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St John Mary Vianney - Le Curé d'Ars

Parish Priest - from France. Patron Saint of Priests.
Born in Dardilly on 8 May 1786; died in Ars on 4 August 1859
Beatified by St Pius X in 1905; canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925.
Major Shrine - Ars-sur-Formans, Ain, France
Feast Day - 4th August

On the centenary of his death, St John XXIII wrote his encyclical, Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia, on St John Vianney. On the 150th anniversary, Pope Benedict XVI declared a 'Year for Priests'.

St John XXIII: "We borrow the prayer that sounded so often on the lips of the Cure of Ars: 'Blessed be the most holy and immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. May all nations praise, all lands invoke and preach your Immaculate Heart!'"

3 2us by Father David Barnes        

"One of the most famous stories about the Curé d'Ars is about someone who came to him as he sat at the back of the Church before the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord fully present among us, and when this person asked "What are you doing all day with this?" he answered, "Nothing. I just look at Him and He looks at me." John Vianney knew the beauty of true friendship - just to be with the beloved was all he asked. This enabled him to see everything in a different light and so he writes for us 'In prayer well made, troubles vanish like snow in the rays of the sun.'

Flash is required!

The Curé d'Ars

"St John Vianney said to the Lord 'Please convert my parish.' He knew perfectly he couldn't do anything by himself.. With humility you can do all you want - you count not on yourself but on God.  John Mary Vianney is also a great model - not because he has done extraordinary things but because he always done ordinary things in an extraordinary way. And there was a great coherence in his life.. and he was very merciful."

Catechesis by Benedict XVI
Wednesday General Audience, 5th August 2009 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear brothers and sisters,
In today's catechesis I would like to review briefly the existence of the Holy Curé of Ars underlining some traits/features, which can also be an example for priests in our age, certainly different from the one in which he lived, but marked in many ways by the same fundamental human and spiritual challenges. Exactly/Just/Precisely yesterday 150 years have passed since his birth in Heaven; it was in fact at 2 o'clock on the morning of 4th August 1859 when/that St John Baptist Mary Vianney, having ended the course of his earthly existence, went to meet the heavenly Father so as to receive the inheritance of/inherit the kingdom prepared since the creation of the world for those who faithfully follow his teachings (cf Mt 25, 34). What a great feast there must have been in Paradise at the entrance of such a zealous shepherd/pastor! What a welcome must have been reserved for him by the multitude of children reconciled with the Father through his work as parish priest and confessor! I wanted to take inspiration from this anniversary to announce the Year for Priests which, as is known, has as its theme "Faithfulness of Christ, faithfulness of the priest". The credibility of witness and, ultimately, the efficacy of
each priest's mission depends on holiness.

John Mary Vianney was born
in the small village of Dardilly on 8th May 1786, of/into a peasant family, poor in material goods but rich in humanity and faith. Baptized on the same day of his birth, as was the good practice/custom at that time, he consecrated the years of his childhood and adolescence to work in the fields and to the grazing of animals, so much so that, at the age of seventeen, he was still illiterate. However he knew by heart the prayers taught by his devout mother and was nourished by the religious sense that he breathed at home. His biographers narrate that, from his first/early youth, he sought to conform himself to the divine will even in the most humble tasks. He nourished in his spirit the desire to become a priest, but it was not easy for him to meet/accede to/achieve it. In fact/Indeed, he arrived at presbyteral ordination (only) after many ordeals and misunderstandings, thanks to the help of wise priests, who did not stop at considering his human limitations but knew to look further/beyond them, intuiting the horizon of holiness that was outlined in this truly singular/unusual young man. Thus, on 23rd June 1815, he was ordained deacon and, on the following 13 August, priest. Finally at the age of 29 years old, after numerous uncertainties, not a few failures and many tears, he could go up to the Lord's altar and realise the dream of his life.

The Holy Curé of Ars always manifested the highest consideration/esteem for the gift received. He affirmed/would say: "Oh! How great is the Priesthood! It will not be well  understood except in/until Heaven... if one understood it on earth, one would die, not of fear but of love!" (Abbé Monnin, Esprit du Curé d'Ars, 113). Moreover, as a small/little boy he had confided to his mother: "If I were a priest, I would like to conquer many souls" (Abbé Monnin, Procès de l’ordinaire, p 1064).  And so it was/he did. In his pastoral service, as simple as it was extraordinarily fruitful, this unknown parish priest of a remote/lost village in the south of France succeeded so much/was so successful in identifying himself with his own ministry as to become, also in a visibly and universally recognizable manner, alter Christus, image of the Good Shepherd, who, unlike the mercenary, gives his life for his own sheep (cf Jn 10, 11). After the example of the Good Shepherd, he gave his life in the decades of his priestly service. His existence was a living catechesis, which acquired a very particular efficacy when people saw him celebrate Mass, stop
in adoration before the tabernacle or spend many hours in the confessional.

The centre of his whole life was therefore the Eucharist, which he celebrated and adored with devotion and respect. Another fundamental characteristic of this extraordinary priestly figure was the assiduous ministry of confessions. He recognized in the practice of the sacrament of penance the logical and natural accomplishment/fulfilment of the priestly apostolate, in obedience to Christ's mandate: "Those whose sins you forgive will be forgiven and those whose sins you retain, will be retained" (cf Jn 20, 23). St John Mary Vianney distinguished himself thus as an excellent and tireless confessor and spiritual teacher/director. Passing "with only one interior movement, from the altar to the confessional", where he spent the greater part of the day, he sought in every way, with preaching and persuasive advice, to make his parishioners rediscover the meaning and beauty of sacramental penance/the sacrament of Penance, showing it as an intimate need/requirement/demand of the Eucharistic presence (cf Letter to Priests for the Year for Priests).


