Monday, August 8, 2011
August 8: St. John Mary Vianney—Patron of Priests
The Cure d'Ars was born at Dardilly, near Lyons, France in 1786. The sanctity of St. John Vianney gives to the obscure village of Ars a universal fame. As parish priest he converted sinners and directed souls, not only those of his own flock, but people of all nations and conditions who came to consult this spiritual director. He died on August 4, 1859 and was canonized in 1925.
The following blog post about St. John Vianney is recorded from a book report that our 4th grader wrote this year about the beloved St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney.
A priest with a kind heart can help people who have lost their faith return to God. In the 1800s just after the French Revolution, the people of France had lost their faith in God. A young priest named Jean-Marie Vianney helped to bring the people of the town of Ars back to the Church. In The Cure of Ars: The Priest Who Out-Talked the Devil, by Milton Lomask, St. Jean Vianney showed his love for the priesthood and kindness to everyone he knew.
Many times in his life, Jean Vianney showed his love for the priesthood. When he was eight years old, priests came to his house in secret and fear. He helped his mother care for them and he talked to them. He wanted to become a priest. Because Jean Vianney was a slow learner, it was very hard for him to become a priest. It took him two tries to pass his test. When he finally became a priest, he only wanted to serve God as best he could. Once he stayed in the confessional for 12 hours so that everyone in the town could receive the Sacrament.
Once he became a priest, St. Jean Vianney showed his kindness to everyone he knew. The other priests in the town were jealous of Jean Vianney and they wrote cruel letters to him, especially about hearing everyone's confessions. Instead of getting angry, he replied to each letter with kindness. He tried to think of others first before his own needs. When he learned about the orphans in Ars, he used his inheritance to build an orphanage and a school.
St. Jean Vianney changed the hearts of the people in Ars. His love for the priesthood and his kindness brought many people back to God. Jean Vianney helped the people understand how much they needed the Sacraments. He also showed them how much God loved and cared for them. Because he was such a good, humble, and kind priest, the Church made St. Jean Vianney the Patron saint of priests.
I would like to add some comments of my own.
St. John Vianney was not ordained a priest until he was aged 30. He was thought by his superiors to be completely incompetent. However, God bestowed him with a great many spiritual gifts, including the gift of healing and the ability to read the hearts of his penitents. It was for this latter reason that his reputation spread as the most gracious of all confessors. Men, women, and children came from all over France to his confessional. Many times his fellow priests chastised St. John Vianney for overstepping his bounds. Each time he humbly admitted his fault, but he continued to hear the confessions of all who approached him.
His life was spent in great suffering every day. Each night St. John Vianney was allowed only two hours of sleep, as he was tormented by the devil. The devil assaulted him with deafening noises, insults, and physical abuse. Occasionally, the members of the parish witnessed such events but St. John merely brushed them off as sufferings he must endure for Our Lord. He often joked that he could "out-talk" the devil.
On August 4, 1859, St. John Vianney died peacefully in his sleep. Pending his beatification in 1904, St. John Vianney's body was exhumed and found to be completely incorrupt except for the normal blackening of the skin. His body lies on display above the main altar in the Basilica in Ars, France.
In 1925, the priest with learning difficulties and who was considered incompetent was declared Patron saint of parish priests.
Currently, the modern Catholic Church is facing a crisis in the priesthood. Parishes are closing down and consolidating because there are very few priests compared to parishioners. Over half the priests in the priesthood in the United States are over 70 and approaching retirement age. Sadly, many of the priests we do have, have brought great scandal to the Church because of their abuses on children or other corruptions. I could include a long list of priests who have committed suicide, looted the coffers of their parishes, spent months in alcohol or drug treatment programs, or worse. I hope, later, to continue this blog on the priesthood—what it is and how it has changed in the Church since Vatican II.
St. John Vianney, pray for our priests, that when they are tormented by the devil, they have the will to endure the suffering.
St. John Vianney, pray for us, that we may always have a penitent heart and a good confessor.