JOHN VIANNEYJohn Mary Vianney, born of pious peasants in the village of Dardilly in the diocese of Lyons, gave many signs of holiness from his infancy. When, at the age of eight, he was taking care of the sheep, he would sometimes by word and example instruct little boys, kneeling before a statue of the Mother of God, in the use of the Rosary; and at other times, entrusting the flock to his sister or to another child, he was wont to seek out a more retired spot, that he might more readily devote himself to prayer before an image of the Virgin. Having a very great love for the poor, he would lead them in crowds to his father's house, and he took a delight in aiding them in every way. That he might be initiated into letters, he was sent to the parish priest of the village of Ecully; but as he was very slow to understand, he encountered almost unsurmountable difficulties in his studies. Fasting and praying, he entreated the divine assistance, and, with a view to begging for a facility in learning, he approached the tomb of St. Francis Regis, earnestly beseeching him for that gift. Having most laboriously passed through the course of theology, he was found to be sufficiently suitable to receive holy orders.In the village of Ecully, under the guidance of the parish priest, whose assistant he had been appointed, he strove with all his strength to attain to the higher degrees of pastoral perfection. After three years had gone by, he was sent, like an Angel from heaven, to the small village of Ars, which not so long after was included in the diocese of Belley, and in a most brilliant manner he entirely renewed the condition of his neglected and forsaken parish. Continually engaged for many hours daily in hearing confessions and in giving spiritual direction, he introduced the frequent reception of the Eucharist, and organized pious sodalities: and in a remarkable manner he inspired into souls a tender devotion to the Immaculate Virgin. And, deeming that it is the duty of the pastor to expiate the sins of the flock accredited to him, he spared neither prayers, nor vigils, nor mortifications and continual fastings. Since Satan could not endure such great virtues in this man of God, he assailed him, first with mere annoyances, and afterwards in open combat; but John Mary patiently endured the most malevolent injuries.He was very often asked by the neighbouring priests to labour for the salvation of souls after the manner of the Missionaries, either by preaching sermons, or by hearing confessions, and he was always at hand in every case. Burning with zeal for the glory of God, he brought it about, that the pious exercises of Missions were established in more than an hundred parishes arranged in a continuous and permanent series. Meanwhile, as God was rendering his servant famous by miracles and by graces, there began that celebrated pilgrimage, in which, throughout a period of twenty years, nearly one hundred thousand persons of every class flocked to Ars, not only from France and from Europe, but even from the distant regions of America. Worn out by labours rather than by old age, having foretold the day of his death, he went to rest in the embrace of the Lord, on the 4th day of August, in the year 1859, and of his age the seventy-third. After he became illustrious for many miracles, Pius X added him to the number of the Blessed, and Pius XI, in the holy year numbered him with the Saints in heaven and extended his feast to the universal Church, and on the fiftieth anniversary of his own priesthood, appointed him the heavenly patron of all parish priests. (Divine Office)THE PENITENTIAL SERVANT
Our saint underwent much suffering. Some of it was willfully inflicted by himself, some by the devil, some by good and some by evil men, and the most intense of all by God himself. He removed all the bedding from his bed left only with a straw mattress which he covered with board that he slept on. He took out almost all the straw in his bed so it would be harder, and then burned it when some tried to put some back in secretly. He often did altogether without his bed and slept on the floor with a stone for a pillow. His favourite food consisted of some pieces of the coarsest black bread bought out of the basket of some poor man. The Abbe Renard, in a memoir drawn up by him of the early days of the holy cure’s ministry, tells us that he had often witnessed the joy with which he ate this most distasteful food. If he perceived the disgust which his companion felt at the sight of it, he would laugh and invite him to share his dinner, saying, “It is a blessing, dear friend, to be permitted to eat the bread of the poor; they are the Friends of Jesus Christ. I feel as if I were sitting at His table.” He had so little provision for himself in the way of food that he would often go begging door to door for some. A neighbor one day brought him a loaf of fine flour, which she had made on purpose for him. She went back to fetch some milk; and believing that he had been long fasting, she wished him to eat the bread and milk in her presence. No persuasions could induce him to consent. At last an idea struck her, what would account for his pertinacious refusal. “I see, M. le Cure,” said she, “you have no bread left.”
