St. John Vianney has a special place in the heart of our family. When my firstborn was getting read for his first confession, we read The Cure of Ars: The Story of Saint John Vianney, Patron Saint of Parish Priests.
It has since become our tradition to read it for each child before they make their confession. It is an engaging book even for adults and it was a big influence on my children. They were particularly impressed with how St. John withstood mocking and insults from the devil and got to the point of actually becoming unimpressed with Satan's antics. Many a dinnertime my children would tease one another by jeering, "Potato eater!" as they dug into their mashed or baked potatoes, as that was one of the insults Satan used against St. John because his diet consisted, in large part, of potatoes.
My third son, Gabriel, actually took John Vianney as his confirmation name. When the bishop confirmed him however he only called him "John." That was a little disappointing. There are several St. Johns and each of them have a story and had special gifts; I guess I wanted to hear the differentiation.
Father Lawrence Lew via Flickr licensed cc
And of course since St. John is the patron saint of priests, he has a special place for my son Noah and my Godson Paul, as they continue to discern a priestly vocation.
There are other lessons to be gleaned from the life of this saint - He had difficulties as a student and his superiors thought he would do the least amount of damage if they sent him to Ars, a remote town in the country of France.
About the saint from Catholic Saints on Line
Feast day: August 4
St. John Vianney, Priest (Patron of priests) Feast day - August 4 Universally known as the "Cure of Ars," St. John Mary Vianney was ordained a priest in 1815. Three years later he was made parish priest of Ars, a remote French hamlet, where his reputation as a confessor and director of souls made him known throughout the Christian world. His life was one of extreme mortification.
Accustomed to the most severe austerities, beleaguered by swarms of penitents, and besieged by the devil, this great mystic manifested a imperturbable patience. He was a wonderworker loved by the crowds, but he retained a childlike simplicity, and he remains to this day the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ.
He heard confessions of people from all over the world for the sixteen hours each day. His life was filled with works of charity and love. It is recorded that even the staunchest of sinners were converted at his mere word. He died August 4, 1859, and was canonized May 31, 1925.
*From Catholic Traditions
From the Wisdom of Saint John-Marie Vianney:
"Contradictions bring us to the Foot of the Cross, and the Cross brings us to the Gates of Heaven . . ."
The Cur d'Ars on the Priesthood:
"O how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office until he is in Heaven . . . Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an Angel. Will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No.
If I were to meet a priest and an Angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the Angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, "There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul. " At the sight of a church tower, you may say, "What is there in that place?" "The Body of Our Lord. " "Why is He there?" "Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass. "
The priest has the key to of the Heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of his wealth . . . the priest is not a priest for himself, he does not give himself absolution, he does not administer the Sacraments to himself . . . he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish 20 years without priests; they will worship beasts. When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because when there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice, there is no religion."
"We must never lose sight of the fact that we are either saints or outcasts, that we must live for Heaven or for Hell; there is no middle path in this. You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God.
"If people would do for God what they do for the world, what a great number of Christians would go to Heaven."
This is a re-posting of something I wrote in 2005. It still gets a lot of people looking for it.
There has been much discussion, much of it heated, and misunderstanding regarding a quote by St. John Vianney to a married woman regarding child bearing. I have found the context and quote in its entirety from a reliable source.
This is from the book The Cure D'Ars: St. Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney by Abbe Francis Trochu
This book is described thus:
The Cure D'Ars - Trochu. The definitive life, based on the official "Process of Beatification and Canonization," and thus totally factual and documented. Of humble education and assigned to a forgotten farmers' village, he attracted the whole world to Ars and was proclaimed "Patron Saint of Parish Priests" in 1929. He ate one meal a day, slept only a few hours a night, heard confessions up to 17 hours a day, converted thousands. His body remains incorrupt. A grace-filled story of total love of God!
Married people were shown the nobility of their calling and he exhorted them to fulfill holily its duties. A lady of the name of Ruet, of Ouroux, in the department of the Rhone, had already a large family and was about to become a mother once more. She came to Ars in order to seek courage at the feet of its holy Cure. She had not long to wait, for M. Vianney summoned her from amid the crowd. "You look very sad my child." he said, when she was on her knees in his confessional. "Oh! I am so advanced in years Father!" :He comforted , my child... if you only knew the women who will go to hell because they did not bring into the world the children they should have given to it."
"Come now my little one, he said with fatherly kindliness to the woman who confided to him her anxiety because of her large family. "do not be alarmed at your burden' our Lord carries it with you. The good God does well all that he does: when he gives many children to a young mother it is that he deems her worthy to rear them. It is a mark of confidence on his part."
Now note what he is not saying. Father John is not saying that infertile women through no fault of their own are going to hell. Nor is he saying that women who for grave and serious reasons who have practiced marital chastity with their spouses are going to hell. Those two mischaracterizations of what the saint said are simply wrong. He said nothing of the sort.
So why would a woman who does not bring children into the world possibly be damned to hell for it?
First let's look at what the church actually teaches:
1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"616
1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.
1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."618
Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."619
1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":621
Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.622
So what did St. John really say?
He affirmed that hell exists. The church teaches this. He affirmed that it is possible to go there and that in fact hell is not empty. The church teaches this. The church teaches that to die in a state of mortal sin dooms one to hell. The church teaches that contraception is an intrinsically evil act and in fact could be mortally sinful. Abortion is murder and likewise could be a mortally sinful act.
The church teaches and affirms that as well.
What St. John said in his own way, was absolutely solid Catholic teaching and absolutely true.
But I also see something else besides the teaching on birth control and abortion. Having a lot of children wears you down, literally. It takes your time, your energy, your body etc and while it does that, at least in my experience it allows the mother to be molded and more pliable in a special way to becoming holy! Yes, there are opportunities for other sins, like impatience, but in a special way we can see the simplicity of what God wants for us in the faces and lives of our children as they grow from babies to adulthood. And I think in particularly tough cases... like me!! it takes a lot of children to wear away that stubbornness, willfulness, and selfishness. The physical act of giving birth to the recovery to dealing with a teenager who has willful issues of his own, it all works together to make me a better person!
I realize that all of that might be foreign to a "once saved, always saved" variety Christian, but that is what I believe St. John Vianney was saying, I think that's what he meant, and that is why I love that particular quote.
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