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John Vianney

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John Vianney

Saint John Vianney, T.O.S.F.
Tertiary and priest
Born (1786-05-08)May 8, 1786
Dardilly, Lyonnais,
Kingdom of France
Died August 4, 1859(1859-08-04) (aged 73)
Ars-sur-Formans, Ain, France
Honored in
Catholic Church
Beatified January 8, 1905, Rome, Italy by Pope Pius X
Canonized 1925, Rome, Italy by Pope Pius XI
Major shrine Shrine of St. John Vianney
Ars-sur-Formans, Ain, France
Feast August 4
August 9 (1950s)
August 8 (1960s)
August 4 (1970s onward). (General Roman Calendar)
Patronage all priests, pastors; Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney; Archdiocese of Dubuque; confessors; Archdiocese of Kansas City

Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, T.O.S.F., (8 May 1786 – 4 August 1859), commonly known in English as St John Vianney, was a French parish priest who is venerated in the Catholic Church as a saint and as the patron saint of all priests. He is often referred to as the "Curé d'Ars". He became internationally notable for his priestly and pastoral work in his parish because of the radical spiritual transformation of the community and its surroundings. Catholics attribute this to his saintly life, mortification, his persevering ministry in the sacrament of confession, and his ardent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to Saint Philomena.

Early life

Statue of Jean-Marie Vianney in the church of a small village in France.
Vianney was born on 8 May 1786, in the French town of Dardilly, and was baptized the same day. His parents, Matthieu Vianney and Marie Beluze,[1] had six children, of whom John was the fourth. The Vianneys were devout Catholics who helped the poor and gave hospitality to St. Benedict Joseph Labre, the patron saint of tramps, who passed through Dardilly on his pilgrimage to Rome.

By 1790, the French Revolution forced many loyal priests to hide from the government in order to carry out the sacraments in their parish. In order to attend Mass, even though it was illegal, the Vianneys travelled to distant farms where they could pray in secret. Since the priests risked their lives day by day, Vianney began to look upon priests as heroes. His First Communion lessons were carried out in a public home by three priests. He made his first communion at the age of 13.[2] During the Mass, the windows were covered so that the light of the candles could not be seen from the outside. The secrecy of his Catholic practices continued, especially during his preparation for confirmation.

The Catholic Church was re-established in France in 1802, resulting in religious peace throughout the country. By this time, Vianney was concerned about his future vocation and longed for an education. He was 20 when his father allowed him to leave the farm to be taught at a "presbytery-school" in the neighbouring village of Écully, conducted by the Abbé Balley.[2] The school taught arithmetic, history, geography, and Latin. Vianney struggled with school, especially with Latin, since his past education had been interrupted by the French Revolution. Only because of Vianney's deepest desire to be a priest—and Balley's patience—did he persevere.[3]

Vianney's studies were interrupted in 1809 when he was drafted into Napoleon's armies.[2] He would have been exempt, as an ecclesiastical student, but Napoleon had withdrawn the exemption in certain dioceses because of his need for soldiers in his fight against Spain.[4] Two days after he had to report at Lyons, he became ill and was hospitalized, during which time his draft left without him. Once released from the hospital, on January 5, he was sent to Roanne for another draft.[2] He went into a church to pray, and fell behind the group. He met a young man who volunteered to guide him back to his group, but instead led him deep into the mountains of Le Forez, to the village of Les Noes, where deserters had gathered.[4] Vianney lived there for fourteen months,[5] hidden in the byre attached to a farmhouse, and under the care of Claudine Fayot, a widow with four children. He assumed the name Jerome Vincent, and under that name he opened a school for village children.[6] Since the harsh weather isolated the town during the winter, the deserters were safe from gendarmes. However, after the snow melted, gendarmes came to the town constantly, searching for deserters. During these searches, Vianney hid inside stacks of fermenting hay in Fayot's barn.

An imperial decree proclaimed in March 1810 granted amnesty to all deserters,[5] which enabled Vianney to go back legally to Ecully, where he resumed his studies. He was tonsured in 1811, and in 1812 he went to the minor seminary at Verrières-en-Forez. In autumn of 1813, he was sent to major seminary at Lyons. Considered too slow, he was returned to Abbe Balley. However, Balley persuaded the Vicars General that Vianney's piety was great enough to compensate for his ignorance, and the seminarian received minor orders and the subdiaconate on 2 July 1814, was ordained a deacon in June 1815, and was ordained priest on 12 August 1815 in the Couvent des Minimes de Grenoble. He said his first Mass the next day,[5] and was appointed assistant to Balley in Écully.

Curé of Ars

In 1818, shortly after the death of Balley, Jean-Marie Vianney was appointed parish priest of the parish of Ars, a town of 230 inhabitants.[5] When Vianney’s bishop first assigned him to Ars, he got lost trying to find the town. Two young men tending flocks in the fields pointed him in the right direction.[7] With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls.[8]

As parish priest, Vianney realized that the Revolution's aftermath had resulted in religious ignorance and indifference, due to the devastation wrought on the Catholic Church in France. At the time, Sundays in rural areas were spent working in the fields, or dancing and drinking in taverns. Vianney spent time in the confessional and gave homilies against blasphemy and dancing.[5] If his parishioners did not give up dancing, he refused them absolution.[9]

Abbe Balley had been Vianney's greatest inspiration, since he was a priest who remained loyal to his faith, despite the Revolution.[10] Vianney felt compelled to fulfill the duties of a curé, just as did Balley, even when it was illegal.