True, indeed; a beggar had passed while she was gone, and the whole loaf of bread had been deposited in his wallet. M. Vianney seemed determined, in those days, to try how long human nature could be supported without food. He sometimes reduced himself to such a state of weakness, as to be obliged to lean against the forms or walls of the church for support. When, after long days of fasting, he could hold out no longer, he would take a handful of flour, and, moistening it with a little water, make a few (matefaims) thin pancakes with it which served him for his single meal. Three pancakes and a little water was enough for two or three days. It has, in fact, be ascertained that the Cure of Ars often passed several days together without taking any nourishment whatever, when he desired to obtain some special grace for himself or his parishioners, to make reparation for some scandal which had wrung his heart, or to do penance for some grievous sinner, whom he judged too weak in courage, or in contrition, to perform it for himself. When asked how a confessor was to act in order to exact due reparation for sin, and at the same time show necessary consideration for the weakness of sinners, he said, “I will tell you my recipe. I give them a light penance, and do the rest in their place.”
He had his first confession at age 11 due to the French Revolution. First Communion probably in 1799. He had difficulty learning because he began his studies late. He was at a disadvantage from the start. He was not brilliant but did not have a low I.Q. He was simply at a disadvantage due to not being given adequate study at the proper age. He also did not trust his own intelligence. He thought himself stupid, due in part to his fellow seminary students calling him such. BATTLES WITH THE DEVIL
We will quote the Cure himself: “The first time the devil came to torment me was at about nine o’clock at night, just as I was going to bed. Three great blows sounded on the outer door, as if some one were trying to break it open with an enormous club. I immediately opened my window, and said, ‘Who is there?’ but I saw nothing. So I went quietly to bed, recommending myself to God, the holy Virgin, and my good Angel. I had not fallen asleep, when I was startled by three more strokes louder than the first, not on the outer door, but on that which opens upon the staircase leading to my room. I arose and called out a second time, ‘Who is there?’ No one answered. When the noise began, I thought it might proceed from robbers, who had been attracted by the valuable gifts of M. d’Ars, and therefore began to take precautions. I got two courageous men to sleep in the house, in order to assist me in the case of necessity. They came for several successive nights, heard the noise, but could discover nothing, and remained fully convinced that it had another source than the malice of men. I was soon convinced of this myself; for one winter’s night, when a quantity of snow had fallen, I heard three tremendous blows in the middle of the night. I sprang hastily from y bed, and ran down stairs into the court, thinking that this time I should catch the evil-doers, and intending to call for help. But to my great astonishment I saw nothing, I heart nothing, and what is more, I saw not a race of footprints upon the snow. I had no longer a doubt that it was the devil who wanted to terrify me. I resigned myself to the will of God, beseeching Him to be my guardian and defender, and to draw near to me with His holy angels whenever my enemy should return to torment me.”
The persecutions of the devil went on for around 30 years. The Cure was usually awakened at midnight by the three loud knocks which betokened the presence of his enemy. After making a horrible noise on the staircase, the demon would enter the room, seize the curtains, and seem to be tearing them to pieces, so that the cure was astonished in the morning to see them uninjured. Sometimes he pulled the chairs about, and disarranged all the furniture, as if he were hunting for something, calling at the same time in a tone of mockery, “Vianney, Vianney, thou eater of potatoes! we shall have thee yet! we shall have thee yet! We have thee! we have thee!” Once when our Saint was even more worn out than usual by the abuse from devils he said, “My God, I willing make Thee the sacrifice of a few hours of sleep for the conversion of sinners.” The infernal flock instantly departed; there was silence; and he slept in peace. He was several times thrown out of his bed by the devil.
At a mission several priests mad fun of him for imagining that he was haunted. The Cure went to bed rejoicing in the humiliation. A few moments afterwards, those who had been so witty at his expense wished each other good night, and retired also to their respective apartments, with the happy indifference of philosophers, who, if they believed in the devil at all, had very little faith in his intermeddling with the affairs of the Cure of Ars. But, behold! at midnight they are awakened by a most terrible commotion. The presbytery is turned upside down, the doors slam, the windows rattle, the walls shake, and fearful cracks seem to betoken that they are about to fall prostrate. Every one is out of bed in a moment. They remember that the Cure of Ars had said, “You will not be astonished if you should happen to hear a noise tonight.” They rush to his room; he was resting quietly.
