St. John Vianney
Called the "Cure of Ars", St. John Vianney was the son of a
poor farmer in Dardilly, France. He worked as a shepherd and didn't begin his education until
he was 20 years old. While an ecclesiastical student he was called for military service, and
became a "delinquent conscript" more or less because of illness, and hid to escape Napoleon's
He had difficulty learning Latin, and twice failed the examinations required before ordination. He was finally ordained at the age of 30, but was thought to be so incompetent he was placed under the direction of Fr. Balley, a holy priest in a neighboring village, for further training.
St. John lived an austere life, ate potatoes he boiled, and learned to keep suspended by a rope from the ceiling, so the rats wouldn't get to them. He allowed himself 2 hours of sleep each night and was frequently interrupted by the devil, who assaulted him with deafening noises, insulting conversation, and physical abuse. These diabolical visitations were occasionally witnessed with alarm by the men of the parish, but the pious Cure accepted the attacks as a matter of course and often joked about them.
St. John was given many spiritual gifts, such as the power of healing and the ability to read the hearts of his penitents. It was this latter gift which caused his fame to spread throughout France, and created large crowds seeking guidance from him.
The frail Cure began hearing confessions at 1 o'clock in the morning, and it has been reported that he spent from 13 to 17 hours a day in the cramped confessional.
St. John died peacefully on August 4, 1859. His body was exhumed because of his impending beatification, and was found dried and darkened, but perfectly entire.
St. John Vianney, who as a student had difficulties being accepted for the priesthood, was canonized in 1925 and was named later the Patron of Parish Priests throughout the world.
More information on St. John Vianney can be obtained from The Cure of Ars, by Fr. O'Brien, or The Incorruptibles, Joan Carroll Cruz.
Photo courtesy Sarah Gildea. Text (abridged) from The Incorruptibles ©1977.
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Last edited April 18, 1997