In commemoration of the feast of St. John Mary Vianney on Aug. 8, we share how he is the patron of priests - who need our prayers more than ever
St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, better known to English-speaking Catholics as John Vianney or simply the Curé of Ars, is commemorated by the Catholic Church on August 8 according to the 1962 liturgical calendar used by the SSPX. A brief account of St. John’s life is included as the third reading at Matins for this day.
John Mary Vianney was born in the Village of Dardilly in the diocese of Lyons, and gave many indications of his future sanctity. As an eight year old boy, keeping sheep, he would lead the other children to kneel before the image of the Mother of God, teaching them the rosary by word and example: and he loved to work in the fields and meditate on divine things. He was a great lover of the poor and took delight in helping them in every way. He was slow to learn, but after imploring God's help, and working hard to complete his course in theology, he was judged fit to be ordained. Receiving an appointment as pastor he made spiritual flowers bloom again in a parish that had been nothing but a dried up wasteland. Busy every day hearing confessions and giving spiritual counsel, he bore patiently the most horrible attacks of Satan. He established a practice of making missions in more than a hundred parishes. The faithful came flocking to his parish, even from distant places in a holy desire to see him; but he did not share their high opinion of him, and more than once he tried to slip away. Worn out by his labors rather than his old age, he rested in the Lord at the age of seventy-three, on the day he had foretold, August 4, 1859. Famous for many miracles, he was enrolled among the Blessed by Pius X, and among the Saints by Pius XI, who on the fiftieth anniversary of his own priesthood, appointed him the heavenly patron of all parish priests.
As the reading makes clear, St. John lived a strictly devout life in service to the Church and Christ’s flock. According to various accounts, the Curé of Ars spent between 16 and 18 hours in the confessional during the final decade of his life and was granted the gift to divine sins that were withheld by penitents. Despite being blessed with only modest intelligence and struggling to pass his courses at the seminary, his spiritual guidance was sought by bishops, priests, religious, and laity from all over France. Moreover, his fervent prayers brought forth an array of miracles, including monetary support for charities and orphanages; supernatural knowledge of past and future events; and healing for sick children.
St. John Vianney would often say: "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."
It should come as no surprise then that St. John was raised by Pope Pius XI as Patron of Parish Priests. In honor of this great saint’s life, the faithful should consider joining the SSPX’s ongoing Prayer Crusade for Priests which offers prayer and penance for priests and priestly vocations. Further information on the Prayer Crusade can be found here on the Society’s website.
Through the prayers of St. John Vianney, may young men continue to answer God’s call for the good of Holy Mother Church and the salvation of souls.