Saint John Marie Vianney
Dardilly and Ars, France (1786–1859)
Patron: parish priests
Feast day: August 4
John Marie Vianney was born in the South of France just before the French Revolution. A national church was created after the Revolution, and priests or religious persons loyal to the Roman Catholic Church were banned from serving and were often martyred as a result.
By the time John Vianney wanted to enter the priesthood, seminaries and most Catholic institutions were closed. After the restoration of the hierarchy of the Church, instruction of candidates for the priesthood was left to parish priests and later to the bishops of the dioceses.
Education of candidates was sporadic and fell short of typical preparation in the great seminaries and institutions of higher education.John received his religious education under these circumstances. That, and the fact that he was a poor learner, created doubt that he would ever be ordained. Churches and entire parishes were without priests, however, and bishops felt the urgency to ordain men, even if the new priests weren’t intellectually equipped.
John Vianney was ordained in 1818. He began his ministry under tutelage of a very holy pastor, and upon the death of his pastor, Father Vianney became pastor of a small, abandoned parish in Ars, France. The town was remote and Catholic only in name and revealed the full effect of the French Revolution.
The church building and priest house were in great disrepair, people didn’t attend church services, men frequented the bars and brothels to the abandonment of their families, and children weren’t properly educated in the Catholic faith.
Father Vianney took the challenge and, little by little, began to turn things around in Ars. He repaired, cleaned, and restored the church building. He began catechism classes for the children and wrote a catechetical book easy enough for the children to grasp. Along with a wealthy patron of the village, Father Vianney even founded a school for girls. He went to village bars and dragged husbands back to their families, preached magnificent but down-to-earth homilies, and conducted parish missions — a type of retreat that resulted in a boom of confessions.
All his efforts to restore the Church community came at quite a cost for John Vianney. Clergy in surrounding towns soon became jealous and maliciously maligned him. He was personally attacked by the devil when he tried to sleep. His health deteriorated due to extreme penances and denial of nourishing food. Yet, people from Ars and around the region came to the village to seek the Cure of Ars for confession and spiritual direction.
Habitually, Father Vianney would stay in the confessional for eight to ten hours a day. John Vianney died after receiving the Sacrament of the Sick, commonly known as the last rites, on August 4, 1859. In 1904, his body was unearthed. Though a bit dried and darkened, his body was entirely intact. After his beatification, Saint John Vianney was placed in a gold reliquary in a newly constructed shrine.
Today, his body lies in a glass casket above the high altar in a newly constructed basilica near the old parish church in Ars.
Last updated: March 21, 2013 at 21:48 pm
Back to Saints
Back to Home