Posted in PATRONAGE - IMPOSSIBLE CAUSES, PATRONAGE - MENTAL ILLNESS, PATRONAGE - ORPHANS,ABANDONED CHILDREN, PATRONAGE - PRIESTS, all CLERGY, PATRONAGE - PRISONERS, PATRONAGE - THE SICK, THE INFIRM, ALL ILLNESS, PATRONAGE-INFERTILITY & SAFE CHILDBIRTH, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 11 August – St Philomena (c 291 – 304) “The Wonder Worker”

Saint of the Day – 11 August – St Philomena (c 291 – 304) “The Wonder Worker”  Virgin, Martyr.   Patronages – against barrenness, infertility, sterility, against bodily ills, against mental illness, against sickness, sick people, babies, infants, newborns, toddlers , children, young people, youth, Children of Mary, desperate, forgotten, lost or impossible causes, Living Rosary, orphans, poor people, Priests, prisoners, students, test takers.giuseppe-bezzuoli-santa-filomenast philomena header

The tomb of this virgin and martyr, unknown until the first years of the 19th century, was providentially discovered in 1802 in the catacombs of Priscilla on the Via Salaria, Rome, Italy.   It was covered by stones, the symbols on which indicated that the body was a martyr named Saint Philomena.   The bones were exhumed, catalogued and effectively forgotten since there was so little known about the person.Cathédrale_Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption_de_Montauban_-_Couronnement_de_sainte_Philomène_-_Jules_Jolivet_PM82000423

In 1805 Canon Francis de Lucia of Mugnano, Italy was in the Treasury of the Rare Collection of Christian Antiquity (Treasury of Relics) in the Vatican.   When he reached the relics of Saint Philomena he was suddenly struck with a spiritual joy and requested that he be allowed to enshrine them in a chapel in Mugnano.   After some disagreements, settled by the cure of Canon Francis following prayers to Philomena, he was allowed to translate the relics to Mugnano.   Miracles began to be reported at the shrine including cures of cancer, healing of wounds and the Miracle of Mugnano in which Venerable Pauline Jaricot was cured a severe heart ailment overnight.   Philomena became the only person recognised as a Saint solely on the basis of miraculous intercession as nothing historical was known of her except her name and the evidence of her martyrdom.st philomena 2

God, by many miracles, made the discovery of Saint Philomena’s body famous and the cult of the young Saint spread everywhere with an extraordinary rapidity.   She received such exceptional homage, that she deserves to be placed in the first ranks of the virgin martyrs, whom the Church venerates.   The Holy Curé of Ars called her his dear little Saint and performed wonders himself by his prayers to her.st philomena Masa Feszty (Hungarian, 1895–1979)

Certain revelations having the character of authenticity say that Saint Philomena was the daughter of a Greek prince, who accompanied her parents to Rome on a journey and that her glorious martyrdom occurred there under Diocletian in the third century.   The two arrows engraved on her tombstone in opposite directions referred to the efforts of the persecutor to slay her with a volley of arrows, after Angels preserved her from death by drowning;  the arrows turned against the archers.   Finally she was beheaded, like so many other miraculously protected heroes and heroines of Christ.   This opinion, which certain circumstances attending the translation of her relics in 1805 to the city of Mugnano appeared to verify, has prevailed.   In that city, devotion to her has been extraordinary and remains so to this day, miracles have multiplied both there and elsewhere for those who invoke her.

Other very serious studies, maintain that she was a child of the Roman people, immolated in the first century for Jesus Christ, at the age of twelve or thirteen years.   An examination of her bones permitted her age to be estimated and the vial of dried blood in her tomb clearly indicated her martyrdom.   The instruments of torture painted on the terra cotta plaque which enclosed her tomb — an arrow, an anchor, a torch — show us what sort of tortures she bore, all of which are known to us through other martyrdoms of the same early centuries.   The inscription:   Peace be with you, Philomena, reveals her name.st-philomena2

What is beyond doubt is that this Saint responds unfailingly to the faith of those who invoke her.   Invoked everywhere with wonderful success, she was entitled the wonder-worker of the 19th century.   She has shown herself to be the protectress, in particular, of small children.   A mother whose young son died despite her prayers, placed a picture of the Saint on his corpse, begging that he be returned to her.   And the child rose as though from sleep, stood up beside his bed and had no more symptoms of any sickness whatsoever.   A little girl who had put out her eye playing with a pair of scissors, which injury was declared irreparable by physicians, had her eye restored when she washed her face in oil taken from the Saint’s lamp and this eye seemed to everyone more vivid and bright than the other.st philomena

Many doubts remain about this little Saint, however, although she is no longer anywhere on the Church’s calendar, devotion to her has never floundered or diminished.   Personal devotion to any saint and we know ourselves, that there are many unknown saints around us and when they leave this earth, we ask them for their prayers of intercession and therefore, the faithful continue without doubt to venerate St Philomena.