Later years

Vianney came to be known internationally, and people from distant places began traveling to consult him as early as 1827.[11] "By 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached 20,000 a year. During the last ten years of his life, he spent 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional. Even the bishop forbade him to attend the annual retreats of the diocesan clergy because of the souls awaiting him yonder".[4] He spent at least 11 or 12 hours a day in the confessional during winter, and up to 16 in the summer.[11]

Vianney had a great devotion to St. Philomena. Vianney regarded her as his guardian and erected a chapel and shrine in honor of the saint. During May 1843, Vianney fell so ill he thought that his life was coming to its end. He asked St Philomena to cure him and promised to say 100 Masses at her shrine. Twelve days later, Vianney was cured and he attributed his cure to her intercession.

Vianney yearned for the contemplative life of a monk, and four times ran away from Ars, the last time in 1853.[11] He was a champion of the poor as a Franciscan tertiary and was a recipient of the coveted French Legion of Honor,[7]

Death and veneration

The body of Saint John Mary Vianney wearing a wax mask, found to be incorrupt by the Catholic Church. The body is entombed above the main altar in the Basilica at Ars, France.

On 4 August 1859, Vianney died at age of 73.[12] The bishop presided over his funeral with 300 priests and more than 6,000 people in attendance. Before he was buried, Vianney's body was fitted with a wax mask.[13]

On 3 October 1874 Pope Pius IX proclaimed him "venerable"; on 8 January 1905, Pope Pius X declared him Blessed and proposed him as a model to the parochial clergy. In 1925 John Marie Vianney was canonized by Pope Pius XI,[12] who in 1929 made him patron saint of parish priests.[14] In 1928 his feast day was inserted into the General Roman Calendar for celebration on 9 August. Pope John XXIII's 1960 revision, in which the Vigil of Saint Lawrence had a high rank, moved the feast to 8 August. Finally, the 1969 revision placed it on 4 August, the day of his death.

In 1959, on the 100th anniversary of his death, Pope John XXIII issued Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia, an encyclical on Vianney. John Paul II himself visited Ars in 1986 at the 200th anniversary of Vianney’s birth and referred to the great saint as a “rare example of a pastor acutely aware of his responsibilities…and a sign of courage for those who today experience the grace of being called to the priesthood.”[7]

In honor of the 150th anniversary of Vianney's death, Pope Benedict XVI declared a year for priests, running from the Feast of the Sacred Heart 2009-2010.[15][16]

The Vatican Postal Service issued a set of stamps to commemorate the 150th Anniversary. With the following words on 16 June 2009, Benedict XVI officially marked the beginning of the year dedicated to priests, "…On the forthcoming Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday 19 June 2009 – a day traditionally devoted to prayer for the sanctification of the clergy –, I have decided to inaugurate a ‘Year for Priests’ in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the dies natalis of John Mary Vianney, the Patron Saint of parish priests worldwide…" [17]

Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed St. John Vianney the Universal Patron of Priests and declared June 19, 2009-June 19, 2010 the Year of the Priests to encourage priests to strive for spiritual perfection. In the Holy Father's words the Curé d'Ars is "a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ's flock."

There are statues of Vianney in many French churches. Also, many parishes in the United States are named after him, and his image may be found in many Catholic parishes.

Institutions carrying his name

There are tens of institutions including schools, seminaries, churches named after him including:

  • St. John Vianney Catholic School, Barrie, Ontario
  • St. John Vianney Catholic School, Windsor, Ontario
  • St. John Vianney Roman Catholic Church, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia
  • St. John Vianney Roman Catholic Church, Ardlea Road, Artane, Dublin 5
United States

See also


  1. ^ , 27 July 2005, p.9L'Osservatore RomanoRisso, Paolo. "The Life of St Jean-Marie Vianney",
  2. ^ a b c d Walsh, Michael, ed. Butler's Lives of the Saints. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), 236.
  3. ^ Marshall, Bruce. The Curé of Ars. (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1952), 273.
  4. ^ a b c "Otten, Susan Tracy. "St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 30 Dec. 2012". Retrieved June 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Walsh, Michael, ed. Butler's Lives of the Saints. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), 237.
  6. ^ "Graf, Dom Ernest, ''The Cure of Ars''. Incorporated Catholic Truth Society,, London, 1952". Retrieved June 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c
  8. ^ "Foley, O.F.M., Leonard. ''Saint of the Day'', Franciscan Media, ISBN 978-0-86716-887-7". Retrieved June 2013. 
  9. ^ Walsh, Michael, ed. Butler's Lives of the Saints. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), 237-8.
  10. ^ Marshall, Bruce. The Curé of Ars. (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1952), 275.
  11. ^ a b c Walsh, Michael, ed. Butler's Lives of the Saints. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), 238.
  12. ^ a b "Who is the Cure of Ars?", Sisters of the Cure of Ars, Diocese of Portland, Maine
  13. ^ The Incorruptibles: A Study of the Incorruption of the Bodies of Various Catholic Saints and Beati, by Joan Carroll Cruz, OCDS, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc, June 1977. ISBN 0-89555-066-0
  14. ^ Walsh, Michael, ed. Butler's Lives of the Saints. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991), 239.
  15. ^ "Independent Catholic News, May 5, 2009". 2009-05-28. Retrieved June 2013. 
  16. ^ "Congregazione per il Clero - Annus Sacerdotalis - Letter proclaiming a Year for Priests". Annus Sacerdotalis. 2009-06-19. Retrieved June 2013. 
  17. ^ "Year for Priests – 150th Ann. of St John Vianney". World Stamp News. June 18, 2010. Retrieved September 12, 2010. 


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