Acta Sanctorum: St. John Vianney (August 4)
August 04, 2023
Fr. John Colacinio C.PP.S.

August 4

St. John Mary Vianney


Life (1786-1859)

Some saints, like Augustine, or Thomas Aquinas, or Alphonsus Liguori, have been intellectually brilliant. Since ours is a teaching church, we must have some intellectual leaders. But other saints, more like the rest of us, have been far from geniuses. In them, God wants to emphasize that what He most wants from everybody is humility of heart.

That is what attracted thousands to seek out the famous 19th century Cure (pastor) of Ars, France, his earthy simplicity of spirit.

John Vianney, the future Cure, was the son of a poor farmer in east-central France. John was devout and wanted to study for the priesthood. His father couldn’t spare him from the farm work until he was 20. Then he began his preparatory studies with a nearby parish priest. A slow learner by nature, John simply couldn’t master Latin; but after a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. John Francis Regis, he at least got over his discouragement.

Then came another setback. Drafted into the Napoleonic Army in 1809, he accidentally missed the departure of his contingent and thus, technically but contrary to his own intention, he became a “draft-dodger”. The mayor to whom he reported his plight sensibly advised that he go into hiding rather than risk the severe penalties prescribed for deserters. So under a pseudonym, John remained working on a local farm for the next 14 months. In 1811, thanks to an amnesty, he was able to return home a free man.

Now he resumed his seminary studies. Latin remained the bugbear, but his bishop realized that Vianney had great common sense and was a model of goodness; so he ordained him a priest in 1812. Named assistant pastor to the parish of his first priest-instructor, young Father Vianney soon showed particular gifts, as a confessor.

In 1818, John-Mary was named pastor of the run-down rural parish of Ars-en-Dombes. Here he was to spend the rest of his days. Thanks to his diligent efforts, his own holiness and the miracles that he occasioned, he finally succeeded in winning over his listless congregation to grateful obedience and Christian regularity of life. It was not an easy success, so far as Vianney was concerned. He tried three times to run away to a monastery or other more peaceful locale, but he always came back. He was also under constant assault by the devil, who even threatened him physically. At the same time he was the object of enmity on the part of some of his fellow priests. They resented his zeal, which far outstripped their own. But his bishop fully appreciated him.

Jean-Marie Vianney excelled as a confessor. When people began to come to Ars in droves to consult him, he might spend as many as 16 hours a day in the confessional. In this important work he was aided by the spiritual gift of reading peoples’ souls. Sometimes he could remind them to confess old sins that only they knew of. The saint preached, of course; but preachers, like the writers of today’s medical advice columns, can only discuss “diseases” in general. For the particular diagnosis and remedies, one must still see one’s own doctor.

In the year 1858-1859, over 1,000 pilgrims visited Ars. The Cure, now 73, and worn out, took to bed for the last time on July 18, 1859. Even then he summoned several persons to kneel beside his bedstead and finish their confessions. He died on August 5, 1859.

Pope Pius XI canonized Vianney in 1925. Four years later Pius named him the principal patron of all the Catholic parish clergy. The choice of this gentle, self- sacrificing, unlikely shepherd for that heavenly task could not have been more appropriate.

--Father Robert F. McNamara

Scripture  Ezekiel 3:17-21
The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from me, warn them in my Name. If I say to a wicked man, “You are to die,” and you do not warn him; if you do not speak and warn him to renounce his evil ways and so live, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, however, you do warn a wicked man and he does not renounce his wickedness and his evil ways, then he shall die for his sin, but you yourself will have saved your life. When the upright man renounces his integrity to do evil and I set a trap for him, he too shall die; since you failed to warn him, he shall die for his sin and the integrity he practised will no longer be remembered; but I will hold you responsible for his death. If, however, you warn the upright man not to sin and he abstains from sinning, he shall live, thanks to your warning, and you too will have saved your life.’
(Year A). Alas, my dear brethren, what have we become even since our conversion? Instead of going always forward and increasing in holiness, what laziness and what indifference we display! God cannot endure this perpetual inconstancy with which we pass from virtue to vice and from vice to virtue. Tell me, my children, is not this the very pattern of the way you live? Are your poor lives anything other than a succession of good deeds and bad deeds? Is it not true that you go to Confession and the very next day you fall again -- or perhaps the very same day? .... How can this be, unless the religion you have is unreal, a religion of habit, a religion of long-standing custom, and not a religion rooted in the heart? Carry on, my friend; you are only a waverer! Carry on, my poor man; in everything you do, you are just a hypocrite and nothing else! God has not the first place in your heart; that is reserved for the world and the devil. How many people there are, my dear children, who seem to love God in real earnest for a little while and then abandon Him! What do you find, then, so hard and so unpleasant in the service of God that it has repelled you so strangely and caused you to change over to the side of the world? Yet at the time when God showed you the state of your soul, you actually wept for it and realised how much you had been mistaken in your lives. If you have persevered so little, the reason for this misfortune is that the devil must have been greatly grieved to have lost you because he has done so much to get you back. He hopes now to keep you altogether. How many apostates there are, indeed, who have renounced their religion and who are Christians in name only!

But, you will say to me, how can we know that we have religion in our hearts, this religion which is consistent?

My dear brethren, this is how: listen well and you will understand if you have religion as God wants you to have it in order to lead you to Heaven. If a person has true virtue, nothing whatever can change him; he is like a rock in the midst of a tempestuous sea. If anyone scorns you, or calumniates you, if someone mocks at you or calls you a hypocrite or a sanctimonious fraud, none of this will have the least effect upon your peace of soul. You will love him just as much as you loved him when he was saying good things about you. You will not fail to do him a good turn and to help him, even if he speaks badly of your assistance. You will say your prayers, go to Confession, to Holy Communion, you will go to Mass, all according to your general custom.  (Sermons)

Musical Selection
You are a priest forever In the line of Melchizedek 
Consecrated to the service of the Lord 
To sit at his right hand.
You are a priest forever 
In the line of Melchizedek 
In persona Christi 
Ad majorem Dei gloriam 
Totus tuus, Amen 
Beneath the mantle of your Mother 
Who intercedes on your behalf 
In the arms of your Father 
Who holds you in the palm of his hand 
Lord pour out upon this servant 
Your Holy Spirit from above 
The grace and power of your priesthood 
And your unfailing love 
May the anointing of the Lord 
Be upon your brow today 
May the oil of gladness flow 
From heaven above 
And may the olive Branch of peace 
Be raised in your right hand 
That your might show the 
Saving power of your love 
God of power and mercy,
you made the holy priest John Vianney
a pastor devoted entirely to his flock.
By his example and prayers
grant that we may win for you
many brothers and sisters in the love of Christ,
and together with them attain everlasting salvation.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever. Amen.