St. Jean-Marie Vianney

Today, August 4, is the Memorial of St. Jean-Marie Vianney, patron saint of parish priests.

Jean-Marie was born in Dardilly, Francie on May 8, 1786. Because of the French Revolution, his education was limited, and he was forced to make his first Confession and first Holy Communion in secret. He admired the priests and nuns who remained faithful to the Church during the persecutions of the revolution and decided to become a priest himself. He was ordained in 1815.

In 1818, he was assigned to the small village of Ars, population about 200. Few of the people of Ars were active in the faith when Fr. Jean-Marie first arrived, but it quickly became apparent to them that he was not an ordinary priest. He ate little but prayed continually and preached the gospel simply, condemning the sins of the people of Ars while showing them the way to heaven by the sacrifice of Jesus made present at the Mass.

Soon people began attending Mass again and the sinful behavior of the locals was abandoned. By 1827, Ars had become a pilgrimage site, with the faithful from all over France coming to hear the simple priest and, especially, to have him hear their confession. From 1845 until his death in 1859, upwards of 20,000 people a year came to visit Ars. Fr. Jean-Marie would sometimes spend 12 to 15 hours a day in the confessional, reconciling sinners to God. Fr. Jean-Marie died on August 4, 1859 and was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 31, 1925.

St. Jean-Marie Vianney really did nothing special during his priestly service to the people of Ars. He introduced no programs. He organized no conferences. He adopted no renewal curricula. He simply preached the kerygma, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again, in a way that reached the hearts and minds of the people of his village and, eventually, all of France and then, as a saint, the world. He listened to them in the confessional and provided God’s mercy. This is what a priest does: he helps to make us holy by bringing us holy things: the sacrifice of the Mass, the sacraments, the grace of absolution. St. Jean-Marie Vianney was not an extraordinarily intelligent or charismatic figure. He was a simple priest who preached the gospel simply so that people could hear the promise of salvation and respond. This he did with a kind heart and a listening ear.

Today is a good day to pray for our priests, that they will be ministers of the gospel and of God’s grace as St. Jean-Marie Vianney was, never despairing over the circumstances of the lives, their assignments, or the struggles inherent with them, but simply giving it all they have to preach the gospel and bring the promises of Jesus to all.

St. Jean-Marie Vianney, pray for us.


Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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