality of the Cure d'Ars"; "Repentance and Reconciliation"; "The Eucharist: Jesus Christ the High Priest" and "Consecration to Mary, Mother of the Priesthood".
FR ROBERT MARKEY