During the Easter octave, the men in our house were offered, on a first come, first serve basis, the opportunity to go on a retreat in Ars as the Year of the Priest was closing. It was a little pricey but I jumped at the opportunity. I approached the trip with a little skepticism and trepidation, for I feared that Ars would be thoroughly commercialized- a tourist trap for pilgrims. The quiet, peaceful French country town was a far cry from what I had been expecting. Truly the Holy Cure even in death still intercedes for and offers a good witness to this small town, for the strong faith life there was evident. Afternoon adoration was extremely well attended, and a nun with a simply angelic voice led children in hymns for a portion of the time. Young and old, lay and religious were all present in adoration every afternoon.
I was able to spend some good time in prayer with Our Lord and the Holy Cure there, and was truly inspired and humbled by what I saw and experienced there. The retreat was very good in a number of ways. It was sufficiently prayerful while still leaving plenty of time for fellowship, which was much appreciated. Our retreat leader saw it as a sort of 'retreat lite', a far cry from the seven day silent retreat of the fall. It's one thing to socialize at the college, but it's quite another to do so on our off-time. I got to spend some really good time with some of the guys with whom I did not regularly cross paths. Two of them taught me cribbage one night, and I naturally dominated on my first attempt. The last night we had a bonfire behind the French seminary, and we stood around, shared our stories and waxed philosophical (and theological) as some of us, quite naturally when waxing philosophical, partook of some spirits and cigars.
The trip was great in just providing some time for much needed rest, as well as both for reinvigorating us individually in our drive for sanctity and the pursuit of our call, as well as building us up fraternally as men encouraging one another in their desire to serve as priests of the Most High. It was wonderful to be able to get to Ars before the end of the Year of the Priest. I prayed most fervently for our bishop and priests, as well as for all our seminarians and those considering the priestly or religious life. I took numerous pictures during my time there, so I hope you enjoy them.
This is St. John Vianney's bedroom. Notice the large collection of books in the next picture- he may have been poor, but he considered study to be of great importance.
Here is the entrance to the Church. This part was built by St. John Vianney, while the dome in the back was a later addition.
On the left is the confessional in which Vianney heard confessions.
Here is the man himself, and us praying (or getting our pictures taken) with him.
Here is a statue commemorating John Vianney's famous arrival in Lourdes. It was a foggy day and he got a bit lost. Seeing a young shepherd boy, he told him, "if you show me the way to Ars, I will show you the way to heaven."
Finally, here we are, gathered around our bonfire behind the seminary at dusk.
We took a day trip to Paray-le-Monial, the site of the apparition of the Sacred Heart to St. Mary Margaret Alacoque. Here we are, approaching the small town, along with a picture of her tomb and one of the mosaics of the Sacred Heart in town.