Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A New Jean Vianney?

Marian and I met two angels en route to Marseilles this summer, on our path to the Camino de Santiago. But we didn’t run into Fr. Michel-Marie Zanotti-Sorkine. Chances are, if we had seen the dark-haired man in a long black coat walking through Marseilles, especially in the neighborhoods he works, we would have thought he was a Muslim. He’s a priest, and you can read about him today at Chiesa:

Michel-Marie Zanotti-Sorkine was born in 1959 in Nice, to a family a bit Russian and a bit Corsican. As a young man he sang in the nightclubs in Paris, but then over the years there emerged the vocation to the priesthood he had had since his childhood. 

His guides were Fr. Joseph-Marie Perrin, who was Simone Weil's spiritual director, and Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, founder of the congregation of Saint John. He studied in Rome at the Angelicum, the theological faculty of the Dominicans. He was ordained a priest in 2004 by Cardinal Bernard Panafieu, the archbishop of Marseille at the time. 

He writes books, the latest of which is entitled Au diable la tiédeur, to the devil with lukewarmness, and is dedicated to priests. He is pastor at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.

To the devil with lukewarmness, I like that. Just wrote about lukewarmness, in fact. Pope Pius X said all evil can be traced to lukewarm Catholics!

It’s easy to read this story about Fr. Michel-Marie and think we need more priests like that: who wears the cassock on the streets of the city as his “work uniform”; who hears confessions every evening and is available to parishioners from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m.; who “takes so much care with the liturgy.” Parishioners line up for confession as they did in Ars nearly 200 years ago, and Fr. Michel-Marie’s church is filled. 

He insists a great deal on the responsibility of the priest, and in one of his books – he has written many books, and still writes songs sometimes – he affirms that a priest who has an empty church must examine himself and say: “It is we who lack fire.” He explains: “The priest is ‘alter Christus,’ he is called to reflect Christ in himself. This does not mean asking perfection of ourselves; but being conscious of our sins, of our misery, in order to be able to understand and pardon anyone who comes to the confessional.”

So France has another St. Jean Vianney in the making? Fine. But what about us? What about our lukewarmness?

Do we lay Catholics wear any kind of “work uniform”? (A scapular cross, for example.) Do we even go to confession? (OK, how often?) What hours of the day (six?!) do we set aside for others, or for reading and prayer?

Fr. Michel-Marie puts down a challenge to every priest, and to every Catholic. Vive le bon Dieu!

1 comment:

  1. I just read the article about this amazing French priest on www.chiesa. Amazing! Reading this strengthens hope!What immediately struck me was that Fr Michelle-Marie "IS AVAILABLE to parishioners from 5pm to 11pm. As converts to the great Catholic Church- we live in wonderful Spain-, it was a chock to realise that our parish priest was the least "available" of all in the Church. Officially, on the home page, there is a couple of hours set asid in the afternoon for nayone who wishes to speak with the parish priest. However, in reality this seems to be more of two hours which never can be realised. We have tried several times, but the priest is never ever "available", not even when he is there. There is always and constantly sth which seems so much more important; innumerable activities, some of them surely good, but also sports activities. All that matters appparently seems to be "children", "the young". Checking the home page, there is not one single bible class for adults, and/or similar. We sometimes begin to feel that adults are regarded with teh attitude of "pay, pray and obey". Many people testify that is is virtually impossible to even get one minute's talk with the priest, he is always on his way to some kind of activity, seems very stressed in general.When talking with him, one notices his eyes starting to flickering in another directions, one simply doesn't get any eye contact. Just as if "he isn't there". Please, I don't want to sound too negative, but the truth is that the parishioners do need to feel that the priest cares-really cares! Negligence leads to disappointments and desillusions, quite unnecessary so.
    In another church, the otherwise very good and sincere priest has never ever, in over five years, stayed after Mass to even briefly greet the 5-10 people at the week day Mass. Not even a hint of a smile. He immediately withdraws to his room, behind a closed door. Unfortunately, we have seen this happen all too often in Catholic churches, in Spain, Italy, other countries as well. Understandable, if there are several hundred people or more attending Mass, but not in the cases mentioned above. Especially today, with so many people being lonely, moving a lot, the priests are expected to demonstrate their love and care.It seems to us that not so few priests show signs of having relational problems, especially with adults, that some of them seem to "hide" behind a number of endless activities for children and young people.
    Well, yes, there are some parishioners who do have access to the priest; the so called King Pins, that is, the people in the parish have appointed themselves to VIP:s. Usually this means running all kinds of errands, cleaning, arranging this and that.While we agree that this is important work, too, sadly we have the impression that these people-most of them elderly ladies-are looking for self promotion, acknowledgement and power.Power to rule and to decide. Who is allowed to do what. And, more important- who is NOT allowed to do this or that. We have seen them in all churches!No priest should allow himself to become too dependant on these people, since it usually divides the parish and creates envy and strife.
    God bless Fr Michelle-Marie!It was truly wonderful to read about him!


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