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!