Earlier this year, Pope Benedict declared the Cure of Ars as the patron of all priests. . .
Feast Day: August 4
Canonized: May 31, 1925
At the age of 20, Vianney’s studies for the priesthood were interrupted when he was drafted into Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. He was threatened with arrest for desertion when his regiment left while he was praying in church. After returning to the seminary, he struggled academically and was once dismissed. With tutors’ help, however, he was readmitted. His superiors were impressed with his piety, and the vicar-general of France approved his ordination saying, “Ordain him. The grace of God will do the rest.”
Vianney was sent to serve in the rough French town of Ars. The town of 250 people had four taverns for every 40 families. Mass attendance was low and indifference to the faith was high. He founded an orphanage for girls where he taught little lessons about the faith. The lessons became so popular that he began teaching large crowds in the church. Some opposed him. For 14 years a few women had him say Masses for “a special intention” which turned out to be for his transfer to a different parish. He left Ars several times hoping to become a monk, but each time returned to labor heroically for the salvation of souls. In time, townspeople crowded in for daily Mass, farmers prayed the rosary in their fields, drunkenness, cursing and immodesty almost disappeared, and many grew to love their humble, patient, cheerful and hard-working priest.
For 40 years, his daily diet consisted of a few boiled potatoes. He slept three hours per night on a bare mattress. During the last 10 years of his life, he daily spent 16-18 hours hearing confessions. In honor of the 150th anniversary of Vianney’s death, Pope Benedict XVI declared that a special Year for Priests would be celebrated from June 19, 2009 to June 19, 2010.
This column is produced for Legatus by the Dead Theologians Society, a Catholic apostolate for high school age teens and college age young adults. On the web: deadtheologianssociety.com.