St John Vianney

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St John Vianney

Patron saint of parish priests

Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire, it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that
St John Vianney

Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, known as John in English, was born 8 May 1786 in Dardilly, France and was baptised the same day. He was the fourth of six children born to Matthieu and Marie Vianney.

John was raised in a Catholic home and the family often helped the poor and housed St Benedict Joseph Labre when he made his pilgrimage to Rome.

John attended a minor seminary and became a priest in 1815 in the Couvent des Minimes de Grenoble and he was appointed assistant priest in Écully. Three years later, Fr John Vianney was appointed parish priest of the Ars parish. With help from Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lerdet, La Providence, a home for girls, was established in Ars.

When he began his priestly duties, Fr Vianney realised many were either ignorant or indifferent to religion as a result of the French Revolution. Many danced and drank on Sundays or worked in their fields.

Fr Vianney spent much of his time in confession and often delivered homilies against blasphemy and dancing. Finally, if parishioners did not give up dancing, he refused them absolution. He spent 11 to twelve hours each day working to reconcile people with God. In the summer months, he often worked 16 hour days and refused to retire. His fame spread until people began to travel to him in 1827. Within thirty years, it is said he received up to 20,000 pilgrims each year.

He was deeply devoted to St Philomena and erected a chapel and shrine in her honour. When he later became deathly ill but miraculously recovered, he attributed his health to St Philomena's intercession.

By 1853, Fr Vianney had attempted to run away from Ars four times, each attempt with the intention of becoming a monk but decided after the final time that it was not to be.

Six years later, he passed away and left behind a legacy of faith and was viewed as the champion of the poor.

On 3 October 1873, Pope Pius IX proclaimed Fr Vianney as "venerable" and on 8 January 1905, Pope Pius X beatified him. St John Vianney was canonised on 31 May 1925. His feast day is 4 August.