On this day we celebrate the feast of St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, Patron of Parish Priests.
In 1959, the 100th anniversary of his death, Treasure Chest Comics ran a story of the Curé of Ars depicting his miraculous powers, which he often attributed to St. Philomena, and his talents as a preacher and a confessor.
In 2009, the 150th anniversary of his death, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed a Year for Priests. Click here for the Letter in which the Pope reflects on the life of St. John Vianney.
"By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and offer forgiveness. Later, the growing numbers of penitents from all over France would keep him in the confessional for up to sixteen hours a day."
Click here for the story of John Vianney in Butler's Lives of the Saints. His difficulties with the academic requirements for ordination are well known, but "the intellectual level of very many French curés at the time was scarcely higher than that of their parishioners".
Vianney was sent to "Ars-en-Dombes, a depressing place that would usually have been assigned one of the many ill-educated French priests, reluctant to proselytize and able to preach only a few set-piece and therefore doctrinally safe sermons."
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"He was utterly opposed to cabarets and to dancing, which he saw as an occasion of sin to dancers and onlookers. He refused absolution to those who persisted. . . . Over the arch of St John the Baptist's chapel in the parish church he had painted: 'His head was the price of a dance!'"
The Cure D' Ars: A Memoir of Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, by Georgina Molyneux, Bentley, 1869, provides details about his self-denial, persecution by demons, opposition from fellow priests, mental suffering, and many other aspects of his life and character that have gotten lost in the retelling. It may be read free online.