“Get up!” they cry; “the presbytery is falling!” “Oh, I know very well what it is,” replied he, smiling. “Go you to your beds; there is nothing to fear.” They were reassured, and the noise ceased. An hour afterwards, when all was quiet, a gentle ring was heard at the door. The Abbe Vianney rose, and found a man at the door, who had walked many miles in order to make his confession to him. He went at once to the church, and remained there hearing the confessions of a great number of penitents, until it was time for Mass. One of the missionaries, M. l’Abbe Chevalon, of pious memory, an old soldier of the Empire, was so struck by this strange adventure, that he said, when relating it, “I made a promise to our Lord never again to jest about these stories of apparitions and nightly disturbances; and as to the Cure of Ars, I take him to be a saint.
The coincidence of the occurrence of these noises with the arrival of the penitent from confession, is one instance out of many in which a more than usual manifestation of diabolical fury proved the presage of some more than common manifestation of the Divine mercy to sinners. M. Vianney would often rise, after a harassed and sleepless night, to find strangers waiting at the door, who had travelled all night to make their confession.
The devil dragged him in his bed round the room. He would cover a favourite picture of the Blessed Virgin, and an image of Saint Philomena, with mud and filth. One more, instance from the author the Cure’s biography of the devil’s baffled malice is as follows:
“It was one morning during the first celebration of the Forty Hours Devotion at Ars. The crowd was immense; the work of God in the souls of the worshippers was deeper and more striking than ever. As I was setting out early to go to the Church, I was struck on the threshold by a smell of burning, so stifling and penetrating that I could hardly stand. I hastily crossed the market-place. Holy Mass, catechizing, and some few confessions kept me engaged till seven o’clock. When I had finished, I found the whole village gathered round the presbytery. I should have imagined that some misfortune had happened, had I not observed the general expression on the faces around me to be that of mirth. They were laughing, joking, and calling to each other from one end of the square to the other; and the words bed
were all that I could distinguish amid the clamor. ‘What’s the matter?’ said I, approaching one of the groups. ‘What! don’t you know that the devil set fire last night to M. le Cure’s bed? Come and see, come and see!’ And I saw in fact some men carrying the half-burnt remains across the court. I entered the house, and went straight to M. Vianney’s room, where I found every thing in disorder, and all the traces of a fire hardly yet extinguished. The bed, the curtains, and all around it,—a few pictures, which owed their only value to the devotion of M. Vianney, and of which he had said a few days before that his good saints
were the only things in the world to which he felt a little attachment, and that we would not consent to sell them, because he wished to leave them to the missionaries—all had been consumed. The fire had stopped only at the casket which contained the relic of Saint Philomena; and its progress was arrested there, as if by a line drawn with geometrical precision, burning all which was on one side of the holy relic, and sparing all on the other. It went out as it had been kindled, without any apparent cause; and what is most remarkable, and even it may be said miraculous, it was not communicated by the heavy serge curtains to the flooring, which, being black with age and smoke, would naturally have taken fire like so much dry straw. Another remarkable circuмstance was, that M. le Cure, who came in the midst of all this disturbance and confusion, did not seem so much as to perceive it. He met several persons carrying the remains of his furniture, without asking them a single question. I found him in the sacristy; but when I addressed a few words to him on the event which had set the whole country in commotion, he shrugged his shoulders, and answered only by a gesture of indifference. It was not till after holy Mass, when he was writing on the pictures for distribution, that he suddenly interrupted his employment. I can see him now with his pen raised, his eyes, with their deep and sweet expression, fixed full on me. ‘For a long time past,’ said he, ‘have I been asking this grace of the good God, and He has heard me at last. Today I think I am really the poorest man in the parish. They all have their beds—and now, thank God, I have none.’ And without another word he went on signing the pictures presented to him. ‘Poor M. le Cure!’ said I, in a tone which he took for pity, but which expressed only admiration. ‘Oh,’ replied he, ‘there is less evil in this than in the slightest venial sin.HEALING OF SOULS
The throngs of penitents that pilgrimaged to the Cure for three decades was attributed to, as Catherine Lassagne states, “the prayers of M. le Cure for the conversion of sinners. The grace which he obtained for them was so powerful that it went to seek them out, and would leave them no rest till it had brought them to his feet. Grace was so powerful, that it went in search of sinners.