Popes loved her and they were joined in fervour by some of the era’s greatest saints  . John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, called Philomena the True Light of the Church Militant.   He built a basilica in her honour, where he installed the relic he had been given by the Venerable Pauline Jaricot, foundress of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. (Innumerable “pagan babies” were given the name Philomena in honour of the foundress’s favourite saint, as I recall.)   Father Damien dedicated the first leper chapel on Molokai in her honour.   The American missionary saints John Neumann and Frances Cabrini spread devotion to Philomena throughout the Catholic United States.   St Peter Julian Eymard was a great devotee as was St Anthony Mary Claret.  Padre Pio, himself no mean wonder-worker, once silenced critics of her cult by snarling, “For the love of God!  It might well be that her name is not Philomena but this Saint has performed many miracles and it is not the name that did them.”st philomena statue

Posted in EUCHARISTIC Adoration, INCORRUPTIBLES, PATRONAGE - CONFESSORS, PATRONAGE - PRIESTS, all CLERGY, QUOTES of the SAINTS, QUOTES on PRAYER, QUOTES on SILENCE, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 9 August – St John Mary Vianney (1786-1859) the Curé d’Ars, Confessor

Saint of the Day – 9 August – St John Mary Vianney (1786-1859) the Curé d’Ars, Confessor. Patron of Parish Priests.   His body is incorrupt.   Facts, dates and patronages here: https://anastpaul.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/saint-of-the-day-4-august-st-jean-baptiste-marie-vianney-t-o-s-f-the-cure-of-ars/st john vianney

St John Baptist Mary Vianney was born near Lyon, France, on 8th May 1786.  Overcoming many difficulties prior to his ordination on 13th Aug 1815, he was thereafter entrusted with the remote parish of Ars, a village of 230 souls.   His Bishop had warned him that he would find religious practice there in a sorry state:  “There is little love of God in that parish;  you will have to be the one to put it there”.   As a result, he was deeply aware that he needed to embody Christ’s presence and bear witness to God’s saving mercy:   “Lord, grant me the conversion of my parish.   I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life!”   With that prayer he entered upon his mission.st john vianney - header - maxresdefault

His first biographer tells us that “upon his arrival, he chose the church as his home.   He entered the church daily before dawn and did not leave it until after the evening Angelus.  There he was to be sought whenever needed”. 

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Inside the Old Church where St John Mary Vianney preached and heard confessions

 The Curé d’Ars taught his parishioners primarily by the witness of his life.   It was from his example that they learned to pray, to visit Jesus frequently in the Tabernacle.   “One need not say much to pray well”, he explained to them, “we know that Jesus is there in the Tabernacle.   Let us open our hearts to Him, let us rejoice in His sacred presence.   That is the best prayer”.   And He would urge them:  “Come to communion, my brothers and sisters, come to Jesus.   Come to live from Him in order to live with Him… Of course you are not worthy of Him but you need Him!”St-John-Vianney

He regularly visited the sick and families and organised missions and feast day celebrations.   He also enlisted lay persons to collaborate in the collection and management of funds for his charitable works, providing also for the education of children.   He personally cared for the orphans and teachers of the “Providence”, an institute he founded.

The Curé of Ars was known for his humility, while as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people.   “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy”.

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Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the Sacraments, he would say:  “Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord.  Who put him there in that tabernacle?   The priest.   Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest.   Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey?   The priest.   Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest.   And if this soul should die as a result of mortal sin, who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace?   Again, the priest… Only in heaven will he fully realise what he is.”

