Thursday, March 23, 2006

Saint John Vianney

John was born in Lyons, in France. As a child he took care of his father's sheep. He loved to pray but he also loved to play horseshoes. When John was eighteen, he asked his father if he could become a priest. His father was worried because John had become a big help on the family farm but two years later his father agreed.

When he was twenty years old, John studied under Father Balley. He was very patient but John became sad when he found it difficult to learn Latin. He decided to walk sixty miles, which was a very long walk, to the shrine of St. John Francis Regis whose feast we celebrate on June 16. John prayed to St. John Francis for help. After the pilgrimage, he still found his lessons difficult but now he was not sad. He just decided to study harder.

John was finally able to enter the seminary to become a priest. No matter how much he tried, he found his studies quite hard. In the final exams, which were spoken, not written, John had to face a group of teachers and answer their questions. He was very worried and could not complete the test.

He was a holy man, he was full of common sense and understood what the Church taught about the subjects and he knew the right answers when asked what should be done in this case or that. He just couldn't say those answers in the difficult way they were taught in the Latin text books. John was ordained and became a priest. He understood what his job was as a priest and everyone knew he was a good man.

After he became a priest, he was sent to a little parish called Ars. Father Vianney fasted, prayed and did hard penance so that God would save the people of his parish from sin. He ate very little and lived like the poorest of the poor. He did penance for his people and prayed for hours before the Blessed Sacrament. "That is the way to win souls to God," he said. He was often tormented by the devil who tried to keep him from saving souls. The people of his parish were not all good. They drank too much liquor, used bad language, worked even on Sundays and never went to Church.

God heard Fr. Vianney's prayer and one by one the liquor shops closed down. People slowly started going to Church for Mass and began worshipping God. God gave John the power to see into people's minds and to know the future. Because of this gift, he converted many sinners and helped people make the right choices in life.

Hundreds of pilgrims began to come to Ars and St. John Vianney spent sometimes eighteen hours everyday hearing confessions. Father Vianney spent forty years as the parish priest of Ars, dying at the age of 73. His feast day is celebrated on August 4th.

Almighty and merciful God, in St. John Vianney, You have given us a priest who was outstanding in pastoral zeal. Through his intercession help us to win others for Christ and together with them attain eternal glory. Amen.

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