Saint John Vianney: Patron of Parish Priests

Saint John Vianney: Patron of Parish Priests

On August 4, the Church celebrates the memory of Saint Jean-Baptiste-Marie (John) Vianney (1786-1859), the most noted of the many diocesan priests who have been attracted to Franciscan values and joined the Secular Franciscan Order.

Maintaining faith amid revolution

Born in Dardilly, France, John was part of a poor farming family that valiantly maintained their faith amid the anti-religious policies of the French Revolutionary government.

Ministering entirely in Ars, France

John’s desire to be a priest was hampered by his lack of prior education and so he struggled with studies. Finally, he was ordained at age 30. He was assigned to the village of Ars (about 300 inhabitants) near Lyon, where he spent his entire priestly life.

St John Vianney rectory in Ars 700pxlsSaint John Vianney lived very simply for over four decades in the humble rectory in Ars.

Living authentic manner of life

In the beginning, John had to overcome an apathetic attitude toward religious practice among the people. But his own authentic manner of life, his total dedication to his parishioners, especially his attention to the poor and abandoned of the area, gradually won them over. He became known for his sense of humor and the uncanny way he could size up people.

Growing reputation as holy man

As the years went by, his reputation as a confessor grew; in towns throughout the region the word spread: “There is a holy man in Ars: see him.”

St John Vianney village of Ars France 700pxls 1Prominent in the village of Ars is the basilica built to house the saint's remains. It is attached to the parish church where Saint John Vianney ministered.

Loving the saints, especially Francis of Assisi

John Vianney was well known for his love of the saints, drawing great inspiration from their lives. His concern for the poor deeply attracted him to Francis of Assisi, in fact he even considered becoming a Capuchin friar. His bishop strongly urged him, however, to remain at his post in his parish, and so, to grow in Franciscan spirituality, Jean decided to join the Third Order, today's Secular Franciscans.

Reading peoples’ hearts

By the 1830s, large numbers of people were coming from other towns each day to seek out this “Curé d’Ars” who somehow could read their hearts. By the mid-1840s between 15,000 to 20,000 people a year were flocking to Ars. During the summer, John sometimes spent up to 15 hours a day in the confessional in order to see all who came to him. He died on August 4, 1859. Canonized in 1925, he was declared the patron of parish priests in 1929.

St John Vianney shortly before death 700pxlsSaint John Vianney shortly before his death.

The wisdom of Saint John Vianney

Prayer is to our soul what rain is to the soil. Fertilize the soil ever so richly, it will remain barren unless fed by frequent rains.

All our religion is but a false religion, and all our virtues are mere illusions and we ourselves are only hypocrites in the sight of God, if we have not that universal charity for everyone--for the good, and for the bad, for the poor and for the rich, and for all those who do us harm as much as those who do us good.

Oh, how I like those little mortifications that are seen by nobody, such as rising a quarter of an hour sooner, rising for a little while in the night to pray!

St John Vianney enshrined 700pxlsThe remains of Saint John Vianney are enshrined above the altar of the basilica of Ars.

Learn more

See the humble church of Ars where Saint John Vianney ministered