Those who attended the Masses he celebrated have said that “it was not possible to find a finer example of worship… He gazed upon the Host with immense love”.   He was convinced that the fervour of a priest’s life depended entirely upon the Mass, “All good works, taken together, do not equal the sacrifice of the Mass since they are human works, while the Holy Mass is the work of God… The reason why a priest is lax is that he does not pay attention to the Mass!   My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates as if he were engaged in something routine!”st john vianney - mass

“The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you”

His profound sense of responsibility as a priest was palpable.   “Were we to fully realise what a priest is on earth, we would die:  not of fright but of love… Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail.   It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth… What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door?   The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven:  it is he who opens the door:  he is the steward of the good Lord;  the administrator of his goods… Leave a parish for 20 years without a priest and they will end by worshipping the beasts there… The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you”.st john vianney - glass lg

By spending long hours in church before the Tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus, knowing that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and offer forgiveness.   Later, the growing numbers of penitents from all over France would keep him in the confessional for up to 16 hours a day.   It was said that Ars had become “a great hospital of souls”.

He once explained to a fellow priest his self-imposed mortifications and expiations for those souls whose confessions he heard, “I will tell you my recipe: I give sinners a small penance and the rest I do in their place.”   He was moved knowing that souls have been won at the price of Jesus’ own blood and a priest cannot devote himself to their salvation if he refuses to share personally in the precious cost of Christ’s redemption.

A century after his death, the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy was built in Ars-sur-Formans, where the relic of the heart of the Saint is venerated in the Chapel of the Heart.   His incorrupt body lies at the main altar of the Shrine in a glass reliquary.   The Curé’s humble cottage is presently a museum. Saint Jean Baptiste Vianney (1786-1859) priest in Ars (France) during meditation, engraving

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St John Vianney’s Bedroom in his house which is now the Museum

Current estimates indicate that over 400,000 pilgrims visit the shrine every year.st john vianney lying in statest john vianney relicsshrine - st john vianneyArs basilique

Posted in CHRISTMASTIDE!, PATRONAGE - PRIESTS, all CLERGY, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 29 December – St Thomas à Becket (1118-1170)

Saint of the Day – 29 December – St Thomas à Becket (1118-1170) – Born on 21 December 1118 at London, England and was murdered on 29 December 1170 in the Cathedral at Canterbury, England.   Patronages – • clergy• Exeter College, Oxford, England•Portsmouth, England• secular clergy.   Attributes – Sword, Martyrdom, episcopal vestments.   St Thomas was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170.   He engaged in conflict with Henry II, King of England, over the rights and privileges of the Church and was murdered by followers of the King in Canterbury Cathedral.   Soon after his death, he was Canonised by Pope Alexander III.   Someof his relics are enshrined at the Ladyewell Shrine in Lancaster, England.

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Thomas was appointed Chancellor of England in 1155 and was a close associate of King Henry II.   However, shortly after Thomas was named Archbishop of Canterbury, their relationship soured, eventually resulting in Thomas’ six-year exile in France.   Not long after his return to England, Thomas was murdered by four of the King’s knights inside Canterbury Cathedral, making him an instant martyr.   Miracles began to occur soon after his death and Canterbury became one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in Europe.

Excerpt from The Golden Legend

And forthwith four knights took their counsel together and thought they would do to the king a pleasure and [devised] to slay St Thomas and suddenly departed and took their shipping towards England.   And when the king knew of their departing he was sorry and sent after them but they were on the sea and departed [before] the messengers came, wherefore the king was heavy and sorry … And these four knights aforesaid came to Canterbury on the Tuesday in Christmas week about Evensong time and came to St Thomas and said that the king commanded him to make amends for the wrongs that he had done and also that he should assoil all them that he had accursed anon, or else they should slay him … And then smote each at him, that they smote off a great piece of the skull of his head, that his brain fell on the pavement.   And so they slew and martyred him and were so cruel that one of them [broke] the point of his sword against the pavement.

And thus this holy and blessed Archbishop St Thomas suffered death in his own church for the right of all holy church…And anon it was known all about, how that he was martyred and anon after took this holy body and unclothed him and found bishop’s clothing above and the habit of a monk under.    And next his flesh he wore hard hair, full of knots, which was his shirt.   And his breech was of the same and the knots slicked fast within the skin and all his body full of worms;  he suffered great pain.   And he was thus martyred the year of our Lord one thousand one hundred and seventy-one and was fifty-three years old.   And soon after tidings came to the king how he was slain, wherefore the king took great sorrow and sent to Rome for his absolution.

