St. John Vianney (1786-1859) is the patron saint of parish priests. His early life and formation in faith were influenced by the French Revolution. At the time, the Sacraments had to be performed in secret because the government had decreed them illegal, and John Vianney was inspired by the priests who ministered to his family and community at great risk to themselves. He deeply desired to be a priest himself, although he struggled academically. During his seminary studies, he was drafted into Napoleon’s army but deserted. After emerging from hiding in 1810, he was finally ordained and became the pastor in Ars, France, a small village of only 230 people. His ministry at Ars produced fruits far beyond anyone’s expectations. The village experienced a great spiritual renewal under his leadership, and people began traveling from far away for him to hear their confessions. By the end of his life, John Vianney was spending up to 16 hours a day hearing confessions. He was well known for his spiritual insight and gift of offering healing and reconciliation to those in need. His feast day is August 4.
“Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire, it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.” — St. John Vianney
Questions for Reflection:
- Sometimes God surprises us by using someone who seems insignificant to do great things. John Vianney was a slow student, and many of his teachers thought him unfit for the priesthood. Yet, his holiness and pastoral care inspired and nourished the faith of so many people, not only in the small village of Ars, but far beyond that time and place. When in your life have you seen a seemingly small person do great things through God’s grace? How can they inspire you to do something great?
- When was a time you had to step up and be a leader? What made you step up and did you experience any challenges?