” Saint John was in his room about nine o’clock at night, when he was startled by a vigorous knocking at the door. Upon opening it, he saw a great robust, and very determined-looking mand standing there, who thus addressed him: “Come to the church. I want to make my confession. I have made up my mind to do it, and that at once.” The good cure, not without some lurking apprehension of robbery, took the sturdy penitent to the Church. He was a wagoner, and had left his wagon and horses at the Church-gate. He made his confession, and before he departed, he thrust a pair of worsted stockings into M. Vianney’s hand saying: “Sir, you have got a bad cold; put these on your feet as quick as you can.” It was calculated that more than 20,000 persons visited Ars in the course of each year. M. Vianney soon arrived at that state to which Saint Philip Neri bound himself by vow—never to have an hour or a moment to himself. From the year 1835 he was dispensed by Monsignor Devie from the usual pastoral retreat. “You have no need of a retreat,” said the Bishop; “and there are souls at Ars which have need of you.” By 1848 the number of pilgrims to Ars by the omnibuses alone, which connected the village with the Saone river, amounted to the incredible number of 80,00 in the course of the year. Our saint cured the bodily ailments of many but as we know his focus was on their souls. Seeing the misery of the countless souls the paraded through Ars for heeling led Saint John to say “We must come to Ars, to know what sin is, and to see what evil Adam has done to his poor family. We know not what to do; we can but weep and pray.” The pilgrims were admitted to the confessional, each in turn, but the Cure, by a supernatural light would sometimes call those who were most in need out of the crowd to confess first.
Aman relates his experience when he showed up for confession before the break of day in the hope of seeing the Cure without much delay. He stood in line and asked “How long have you been her? “Since two o’clock in the morning.” And when did M le Cure come? “He came at midnight.” Where is he? what is he doing now?” “He is down there in the confessional, behind the choir, hearing the women’s confessions. This is what he generally does on Friday mornings; he will not hear the men until after Mass.” What, then, are all these whom I see doing? “They are keeping their places, that each me get in in his turn.” When did they come? “When the cure himself came in, they were waiting at the door, the first comer holding the handle. At midnight the Church was opened, and they took their places.” Yes, from midnight to 8 PM he would hear confessions. Such, for thirty years, without change or relaxation, was the life of the Cure of Ars. “People tell me,” said a man of the world, “of marvelous things which go on at Ars. I doubt not the power of God; it is as great in this nineteenth century as in the first days of Christianity. I am convinced that the prayers of the holy priest, whom men go there to see, can obtain surprising and even miraculous cures; but to recognize the presence of the supernatural there, I have no need of all this. The great miracle of Ars is the laborious and penitential life of its cure. That a man can do what he does, and do it every day, without growing weary or sinking under it, is what surpasses my comprehension; this is to me the miracle of miracles.”HEALING OF BODIES
One of the directresses of the Providence
was dying of malignant fever, accompanied by delirium. The physicians had given her up. She had lost both sight and hearing. It was thought that she could not live out the day. This was on a Saturday. When she seemed to be actually in her agony, the prayers were read for the recommendation of the soul; she was quite unconscious of it. But suddenly she opened her eyes, and said, “I am cured!” The blessed candle was still burning beside her. She asked, “What is that candle for?” She was told that M. le Cure had just been saying the last prayers for her soul. She wished to rise, which she did with the help of her companion, and continued sitting up for a moment, feeling no remains of illness. The doctor was sent for, who found no vestige of fever left, and could hardly believe his eyes. He declared it to be a miracle. M. le Cure had said the evening before, “I have almost scolded Saint Philomena; I have been tempted to reproach her with the chapel built in her honour;” by which we saw that he had prayed for this cure. One of us, continues she, gave a poor woman an old cap of M. le Cure’s. She put it upon her child, who had a wound in his head, thinking to herself as she did so, “The Cure of Ars is a saint; if I had faith, my child would be cured.” In the evening, when she was going to dress the abscess as usual, she found that it had disappeared, and the wound was perfectly dry. He cured the child of a poor man who was a cripple on the condition he go to confession and had true sorrow for his sins and a firm purpose of amendment. He cured a crippled child of a soldier who had lost his wife. He cured another child of a poor woman who waited at his confessional for twenty-four hours. The child asked his mother for shoes because the Cure told he would be cured tomorrow, and he was. A young man persistently would ask the Cure if he could leave his crutches there. Finally on the feast of the Assumption, he asked yet again to which the Cure responded, “Well, my friend, yes
,” “if you have faith.” At that moment he was cured and embraced the religious life.