DSC04170 Thomas Becket

Below is the Reliquary Chasse with Scenes of the Martyrdom of Thomas Becket.

Posted in PATRONAGE - CATECHISTS, PATRONAGE - PRIESTS, all CLERGY, PATRONAGE-STOMACH PAIN, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 4 November – St Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)

Saint of the Day – 4 November – St Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal, Doctor of Theology, Civil and Canon Law, Reformer, Founder of Seminaries.  He is known as the “Father of the Clergy”   Born Count Carlo Borromeo on the morning of Wednesday 2 October 1538 in the Castle at Aron, Diocese of Novara, Italy and he died at  8:30pm on 3 November 1584 of a fever at Milan, Italy.  His will named the Hospital Maggiore of Milan as his heir.  He is buried in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Milan – the famous and breath-taking “Duomo Milan.    His Relics were transferred to a Chapel built by Count Renato Borromeo in piazza San Maria Podone, Milan on 21 September 1751.   St Charles was Beatified in 1602 by Pope Clement VIII and Canonised on 1 November 1610 by Pope Paul V.   Patronages – • against abdominal pain • against intestinal disorders • against ulcers• apple orchards• Bishops, Priests, Seminarians • Catechists• Catechumens• spiritual directors• spiritual leaders• starch makers• 3 Dioceses• 3 Italian Cities.   Attributes – • cardinal wearing a cord around his neck; it symbolises the cord or halter worn around his neck during the plague of Milan, Italy in 1575 • bishop wearing a cord around his neck • cleric curing the sick • Holy Communion  • one hand raised in blessing, thus recalling his work during the plague • coat of arms bearing the word Humilitas (Humility) his emblem.

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Count Carlo/Charles was born into the highest echelons of Renaissance life.   The nephew of Pius IV, he was destined for great things in the Church.   His successful career demonstrates the positive possibilities of Renaissance political life.   Given every chance at success by his lineage and connections, he seized each opportunity and turned it to the service of God, the Church and his people.   While many with similar chances squandered their advantages, Charles showed that such assets should not be guiltily eschewed or be a cause of embarrassment, so long as they are put to the service of the Good, the True and the Beautiful.

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Charles was prepared for his later career by his aristocratic responsibilities, becoming a skilled administrator and diplomat at a very young age.   At the same time he tirelessly pursued his studies, becoming a Doctor utriusque Iuris (a Doctor of both Civil and Canon Law) at 21 years old.   With the accession of his uncle to the throne of Peter, he was called to Rome and immediately was created a cardinal-deacon.   Such a position was advantageous because he became one of the closest associates of the pope, with all the dignity of a cardinal but without the responsibility for care of souls.   He reformed the city of Rome and the Papal States thoroughly and was given increasing responsibilities. The papal curia was purified by his example of holiness and sobriety.   He cultivated the friendship of other saints, such as Philip Neri and together they provided the pattern for a renewed curia.   He gathered a circle of learned friends around him and sponsored literary, academic and musical activity, being in particular a patron of Palestrina.YOUNG st charles borromeo - my snip

For his handling of the delicate negotiations needed for keeping the Council of Trent from falling apart, Charles was awarded with the see of Milan.   He began to shift his focus as well, for he had experienced a deep spiritual conversion as the result of the untimely death of his elder brother and dedicated the rest of his life entirely to the good of his people and his Church.   Being one of the most famous and largest sees in Christendom, Milan was a microcosm that displayed both the grandeur and the corruption of Renaissance Catholicism.

Charles set about immediately implementing the reforming decrees of Trent.   Had other bishops swiftly implemented the decrees, as Charles had, the damage from the Reformation may have been mightily checked.   In any case, he found a diocese filled to the brim with time-servers, beneficed layabouts and outright corrupt and vile clergy.   He set out for a purification.  He set the tone with his mighty motto Humilitas and he began to demonstrate one of the most powerful roles in all of Church history:  that of a holy bishop.    Charles knew that the mission of the Church to convert the nations and to win back the Protestants must begin at home.   The Church must be reformed from within, before she could bear effective testimony without.

