Who is St. John Mary Vianney?
St. John Mary Vianney was a humble priest, hidden away in a small remote village, too small to appear on most maps of France. This priest, like the mustard seed, could not be hidden in obscurity; the gifts of the Holy Spirit he received were to bring thousands and thousands to him. It is no wonder he comes from that section where over a century later, the Charismatic Renewal of France began. The Holy Spirit goes where He wills, when He wills.
It is also no coincidence, he was born close to where our Lord showed His Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Jesus told Margaret Mary, He was more deeply hurt by the Crown of Thorns pressed on His Heart by His friends, than by the One His enemies mockingly placed on His Head. How many times, Curé did your heart get pierced from a crown of thorns thrust there by friends? Did it wound you, like it did Jesus?
Here again, like with Mother Mary’s Apparitions and Miracles of the Eucharist, we have clusters of Heavenly happenings. Could it be, the Lord goes where there is much need? You could definitely say that of Ars and of France, at the time of John Vianney. Ars was a village of sin and apathy. The Curé would spend forty-one years of dry martyrdom,1 as Pastor of Ars, the only parish he would ever serve.
John Mary Vianney was born in France, the France of Heritage, eldest daughter of the Church. This France, in his lifetime, would be ripped apart and aborted by revolution. That malignancy of the spirit was not only to eat away at all the magnificent old traditions of France, but would spread right into the heart of the Church. As anger cannot be contained, those spoiling and destroying did not stop at the aristocracy, but forgetting why they had begun in the first place, turned on Church, guillotining priests and nuns. We share this because, as in the time of St. John Mary Vianney, if faith, like a garden, is not cared for and nourished, it will die. And die France did, and the Church along with her. Only in places like French Canada and our beloved Louisiana can you see evidence of the glorious Heritage of the France of Yesterday. There, the old traditions and pride in France and the Church flourish, side by side.
John Mary Vianney was one of six children, born in a little village, Dardilly, five miles north of Lyons. His family’s reputation for charity became so wide-known, beggars would pass their name on to other fellow travellers of the highway. There is an expression, angels unaware. Well, one of the beggars they so generously gave to, was a saint. St. Benedict Joseph Labre, affectionately called the beggar saint, stopped at their home sixteen years before John Mary was born. However, we can be assured, the prayers and blessing this holy man bestowed on the family, would be an instrument to bring another holy man unto them, who someday, like himself, would be declared by Mother Church, a Saint.
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