Besides, and above all these testimonies, the series of which is far from being exhausted, the mighty voice of public opinion proclaimed aloud the existence of a superhuman power at Ars, manifesting itself in these prodigies. For the last thirty years thousands of sufferers have come yearly to Ars, with a confidence which has never failed, and which has often been richly rewarded. All, indeed, did not find the health they sought; but all, according to the measure of their faith, received the graces of fortitude and resignation, a more Christian view of suffering, and a clearer insight into the privileges attached to it. No one that we have known went away without a blessing. The Cure of Ars received all with kindness; he consoled and encouraged them, and gave them the best part of his time, his counsels, and his prayers. But he was far from promising a cure to all. We have often spoken to him of one tried by long and intense suffering, borne with angelic sweetness and piety, and for whom we could never obtain any answer but this, “It is a cross well placed.” “But she suffers so intensely; is there no hope of relief?” “Yes, my friend, in heaven.” This was his usual answer, when questioned about a sick person whom he knew he was not to cure. “Patience; there will be no more suffering in Paradise.” There is now [at the time this book was authored] at Ars a poor man who waits, like the paralytic in the Gospel, for his cure. He spends his life in quarrelling with Saint Philomena, and making it up again, according as his soul ascends or descends in the scale of resignation. On the whole, however, he is a model of conformity to the will of God, and a rare example of the power of faith to sweeten and render endurable the bitterest trials. This good man has always been, and still is, convinced that M. Vianney wanted but the will to cure him; “his humility,
” he used to say,” spoils his charity.
” M. Vianney often went to see him on his poor bed. He exhorted him, cheered him, made him laugh; for poor Michel was always ready to laugh; but he never gave him the faintest hope of recovery. On the contrary, when spoken to of the hopes and desires of his obstinate client, he always said, “He does not want his legs to go to heaven. He will go there without them, and perhaps he would not have got there without them.”
The Cure of Ars gave up his holy sol to God in the arms of the faithful companions of his labours, and some of his tried and dearest friends. The news spread rapidly through the village and neighborhood, but at first was hardly credited. It seemed impossible to that faithful and loving people that such a misfortune could have befallen them. He had been so near death before, and restored to them by a miracle, and by a continued miracle had he been preserved to them ever since. His life for thirty or forty years would have been death to any other man. And he was so much wanted! What was to become of that innumerable concourse of pilgrims, sick in body or in soul, who hung upon his lips? Had his hand been indeed lifted up for the last time in benediction? “We had cradled ourselves,” says M. Monnin, “in these hopes; we had rested on the thought that he was still to be left for a long time to us. We could not imagine Ars without its cure; its church always open and always full; its midnight Angelus; its closely besieged confessional; its Saint, who was the sun of that privileged corner of the earth, who gave it its life, and filled its atmosphere with the odour of his virtues. And he was no more! He had blessed us for the last time; he had bidden us his last farewell; and that sacred bond between our souls and God, that golden link between us and all the mysterious glories of the communion of Saints was broken.
The Cure of Ars was dead! That life of devotion and prayer, of charity and patience, of humility and sacrifice, was over: he had fought the good fight; he had finished his course; he had received his crown.
At last the toil-worn labourer of the Lord was at rest. As the words, Depart, Christian soul,
were uttered, he entered into the joy of his Lord.
Most holy Cure de Ars, please pray for all clergy and their parishioners.https://ia902707.us.archive.org/29/items/lifecurdarsstjb00monngoog/lifecurdarsstjb00monngoog.pdf
(The above, mostly quoted verbatim is taken from the above link)