AMDGToday we remember St Jean Vianney – the famous ‘Cure of Ars’. I was researching a bit about him yesterday and found a fascinating story. Born into revolutionary France, when the faith was outlawed, Vianney as a young boy would travel miles to mass with his family to remote farmhouses. The windows would be covered in cloth, to hide the shine of candlelight. Impressed by the courage of the priests who were risking their lives and the guillotine to celebrate mass, the seeds of a vocation were planted. Incredibly as a young man, Vianney was press-ganged into Napoleons army to fight the Spanish. On a forced march to the Spanish border he managed to slip away and was stranded in the mountain village of Les Noes. The deep snows of a winter stranded him and kept him safe from the zealous gendarmes who were searching for deserters. During the the long winter he set up a rudimentary school for the children. He was ordained and his holiness led to the radical spiritual transformation of the community of Ars and its surroundings. His fame spread far and wide, and soon over 20,000 people a year would travel to Ars on a pilgrimage, and to make their confessions to him, and these was the days before Easy Jet! In the summer he could spend up to 16hrs in the confessional.
No wonder he is the patron saint of Parish Priests. What is striking about his story is the growth of his vocation in the most hostile circumstances, with so many obstacles put up against him. Echoed perfectly in today’s readings of the Prophet Jeremiah being delivered from execution, and the Gospel of John the Baptist beheading by King Herod. Kings, Emperors, Revolutions – no matter how powerful they seem, Gods will, sometimes working imperceptibly, will always find a way. The most powerful force in the world – even greater that the Higgs Boson or the magnificent Jessica Ennis. With an open heart the will of God is irresistible.
- Thousands visit St. John Vianney’s heart in England (catholicnewsagency.com)