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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, where his body lies incorrupt.
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.'

Catechesis by Pope 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 by underlining some of his traits, which can serve as an example for priests in our time, assuredly different from the one in which he lived, but marked in many ways by the same fundamental human and spiritual challenges. Yesterday exactly 150 years have passed since his birth into Heaven; it was in fact at 2 o'clock on the morning of 4th August 1859 when St John Baptist Mary Vianney, having ended the course of his earthly existence, went to meet the heavenly Father so as to 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 arrival of such a zealous shepherd! 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, into a peasant family, poor in material goods but rich in humanity and faith. Baptized on the very day of his birth, as was the 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 he had been taught by his devout mother and was nourished by the religious sense that he breathed at home. His biographers recount that, from his early youth, he sought to conform himself to the divine will even in the humblest tasks. He nourished in his soul the desire to become a priest, but it was not easy for him to satisfy it. Indeed, he arrived at priestly ordination 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, intuiting the horizon of holiness that was outlined in this truly singular young man. Hence, on 23rd June 1815 he was ordained deacon and, on the following 13 August, priest. Finally at the age of 29, after numerous uncertainties, not a few failures and many tears, he was able to go up to the Lord's altar and realise the dream of his life.

The holy Curé of Ars always manifested the highest regard for the gift received. He affirmed: "Oh! What a great thing is the priesthood! One will only well understand it in Heaven... if one understood it on earth, one would die, not out of fear but of love!" (Abbé Monnin, Esprit du Curé d'Ars, 113). In addition, as a small 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. In his pastoral service, as simple as it was extraordinarily fruitful, this unknown parish priest of a remote village in the south of France was so good at identifying himself with his ministry that he became, in a visibly and universally recognizable manner, alter Christus, image of the Good Shepherd, who, unlike the mercenary, gives his life for his sheep (cf Jn 10, 11). After the example of the Good Shepherd, he gave his life during 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 long hours in the confessional.

The centre of his whole life was thus 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 fulfillment 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. Passing "with the same interior movement, from the altar to the confessional", where he spent a great part of the day, he sought by all means, through preaching and persuasive advice, to make his parishioners rediscover the meaning and beauty of sacramental penance, showing it as an intimate 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 that has changed so much? If it is true that times change and many charisms are typical of the person, hence inimitable, there is however a style of life and a basic yearning that we are all called to cultivate. At closer inspection, 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, into the hands of divine Providence. He succeeded in touching people's hearts not by strength of his own human gifts, nor by relying exclusively on an effort, however laudable, of his will; he conquered souls, even the most refractory ones, by communicating to them that which he lived intimately, 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 through the eucharistic Mystery, announced, celebrated and lived, which became love for Christ's flock, for Christians and for all people who were seeking God. His testimony reminds us, dear brothers and sisters, that for each 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 to a total transformation of one's own life. With force 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 19th century devotional spirituality, it is necessary on the contrary to grasp the prophetic force that marked his very topical human and priestly personality. In post-revolutionary France, which was experiencing a sort of "dictatorship of rationalism" aimed at erasing the very presence of priests and of the Church in society, he lived first, in the years of his youth, a heroic secrecy, travelling kilometres at night so as to participate in Holy Mass. Then, as a priest, he distinguished himself through a singular and fruitful pastoral creativity, apt to show that the then prevaling rationalism was in reality far from satisfying the authentic needs of man and thus, definitively, was not livable.

Dear brothers and sisters, 150 years after the death of the holy Curé of Ars, the challenges of contemporary society are no less demanding, indeed they may have become more complex. If then there was the "dictatorship of rationalism", in the current epoch a sort of "dictatorship of relativism" is seen in many areas. Both appear inadequate responses to the just demand of man to use fully his own reason as a distinctive and constitutive element of his own identity. Rationalism was inadequate because it does not take into account human limitations and claims to elevate reason alone as measure of all things, transforming it into a goddess; contemporary relativism mortifies reason, because in fact it ends up affirming that the human being cannot know anything with certainty beyond the positive scientific field. Today however, as then, man "a beggar for meaning and fulfilment", goes in constant search of exhaustive answers to the fundamental 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 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 true maternal action" towards them, by indicating or facilitating to the one who does not believe "the pathway that leads to Christ and to his Church", and by constituting for the one who already believes "stimulus, food and support for the spiritual struggle" (cf Presbyterorum ordinis, 6). The teaching that the holy Curé of Ars continues to transmit to us in this regard is that, at the basis of this pastoral commitment, the priest must place an intimate personal union with Christ, to be cultivated and increased 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, will he be able to touch the hearts of the people and open them to the merciful love of the Lord. Only thus, 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 to his Church holy priests, and that the desire may grow among the faithful to sustain and assist their ministry. We entrust this intention to Mary, whom we invoke today as Our Lady of the Snows."

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."

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!