He was convinced that the heart of the problem was the abuses caused, intentionally or not, by ignorant clergy.   Corruption was comparatively easy to root up but the wholesale re-education of the clergy was a project for generations.   To this end he set up the massive seminary of San Pietro Martire on the site of that saint’s murder in Seveso.   It was to be the prototype of the professionalisation of the clergy that would set a pattern for the rest of the Catholic world, one of the most significant developments in the last 500 years of Catholicism.   He knew that care of priests was essential before the laity could be properly educated and cultivated.   Here is a link to Pope Francis’s visit to the St Charles Borromeo Seminary  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=495XzwybBS0

Doctrine was at the heart of his pastoral ministry.   Trent had codified dogma and made it the basis of its reforming decrees.    Charles carried this message that the truth itself was the best foundation of pastoral ministry.   He reformed recalcitrant monks and nuns, calling them back to fidelity to their oaths and vows, rather than tolerating their laxity. Indeed one decadent member of the order of the Humiliati even tried to assassinate him at prayer, firing a point blank shot that miraculously left him nearly unharmed.   He himself was one of the saints in charge of the Roman Catechism and the founder of the concept of Sunday school for lay children, educating them in the rudiments of the Catholic faith.   He brought to the streets of Milan, Truth incarnated as a person, both in the Blessed Sacrament and in his life of imitating Christ.   There was no divorce between his pastoral and doctrinal responsibilities, such a novel idea would have been treated by him as the worst form of heresy.   For Charles, Christ the Merciful was Incarnate Truth itself.

He retained a simple devotion to Our Lady of Loreto and ministered personally to the plague victims of the city, spending his personal fortune for their relief and walking barefoot in sackcloth and ashes in penance for them before God.   Yet at the same time he never forgot his office as a prince of the Church and the Successor of the Apostles.   He repeatedly challenged the secular authorities who sought to circumscribe the liberties of the Church.   He personally went to Santa Maria della Scala, to receive their obedience after they had appealed to the secular authority over him.   He came in full pontifical regalia, bearing the crucifix, and pronounced a public excommunication at their door.   A supporter of the disobedient church fired a shot at him, which was blocked only by the Cross of Christ he bore.   He tirelessly traveled to the rural areas of his diocese, especially the Alpine valleys that suffered under heresy.   To the peripheries he went—areas ignored by his noble predecessors—but Charles did not go there to confirm the people in their error, he came to bring the freedom of Truth.   He took his duty of visitation seriously, removing the corrupt, correcting the erring and ensuring the proper celebration of his beloved Ambrosian rite.St Charles Borromeo giving Communion to plague victims.2by caspar franz sambachSt Charles Borromeo giving Communion to plague victimsst charles Borromeo - Pierre Mignard - holy comm to plague victims

He was a friend and confrere to many of the saints of the Catholic Reform, St Francis Borgia, St Philip Neri, Bl Bartholomew of Braga and many others, having a special predilection for the English priests who would later be martyred.   His solicitude for the liturgy was exceptional, knowing it to be the key to the spirituality and doctrinal fidelity of the laity.   Indeed, once he wanted to bless a cemetery but abandoned the idea when he discovered he did not have the requisite pontifical vestments.   The service of God demanded the very best at all times.   On his deathbed, he forbade the saying of Holy Mass in his room, considering it unfit for the sacrifice of the Mass and insisted on being vested in Rochet and Stole for the reception of his Viaticum.   This was no violation of Humilitasbut rather its highest expression:  utter, complete and humble service to his position as the successor of St Ambrose.   He lived simply, devoutly and penitently but when he executed his office he bore the weight of tradition, history and doctrine.Meeting between Saint Charles Borromeo and Saint Philip Neri

Charles was beloved by his people of Milan and was respected by all throughout Europe, being rapidly canonised in the year 1610.   His life demonstrates the fallacy implied by the words of a contemporary cardinal, who declared that mercy and doctrine were equal parts of revelation.  Charles would have known that such a statement was nonsensical and opposed to the definitions of Trent (and Vatican II for that matter).   He would gently correct his colleague.   Mercy is part of the doctrine of the Church but, more to the point, the whole and complete doctrine of the Church is mercy for a fallen humanity. Truth is mercy; error is slavery.    St Charles demonstrates for us that the Church needs reform in every age but it must be a reform that results in a re-conformation to the Face of her Founder.    May the example of the holy bishop of the Counter Reform (who kept an image of Sts Thomas More and John Fisher on his person) animate those who would make novel arguments contrary to the faith of Christ.

