Saturday, 22 August 2009

St John Mary Baptist Vianney, Patron of parish priests, pray for us and for all priests!

<>In honour of the 150th anniversary of Vianney's death, Pope Benedict XVI declared a year for priests, running from the feast of the Sacred Heart 2009-2010. We are several months now into the Year dedicated to St John Vianney and three weeks after his Feast. This post and movie is the reminder for what he was and for what he was loved and respected for. St John Mary Baptist Vianney was born on 8 May 1786 in Dardilly and baptised on the same day. His parents, Matthieu Vianney and Marie Beluze, had six children, of whom John was the third. The Vianneys were traditional Catholics who helped the poor and gave hospitality to those in need. By 1790, the French Revolution forced many loyal priests to hide from the government in order to carry out the sacraments in their parish. The Vianneys continued attending Mass, even though it was illegal. In order to attend Mass, the Vianneys travelled to distant farms where they would pray in secret. In 1802, the Catholic Church was re-established in France, resulting in religious peace throughout the country. By this time, St John Vianney was concerned about his future vocation and longed for an education. He was 20 when his father allowed him to leave the farm to be taught at Father Balley's "presbytery-school" in the neighbouring village of Ecully. The school taught arithmetic, history, geography, and Latin. He struggled, especially with Latin, since his past education had been interrupted by the French Revolution. If it wasn't for Vianney's deepest desire to be a priest - and Father Balley's patience - he would have given up his struggle to continue.

In autumn of 1813, he was sent to major seminary at Lyons. At the end of his first term he left to be privately tutored by Fr Balley. He received minor orders and the subdiaconate on 2 July 1814, was ordained deacon in June 1815, and was ordained priest on 12 August 1815. He said his first Mass the next day, and was appointed assistant to Fr Balley.Shortly after the death of Father Balley, Jean-Marie Vianney was appointed pastor of the parish of Ars, a town of 230. As the pastor of Ars, Vianney realized that the Revolution's aftermath resulted in religious ignorance, due to many years of the destruction of the Catholic Church in France. At the time, Sundays in rural areas were spent in the fields working, or spent dancing and drinking in taverns. Vianney was astonished, especially since Sundays were meant to be reserved for religion. Vianney spent time in the confessional and gave homilies railing on blasphemy, sin and useless, perilous to the soul entertainments. If his parishioners did not give up their sinful inclinations, he refused them absolution. He came to be known internationally, and people from distant places began traveling to consult him as early as 1827. By 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached twenty thousand a year. During the last ten years of his life, he spent sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional. Even the bishop forbade him to attend the annual retreats of the diocesan clergy because of the souls "awaiting him yonder". He spent at least 11 or 12 hours a day in the confessional during winter, and up to 16 in the summer.

St John Vianney had a great devotion to St. Philomena. He looked at her as his guardian and erected a chapel and shrine in honour of the saint. During May 1843, St John Vianney fell so ill he thought that his life was coming to its end. He asked St Philomena to cure him and promised to say 100 Masses at her shrine. Twelve days later, Vianney was cured and he attributed his cure to St Philomena's intercession.

St John yearned for the contemplative life of a monk, and four times ran away from Ars, the last time in 1853. He died on 4 August 1859 at age 73. Biographers recorded miracles performed throughout his life, obtaining money for his charities and food for his orphans; he also had supernatural knowledge of the past and future, gift of reading hearts and could heal the sick, especially children. On 3 October 1874 Pope Pius IX proclaimed him Venerable; on 8 January 1905, Pope Pius X declared him Blessed and proposed him as a model to the parochial clergy; in 1925 Pope Pius XI canonized him, and assigned 8 August as his feast day. This feast was inserted in the General Roman Calendar in 1928 with the rank of Double. He was made patron saint of parish priests in 1929. The rank was changed to that of third-class feast in 1960, and it is thus celebrated in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite Calendar on August 8th. In the ordinary form Vianney is commemorated by a memorial on 4 August.

In 1959, the centenary of St John Vianney's death, Pope John XXIII issued Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia, an encyclical on St John Vianney. St John Vianney became internationally notable for his priestly and pastoral work in the parish of Ars because of the radical spiritual transformation of the community and its surroundings. Catholics attribute this to his saintly life, mortifications offered to God for the conversion of his flock and persevering ministry in the sacrament of confession.

St John Vianney pray for us, that merciful God will grant us many holy priests for the restoration of His Church.

The story of conversionThe Cure de Ars and the Protestant by Elaine Marie Jordan

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