A powerful cameo

Whenever I hear of today's saint, John Vianney, I can't help thinking, not of the priests for whom he is patron, but of Mabel Digby. Although they never met, and she was barely aware of it at the time, his prayers for her were part of Mabel's journey into the Catholic Church. She was almost eighteen, living in France with her family, some of whom - to her strong disapproval - had become Catholic. But her antipathy to Catholicism didn't prevent her from being friends with some fervently Catholic French girls, with whom she volunteered in a local hospice - unaware that they were actively seeking to bring about her conversion. One of them travelled to Ars, where John Vianney was the parish priest, renowned for his sanctity and his wisdom as a confessor. She asked him to pray for Mabel; he said he would, and added the assurance that God will soon have complete mastery over her heart. 

And so it happened: as her friends had sought and prayed, she become a Catholic a few months later; four years later she joined the Society of the Sacred Heart, eventually becoming Superior of England and Ireland, and then, from 1895-1911, Superior General of the worldwide congregation. Dying only six years after he was asked to pray for her, John Vianney would have viewed all this from heaven, where, no doubt, he continued to pray for Mabel, that more and more, God would have complete and utter mastery over her heart.

In a film of Mabel's life St John Vianney would be little more than a cameo role, occupying just a few minutes on screen; in reality, he, and all those who supported her with their prayer, were powerful, though largely unseen elements of her story. There is indeed a power in praying for others - whether they are aware of this or not - and a strength and solace which comes from knowing we are prayed for. So today's feast is a good reminder for me of all those for whom I have ever said I will pray, to continue keeping them in the ever-widening open Heart of Jesus - and to thank God, too, for all those who have ever prayed for me. I'm sure there have been some very powerful 'cameos' in my life, some known to me, others from beyond a veil - long may they continue!

I expect John Vianney will be incredibly busy today with requests for prayers on behalf of priests, especially those who are struggling or facing persecution. But, confident that there's no such thing as 'too busy' in heaven, I'm asking him to spare a bit of time for today's Mabels: those who are seeking God, and those running away from him; those feeling the tug of God's presence and desire for them, and - especially - the ones doing their best to resist. May John Vianney's prayers, and ours, help to ensure that God will, indeed have complete mastery over their - and indeed all our - hearts.