August 4

St. John Vianney

St. John Vianney

St. John Vianney – The Curé d’Ars

When He Lived:

St. John Vianney, also known as the Curé d’Ars, lived from May 8, 1786, to August 4, 1859.

Where He Lived:

St. John Vianney lived in the village of Ars-sur-Formans in the Rhône department of France. This small and humble village became the center of his ministry and pilgrimage site for Catholics around the world.

Notable World Events during His Time:

  1. French Revolution (1789-1799): St. John Vianney was born in the midst of the French Revolution, a tumultuous period marked by radical social and political upheaval, including the fall of the monarchy, rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, and significant changes in the structure of French society.
  2. Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815): During St. John Vianney’s early adulthood, Europe was embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars, a series of conflicts involving Napoleon’s French Empire and various coalitions of other European powers, shaping the continent’s political landscape and affecting the lives of millions.
  3. Publication of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” (1859): In the later years of St. John Vianney’s life, Charles Darwin published his groundbreaking work on evolutionary biology, challenging traditional religious perspectives on creation and sparking debates about science and faith.
  4. Industrial Revolution: Throughout St. John Vianney’s lifetime, the Industrial Revolution transformed economies and societies worldwide, bringing technological advancements, urbanization, and significant changes in labor and living conditions.
  5. California Gold Rush (1848-1855): The discovery of gold in California, USA, triggered a massive migration of people seeking fortune, shaping the development of the American West and affecting global economies.


St. John Vianney is the patron saint of priests and parish priests due to his significant role as a pastor and his dedication to the spiritual care of his community. He is also the patron saint of the village of Ars-sur-Formans and has become a symbol of simple and unwavering faith, drawing countless pilgrims seeking his intercession and inspiration.

His Humble beginnings

Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney (known as John Vianney in English) was born on May 8, 1786, in Dardilly, near Lyon, France, and was baptized the same day. He was the fourth of six children born to a family of farmers, Matthieu and Marie Vianney. He was raised in the Catholic faith, and his humble family often helped the poor. Young Vianney lived as a poor farm boy and shepherd.

When the anti-clerical French Revolution broke out in 1790, priests were forced to do their ministry in secret due to the impending execution imposed upon them. Despite this fearful situation, the young Vianney believed the priests were heroes, and he really admired their bravery. Despite the pressing circumstances of his time, John continued attending catechism classes, received First Communion, and was confirmed in secret.

In 1806, a school for ecclesiastical students was opened. At the age of 20, John began his formal seminary schooling (actually, at his age, he was very late to enter the seminary because of his family’s financial status). However, ecclesiastical studies in preparation for ordination were never easy for John. Though his teachers never seemed to doubt his priestly calling, he was of average intelligence. His knowledge was limited to a little arithmetic, geography, and history. But the most difficult for John was the study of Latin, which, during that time, was extremely important.

The Road Seems rough.

The French Revolution brought a temporary halt to John’s studies. In 1809, he was drafted into the French Army. However, due to his frail health, he missed his recruiting call. In 1812, he returned to Ecully and resumed his studies. Still struggling with his studies due to his limited intelligence, he had to take philosophy classes in French, not Latin, and failed many of his examinations (after several attempts, John eventually passed his courses). The priest who tutored him persuaded the bishop to ordain John for his holiness, not for his intelligence. And so, John was ordained deacon in June 1815 and later on as a priest on August 12 of the same year.

The newly-ordained Vianney was appointed assistant to Abbe Balley, the parish priest of Ecully. Three years later, Balley passed away. In 1818, Fr. Vianney was assigned as pastor to the small parish of Ars, a village not far from Lyon. The people of Ars were hostile, ignorant of the faith, and lived wayward lives. However, the beloved Curé of Ars won their hearts through constant prayer, preaching, and penance.

The Holy Man of Ars

In 1824, with the help of Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, Fr. Vianney established La Providence, a home for orphan girls. He taught catechism to children and offered personal penances for his flock. He preached powerful sermons, reminding his flock of God’s mercy and love and that He could forgive sins, no matter how grave they were.

But the most remarkable of his works was his ardent dedication as a confessor. Fr. Vianney had no gift of intense learning, but he did have the gift of understanding people’s hearts and minds. His reputation as a confessor grew rapidly, and pilgrims traveled from all over France to come to him for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (it was believed that he heard 20,000 confessions a year, which later increased to 75,000). Fr. Vianney, strongly dedicated to the conversion and sanctity of his people, would spend up to 16 hours a day in the confessional.

Fr. Vianney served the small parish of Ars for 41 years. On August 4, 1859, at the age of 73, the humble Curé of Ars breathed his last. All throughout France, he was known as a holy man. He had limited knowledge, but he was full of love for his people. He was canonized on May 31, 1925, by Pope Pius XI and was declared the patron saint of priests. His feast day is August 4.

Five Interesting Facts About St. John Vianney

  1. Because of St. John Vianney’s commitment to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the devil hated him so much. St. John Vianney was repeatedly attacked by the devil, who even burned his bed while the saint was sleeping.
  2. St. John Vianney is one of the “incorrupt saints”. His body, many years after his death, remains intact and did not decompose.
  3. St. John Vianney had a deep devotion and love for St. Philomena, a young Christian martyr. He attributed many miracles that happened in his parish to the saint’s intercession.
  4. St. John Vianney attempted to run away from Ars four times! This was because he really wanted to become a monk. After his fourth attempt, he finally decided that it was not to be.
  5. Commemorating the 150th anniversary of St. John Vianney’s death in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI declared 2009 the Year for Priests. He wrote a Letter to the Clergy where he encouraged all priests to look to the Curé of Ars as an example of dedication to one’s priestly vocation.

Prayer to St. John Vianney

(by St. John Vianney)

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life. I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you than live without loving You. I love You, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally. My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.