St Charles Borromeo, Father of the Clergy, pray for us all!St-Charles-BorromeoSt Charels Borromeo2TheVisionOfSt.CharlesBorromeo

Posted in FRANCISCAN OFM, INCORRUPTIBLES, PATRONAGE - CONFESSORS, PATRONAGE - PRIESTS, all CLERGY, QUOTES - J R R Tolkien and MORE, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 9 August – St Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney TOSF (1786-1859)- The Curé of Ars, Confessor

Saint of the Day – 9 August – St Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney TOSF (1786-1859) – The Curé of Ars (Parish Priest of Ars) – Confessor Priest and Tertiary – (8 May 1786 at Dardilly, Lyons, France – 4 August 1859 at Ars, France of natural causes)   His body is interred in the Basilica of Ars.   He was Canonised on 31 May 1925 by Pope Pius XI.   Patronages – Confessors, Priests (proclaimed on 23 April 1929 by Pope Pius XI), Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney, Dubuque, Iowa, Archdiocese of, Kamloops, British Columbia, Diocese of, Kansas City, Kansas, Archdiocese of, Lafayette, Louisiana, Diocese of, Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, Archdiocese of.  St John Vianney’s body is incorrupt.

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St John Vianney was born on 8 May 1786, in the French town of Dardilly, France (near Lyon) and was baptised the same day.   His parents, Matthieu Vianney and his wife Marie (Belize), had six children, of whom John was the fourth.   The Vianneys were devout Catholics, who helped the poor and gave hospitality to St Benedict Joseph Labre, the patron saint of tramps, who passed through Dardilly on his pilgrimage to Rome.

St Benedict Joseph Labre detail Icon and Jesus Crowns
St Benedict Joseph Labre

By 1790, the anticlerical Terror phase of the French Revolution forced many loyal priests to hide from the regime in order to carry out the sacraments in their parish.   Even though to do so had been declared illegal, the Vianneys traveled to distant farms to attend Masses celebrated by priests on the run.   Realising that such priests risked their lives day by day, Vianney began to look upon them as heroes.   He received his First Communion catechism instructions in a private home by two nuns whose communities had been dissolved during the Revolution.   He made his first communion at the age of 13 (normal in those times).   During the Mass, the windows were covered so that the light of the candles could not be seen from the outside.   His practice of the Faith continued in secret, especially during his preparation for confirmation.

The Catholic Church was re-established in France in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, resulting in religious peace throughout the country, culminating in a Concordat.   By this time, 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 a “presbytery-school” in the neighbouring village of Écully, conducted by the Abbé Balley.   The school taught arithmetic, history, geography and Latin.   Vianney struggled with school, especially with Latin, since his past education had been interrupted by the French Revolution.   Only because of Vianney’s deepest desire to be a priest—and Balley’s patience—did he persevere.lovely - st john vianney glass

St Vianney’s studies were interrupted in 1809 when he was drafted into Napoleon’s armies. He would have been exempt, as an ecclesiastical student but Napoleon had withdrawn the exemption in certain dioceses because of his need for soldiers in his fight against Spain.   Two days after he had to report at Lyons, he became ill and was hospitalised, during which time his draft left without him.   Once released from the hospital, on 5 January, he was sent to Roanne for another draft.   He went into a church to pray and fell behind the group.   He met a young man who volunteered to guide him back to his group but instead led him deep into the mountains of Le Forez, to the village of Les Noes, where deserters had gathered.   St Vianney lived there for fourteen months, hidden in the byre attached to a farmhouse and under the care of Claudine Fayot, a widow with four children.   He assumed the name Jerome Vincent and under that name, he opened a school for village children.   Since the harsh weather isolated the town during the winter, the deserters were safe from gendarmes.   However, after the snow melted, gendarmes came to the town constantly, searching for deserters.   During these searches, Vianney hid inside stacks of fermenting hay in Fayot’s barn.

An imperial decree proclaimed in March 1810 granted amnesty to all deserters, which enabled Vianney to go back legally to Ecully, where he resumed his studies.   He was tonsured in 1811 and in 1812 he went to the minor seminary at Verrières-en-Forez.   In autumn of 1813, he was sent to the major seminary at Lyons.   Considered too slow, he was returned to Abbe Balley.   However, Balley persuaded the Vicar general that Vianney’s piety was great enough to compensate for his ignorance and the seminarian received minor orders and the subdiaconate on 2 July 1814, was ordained a deacon in June 1815 and was ordained priest on 12 August 1815 in the Couvent des Minimes de Grenoble.   He said his first Mass the next day and was appointed the assistant to Balley in Écully.

