Today, August 4, is the Memorial of St. Jean Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. Jean was born in Dardilly, France (near Lyon) in 1786. His parents, Matthieu and Marie, were devout Catholics who suffered the suppression of the Church during the French Revolution. The Vianney family would travel distances to hear Mass, offered illegally by priests in hiding from the regime. Young Jean, who knew these priests were risking their lives to provide the faithful with the sacraments, began to view them as heroes and decided to study for the priesthood himself when he grew of age.
While studying for the priesthood, Jean was called to military service by Napoleon, who needed soldiers for his war with Spain. Jean joined his troops, but fell behind when the troop passed a church and Jean went in to pray. A young man offered to guide him back to his troops, but instead led him into the woods where a group of deserters were hiding. Jean assumed the name Jerome Vincent and hid out from the war for several months.
In 1810, a general amnesty was extended to all deserters and Jean was able to legally assume his name and return to his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained a priest in 1815 and assigned to the parish at Ars 1818. Ars was a small community of 230 families and had been devastated by the French Revolution so that the people were ignorant of and uninterested in living the faith. Jean was determined to reintroduce the gospel to these people, and he began teaching against blasphemy and against ignoring the Lord’s Day. Soon, he gained a reputation as a holy man and a good confessor. His reputation grew internationally, and people started coming to him for confession and spiritual guidance from long distances. By 1855, 20,000 pilgrims per year were coming to Ars to seek his council. Fr. Vianney would spend up to sixteen hours in the confessional, bringing lost souls back to Christ. During his years at Ars, he also won a reputation for being a great friend and patron of the poor.
Fr. Vianney had a great devotion to St. Philomena, and built a chapel in her honor. He fell ill in 1843 to the point where he thought he was dying. When he recovered, he attributed his cure to St. Philomena.
St. Jean Vianney died on August 4, 1859. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and is the patron saint of parish priests.
“Father of mercy, you made Saint Jean Vianney outstanding in his priestly zeal and concern for your people. By his example and prayers, enable us to win our brothers and sisters to the love of Christ and come with them to eternal glory.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.