St. John Vianney - A Reference Point For All Priests


Dear Friends,

St. John Vianney (1786-1859), often called "the Cure' of d'Ars", is the exemplar parish priest of our time. He is the only canonised parish priest! All others are struggling and most are just happy to stay on the rails.

St. John Vianney can surely serve as a reference point for all priests. Though no one could be more humble, he was, nevertheless, conscious of being an immense gift to his flock. Few nowadays may view the priesthood in quite this way. The laity should realize that the priesthood is God's gift to the priest himself and also to the people whom he is called to serve; he may have his shortcomings, after all he is only human, though some of the work he does is far from human. His first point of contact with the human soul is making a child of God in Holy Baptism (hence one of the reasons why he is designated 'Father' cf. Gal. 4:19), preparing that soul to receive Jesus, the Food of the soul, offering forgiveness of sin in the Sacrament of Penance; uniting that soul in marriage to a kindred spirit and finally seeing it out of this world when its earthly journey has ended. St. John Vianney saw the grandeur of the gift of his priesthood and he lived it out every moment, day and night. The priests of the diocese would have regarded Ars as a dump, with 44 houses and four bars and a few practising Catholics - what a tremendous challenge! The French Revolution had left its scars upon the church; a generation had grown up devoid of instruction or religious practise and few went to Mass on sunday; anti-clericalism was also rife. That was enough to deter any man, but the Cure' in his humility took on Ars and changed the place out of all recognition. However, who would have undertaken the necessary prayer, penance and mortification?: he ate little, slept little, cooked potatoes once a week, being tempted by the Devil at night and often spending 16-18 hours a day in the confessional, giving spiritual counsel. The Lord blessed him and made his work fruitful; truly St. John Vianney "...set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (I Tim. 4:12). The only happiness we have on earth is loving God and knowing He loves us - "it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge" (Psalm 73: 28); "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord" (Psalm 119: 1).

Alas we have a very different Church today - almost moribund in the west. The split between so called progressives and orthodoxy has greatly weakened the Church and undermined its mission to the world. People should look to the Church for moral authority. When, for instance, Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed Pope four years ago, the attitude of many was that he had made many enemies owing to his imperious and arrogant approach to theology. If a bishop or priest is orthodox than he is* ipso-facto* arrogant! Pope Benedict has proved all his uncharitable accusers wrong: he is a kindly, saintly man with utterly no trace of arrogance whatsoever. The plain simple truth is that the truth is the truth (not merely someones interpretation of it) and, sadly, some see the truth as arrogant because of their morbid dislike of dogmatism. Regrettably in recent times there has been a monumental failure to preach and teach the faith dogmatically and a failure to live the true Catholic life of faith. Moreover the Ten Commandments and the precepts of the Church are widely disregareded as being obsolete or behind the times, or at the very least are said to be in dire need of a radical reinterpretation. Unfortunately there appear to be no Cures' in the west either to help remedy matters.

Our lot is cast in very difficult times. There are proud, bitter, unscrupulous and well-organised enemies to be met. Moreover there are hard social problems to be solved and there are troublesome heresies to be grappled with and vices to be withstood. There is a lowered public opinion (even within the Church) to be raised and an increasing disregard of moral standards to be fought against. Special men with special gifts (like St. John Vianney) are needed for this most urgent work. May it please God to raise up such exemplary men for the priesthood in our desperate and apostate times.

Warmest good wishes,



Thanks for that, Portrait. I must admit that I know very little about the life of St John Vianney - except that he had to travel a very difficult road before he became a priest, as he wasn't regarded as being suited to the academic side of priestly training. I know about his long hours in the confessional, his battles with the devil, his devotion to the Eucharist, and, of course, he is one of the "Incorruptibles".

However, I hope to learn a bit more about him during the Annus Sacerdotalis. I've got so much on my reading-list at the moment, but hopefully after Christmas I'll get to read a biography or something.

Above all, I agree with you that St John is, and should be, a reference point for all priests. May they always gain inspiration from the priesthood of St John, especially during this Year for Priests.


Dear NPC,

Thankyou most kindly for your response above.

It was because the Holy Father has designated this year - 19 June 09-19 June 10 - the "Year of the Priest" that I wanted to write a little about this forgotten saint. Here was a dear man who truly magnified his priesthood and in the remote village of Ars achieved almost worldwide fame. First from the neighbouring parishes, then from all France and beyond came men and women of all sorts and conditions to seek his counsel.

It was the sheer sanctity of St. John Vianney that accounts for his wide influence. Contrastly the Church today (clergy and laity alike) has come to depend too much upon external conditions of materialism and affluence. In fact material resources may even be detrimental when it come to the question of exerting the influence which is to do the most for the upraising of men and women. It is recorded that Innocent IV and Thomas Aquinas were standing together as the bags of treasure were being carried in through the gates of the Lateran. 'You see,' observed the Pope with a smile, 'the day is past when the Church could say, "Silver and gold have I none"!' 'Yes, Holy Father,' was the saint's reply, 'and the day is past also when the Church could say to the lame man, "Rise and walk"!'.

There has also been an unhealthy tendency within the Church to magnify technology and intellectual gifts as if these things counted for a great deal in the matter of exerting an influence for good upon people. Now it is beyond question that we require an educated priesthood and learned theologians, but a computer literate and learned priesthood are not the chief *factor, nor even an *indispensable factor, when it comes to being an exemplary parish priest who will inspire his flock in the pursuit of holiness. The most able and learned have not seldom been those who have most conspicuously failed, as the liberal and trendy churches amply demonstrate. It is when the Church is utterly different from the world that she invarialbly attracts it.

St. John Vianney was beautified in 1905, canonized in 1925, and in 1929 created the patron of parish priests.

If any readers have any further biographical data or annecdotal material concerninfg the Cure' d'Ars, then perhaps they would be kind enough to share it on this thread. Moreover, I would be most interested to know if there are any 'Lives' of St. John Vianney currently in print.

Warmest good wishes,



There are a number of books about St John in print, but I can’t comment on content as I don’t own one… However, there is a new release from Tan Books: it seems like it might be a good read, given that it’s based on the Beatification and Canonisation process.


[quote="NPC, post:4, topic:177215"]
There are a number of books about St John in print, but I can't comment on content as I don't own one... However, there is a new release from Tan Books: it seems like it might be a good read, given that it's based on the Beatification and Canonisation process.


Dear NPC,

Thanks for the the Tan Books link and the recommended read - that is one for the Christmas sack - looks very good.

Warmest good wishes,



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