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Curé of Ars
In 1818, shortly after the death of Balley, Jean-Marie Vianney was appointed parish priest of the parish of Ars, a town of 230 inhabitants.    As parish priest, he realised that the Revolution’s aftermath had resulted in religious ignorance and indifference, due to the devastation wrought on the Catholic Church in France.   At the time, Sundays in rural areas were spent working in the fields, or dancing and drinking in taverns.  He spent time in the confessional and gave homilies against blasphemy and paganic dancing.   If his parishioners did not give up this dancing, he refused them absolution.   Abbe Balley had been St Vianney’s greatest inspiration, since he was a priest who remained loyal to his faith, despite the Revolution.   He felt compelled to fulfill the duties of a curé, just as did Balley, even when it was illegal.   With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls.   Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home.french - st john vianney

Later years
Fr Vianney came to be known internationally and people from distant places began travelling to consult him as early as 1827.   “By 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached 20,000 a year.   During the last ten years of his life, he spent 16 to 18 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”.  His work as a confessor is John Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment.   In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God.   In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours.   Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day.st john vianney lg

Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But John Vianney had no thoughts of retirement.   As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God’s people.   Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil, who physically attacked and tormented St John and kept him from sleeping.

St Vianney had a great devotion to St. Philomena.   He regarded her as his guardian and erected a chapel and shrine in honor of the saint.   During May 1843, he fell so ill he thought that his life was coming to its end.   St John Vianney attributed his cure to her intercession.

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He yearned for the contemplative life of a monk and four times ran away from Ars, the last time in 1853.  St John Vianney read much and often the lives of the saints, and became so impressed by their holy lives that he wanted for himself and others to follow their wonderful examples.   The ideal of holiness enchanted him.   This was the theme which underlay his sermons.  “We must practice mortification. For this is the path which all the Saints have followed,” he said from the pulpit.   He placed himself in that great tradition which leads the way to holiness through personal sacrifice. “If we are not now saints, it is a great misfortune for us:  therefore we must be so.   As long as we have no love in our hearts, we shall never be Saints.”   The Saint, to him, was not an exceptional man before whom we should marvel but a possibility which was open to all Catholics.   Unmistakably did he declare in his sermons that “to be a Christian and to live in sin is a monstrous contradiction. A Christian must be holy.”   With his Christian simplicity he had clearly thought much on these things and understood them by divine inspiration, while they are usually denied to the understanding of educated men.   He was a champion of the poor as a Franciscan tertiary and was a recipient of the coveted French Legion of Honour.St.-John-Vianney.8

On 4 August 1859, Vianney died at the age of 73.   The bishop presided over his funeral with 300 priests and more than 6,000 people in attendance.   Before he was buried, Vianney’s body was fitted with a wax mask.

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 John Mary Vianney was canonized by Pope Pius XI, who in 1929 made him patron saint of parish priests.

In 1959, to commemorate the centenary of John Vianney’s death, Pope John XXIII issued the encyclical letter Sacerdotii nostri primordia.   St Pope John Paul II visited Ars in person in 1986 in connection with the anniversary of Vianney’s birth and referred to the great saint as a “rare example of a pastor acutely aware of his responsibilities … and a sign of courage for those who today experience the grace of being called to the priesthood.”snip - st john vianney

In honour of the 150th anniversary of Vianney’s death, Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year of the Priest, running from the Feast of the Sacred Heart 2009–2010.   The Vatican Postal Service issued a set of stamps to commemorate the 150th Anniversary.   With the following words on 16 June 2009, Benedict XVI officially marked the beginning of the year dedicated to priests, “…On the forthcoming Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday 19 June 2009 – a day traditionally devoted to prayer for the sanctification of the clergy –, I have decided to inaugurate a ‘Year of the Priest’ in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the dies natalis of John Mary Vianney, the Patron Saint of parish priests worldwide…” In the Holy Father’s words the Curé d’Ars is “a true example of a pastor at the service of Christ’s flock.”

There are statues and stained glass windows of St John Vianney in many French churches and in Catholic churches throughout the world.   Also, many parishes founded in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries are named after him.   Some relics are kept in the Church of Notre-Dame de la Salette in Paris.st john vianney relics