August 4th the Church celebrates one of the greatest priests that ever walked the earth—Saint John Maria Vianney, known as “The Cure of Ars”.  Many excellent books as well as articles have been written on this saintly priest, especially by Abbe Trochou, Tan publishers.  St. John XXXIII actually wrote an encyclical letter on this great saint.

This short article has as its purpose the desire to motivate priests, Bishops, and future priests (seminarians) to look to him as a splendid model to imitate. We will highlight only five of the extraordinary virtues of this brilliant star in the firmament of heaven—in the words of Hans von Balthasar.

1.    PATIENCE, PERSISTENCE AND PERSEVERANCE.  The Cure of Ars lived in difficult times, the French Revolution and its aftermath.  As a seminarian studies did not come easy to him. On one occasion a fellow seminarian slapped him in the face because he was so slow to learn. Vianney knelt down and apologized for his slowness. Despite the countless obstacles, St. John did persevere and was ordained to the priesthood. One thing he indeed did well was Prayer! Let us pray for priests that they may be patient with God, patient with others, patient in difficult and trying circumstances and patient with their own human fragility.

2.     PENANCE.  Jesus said that some devils are expelled only by prayer and fasting. Upon entering his new Parish, the Cure was aware of the sick and lame spiritual status of his Parish. Give in to despair, he did not! Rather, he entrusted himself to God and His omnipotence.  Before speaking much to the people the Cure of Ars poured his pure and suffering heart out to God with these words: “God I beg you to convert my parish. I will accept any sufferings you send me, but convert my parish.” He spent long hours in prayer; sometimes he would spend the whole night in prayer. He added, to this, severe fasting. Sometimes he would go a day or more without eating. On other occasions he would boil a pot of potatoes at the start of the week and eat two or three a day—all done for the love of God and for the salvation of immortal souls.

3.    ELIMINATE THE CAUSE OF SIN.   In his parish, one of the primary sources of sin were the taverns/bars--- we would call them “Nightclubs”. Sin was rampant in these places of perdition: vulgar words, excessive drinking and lewd dancing and gestures all prevailed.   Ruthlessly, the Cure of Ars prayed, fasted and preached against these houses of sin. In time, victory: all were closed.  The Cure of Ars teaches us that to overcome and conquer sin we must avoid the near occasions of sin which can be persons, places, things or circumstances. He who plays with fire will be burnt; he who walks on thin-ice will cave in to the cold water.

4.    CONFESSION.   The Cure of Ars is probably best known as Confessor.  After several years of intense prayer, fasting, the discipline and teaching (he taught catechism to his people every day at 11:00, a.m.) the people returned to the Parish and eventually from all places.  The holiness, love and apostolic zeal of this priest and true man of God drew many people to look into the depths of their hearts, examine their consciences and have recourse to the Sacrament of God’s infinite mercy.  St. John Vianney would spend long hours in the confessional, some days as long as 14-15-16 hours hearing sins and reconciling souls to the merciful Heart of Jesus. We should also recall that 250 years ago the churches and the confessionals had neither heat nor air-conditioning. That means that in the summer his confessional could be compared to an oven; in the winter, to a deep-freeze refrigerator. Despite these two extremes the holy Cure of Ars was never known to complain but rather to thank the “Good God” that he loved so much.

5.    HIS TWO GREAT LOVES: MARY AND THE EUCHARIST.   We should stop for a moment and ask the simple question: how could a human being do so much with so little. Eating two potatoes a day, confession 14-17 hours a day, sleeping as little as three hours at night, being tormented at times by the devil in his room, calumniated by the tavern-owners for closing their sinful practice--- how on earth could he last beyond a week, dying due to exhaustion or simply going insane???   The answer is clear and to the point: his two great loves.  The Cure of Ars intensely loved Jesus and Mary. There is no other explanation for the ultimate source of his energy, perseverance and strength.  His greatest love was the most Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Mary was his tender and loving Mother. Jesus was his Lord, God, and Savior and His best of Friends.  The unction of the preaching of the Cure of Ars on the mystery of Mass and the Holy Eucharist could move the hardest of hearts. Let’s read and learn:

 “Without the Holy Eucharist there would be no happiness in this world; life would be insupportable. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive our joy and our happiness. The good God, wishing to give Himself to us in the Sacrament of His love, gave us a great and vast desire, which He alone can satisfy. In the presence of this beautiful Sacrament, we are like a person dying of thirst by the side of a river—he would only need to bend his head; like a person still remaining poor, close to a great treasure—he need only stretch out his hand. He who communicates loses himself in God like a drop of water in the ocean. They can never be separated.” 

Let us pray fervently to the Cure of Ars, Saint John Marie Vianney, for priests. May priests be men of deep prayer, ardent apostolic zeal for the salvation of immortal souls, the greatest of lovers of Holy Mass, Holy Communion and the Blessed Sacrament and the dearest and loving sons of Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church and the tender and loving Mother of priests.  St. John Marie Vianney, pray for the Church, the priests and the salvation of the whole world.