The pastoral methods of St John Mary Vianney may appear little suited to the social and cultural conditions of the present day. How in fact could a priest today imitate him, in a world so very changed? If it is true that times change and many charisms are typical of the person, hence unrepeatable, there is however a style of life and a yearning for background/basic desire that we are all called to cultivate. At closer inspection/look, what made the Curé of Ars holy was his humble faithfulness to the mission to which God had called him; it was his constant abandonment, full of trust, in(to) the hands of divine Providence.
He succeeded in touching people's hearts not by force/strength of his own human qualities, nor by relying exclusively on a praiseworthy commitment of (his) will; he conquered souls, evern the most refractory ones, by communicating to them that which/what he intimately lived, namely, his friendship with Christ. He was "in love" with Christ, and the true secret of his pastoral success was the love that he nourished/fed through the eucharistic Mystery, announced, celebrated and lived, which became love for Christ's flock, for Christians and for all the people who were seeking God. His testimony reminds us, dear brothers and sisters, that for every baptized person, and even more for the priest, the Eucharist "is not simply an event with two protagonists, a dialogue between God and me. Eucharistic Communion tends/aspires to a total transformation of one's own life. With force/strenght it opens wide the entire I of man and creates a new we (Joseph Ratzinger, Communion in the Church, p 80).

Thus, far from reducing the figure of St John Mary Vianney to an example albeit an admirable one of 18th century devotional spirituality, on the contrary one should understand the prophetic power that marked his human and priestly personality that is extremely timely. In post-revolutionary France which was experiencing a sort of "dictatorship of rationalism" that aimed at obliterating from society the very existence of priests and of the Church, he lived first in the years of his youth a heroic secrecy, walking kilometres at night to attend Holy Mass. Then later as a priest Vianney distinguished himself by an unusual and fruitful pastoral creativity, geared to showing that the then prevalent rationalism was in fact far from satisfying authentic human needs, hence definitively unliveable.


Dear brothers and sisters, 150 years after the death of the Holy Curé of Ars, contemporary society is facing challenges that are just as demanding and may have become even more complex. If in his time the "dictatorship of rationalism" existed, in the current epoch a sort of "dictatorship of relativism" is evident in many contexts. Both seem inadequate responses to the human being's justifiable request to use his reason as a distinctive and constitutive element of his own identity. Rationalism was inadequate because it failed to take into account human limitations and claims to make reason alone the criterion of all things, transforming it into a goddess; contemporary relativism humiliates reason because it arrives de facto at affirming that the human being can know nothing with certainty outside the positive scientific field. Today however, as in that time, man, "a beggar for meaning and fulfilment", is constantly in quest of exhaustive answers to the basic questions that he never ceases to ask himself.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had well in mind this "thirst for the truth", which burns in the heart of every man, when they affirmed that it is up to/the task of priests "as educators of the faith" to form "an authentic Christian community" capable of opening "to all men the road that leads to Christ" and to exercise "a truly maternal/motherly action" towards them, (by) indicating or facilitating/making easy to those who do not believe "the pathway that leads to Christ and to his Church", and by constituting for those who already believe "stimulus, food and support for the spiritual struggles" (cf Presbyterorum ordinis, 6).
The teaching that in this regard the holy Curé of Ars continues to transmit/pass on to us is that, at the basis of such a pastoral commitment/engagement, the priest must place an intimate personal union with Christ, to be cultivated and increased/enhanced/augmented day after day. Only if he is in love with Christ, will the priest be able to teach everyone this union, this intimate friendship with the divine Master/Teacher, will he be able to touch the hearts of the people and open them to the merciful love of the Lord. Only thus/in this way, consequently, will he be able to instil enthusiasm and spiritual vitality into the communities that the Lord entrusts to him. Let us pray that, through the intercession of St John Mary Vianney, God may give holy priests to his Church, and that the desire may grow in the faithful to sustain and help their ministry. We entrust this intention to Mary, whom we invoke today as Our Lady of the Snow."

St John-Mary Vianney - Sermon for the feast of the Guardian Angels

Although the good God is sufficient to Himself, nevertheless He makes use of the ministry of the angels to govern the world... When we see God taking such care of our lives we conclude that our souls are something truly great and precious if He is to employ all that is greatest in his court for its preservation and sanctification. He has given us his Son to save us; this same Son... gives to each of us one and even several angels, who are solely occupied in asking on our behalf the graces and helps to our salvation that we need... Oh, how little people know what they are and what they were made for! In Holy Scripture we read that the Lord said to his people: “See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way” (Ex 23,20)...

We should often pray to our guardian angels, carefully respect them and, above all, try to imitate them in all our actions. And the first thing we need to imitate in them is the thought of the presence of God... Surely, if we were completely penetrated with God's presence, how could we do evil? How much more pleasing to God would be all our good deeds!... God said to Abraham: “Would you be blameless? Walk in my presence” (Gn 17,1). How could we possibly forget God so easily when we have Him always with us? Why are we not full of respect and gratitude towards our angels, who accompany us day and night?... Perhaps you will say: “I'm too unworthy to merit it.” My brethren, not only does God not lose sight of you for an instant but He gives you an angel who never ceases to guide your steps. Ah, happiness too great, yet too little known!