It was a time of Miracles for Saint John Vianney
As with gifts of the Holy Spirit, which do not necessarily constitute sanctity but are gifts, so it is with the granting of Miracles. They are gifts freely given by the Lord, signs of holiness, but not necessarily holiness of the person or persons receiving or experiencing them. The few Miracles we wish to share in this segment are different from the ones required
The Miracle of the Bread
for the canonization of a candidate for Sainthood. These have been recorded as taking place during the Curé’s lifetime. Those required and accepted by the Church were those obtained after his death through his intercession.
There was the Miracle of the Multiplication of the Flour. Once, at La Providence, there was not enough flour to bake even an oven full of bread. The mill couldn’t grind the wheat that had been sent over. There was just enough flour to bake three loaves of bread. When they had seen there was not enough flour to feed all the girls in the school, they went to the Curé. He told them to use the little they had. They took the small amount of flour they had, and began to knead it. The trough filled, overflowing with dough as on days when they had a large sack of flour. Had the Curé prayed? Did he ask the Lord to multiply the loaves as He had, on the Mount of the Beatitudes? It is definite that a Miracle was granted by the Lord for the Curé’s spiritual children. Was it by his intercession? What do you believe?
Then there was the Miracle of the Wine. One day, the Curé came to his people, advising them a full cask of wine had split and the contents had spilled onto the sand floor. Sure enough, when they investigated, the cask was empty. They tried to retrieve whatever they could of the clearest wine from the sand. They were barely able to collect two little pails of clear wine. They poured what little they had into a cask which was nearly empty. To their amazement, they kept drawing from the cask for days, till there was nothing left!
Beside the now empty cask was another cask of wine, half full. They decided to pour the 50 liters of wine from the half full cask, to the empty one beside it, which had a capacity to hold 200 liters of wine. Jokingly, one of the women teased, “See if the cask is full!” Imagine the look on her face when the other woman replied, “It is! Look, I can touch the wine with my finger!”
When the Curé had mentioned the cask was empty and they should see about it, wasn’t he, like Mother Mary before him, really speaking to Jesus! And then, turning to the women, wasn’t he really saying, like Mary before him, “Do whatever He tells you!” And our Jesus Who never tires of feeding us, Who is always available to answer our needs, responded and gave him and us, a Miracle! In the Lord’s Humility, He acted as He has always done, through one of His children’s faith and petition.
As we read the lives of the Saints, the words of Scripture come alive. If the Lord cares for the lilies in the field, as He does, what will He not do, if we ask in His Name? Why do we question, wasting time on worry, where we will live, what we will eat, what we will wear? The Lord of all, knows our hearts and He answers us!
When people came to the Curé sharing all the Miracles and phenomena occurring in the Parish, he always pointed to God and the intercession of the Saints, especially his Saint Philomena. In an effort to draw people away from praising him, he would give credit to this little know early Christian martyr. Through him, this heretofore unknown Saint became so popular throughout France, many parents chose Philomena as a Baptismal name for their little girls. All the pilgrims would not be fooled. They insisted, if the Miracles were from the intercession of St. Philomena, it was because the Curé had asked her. He persisted,
“I do not work miracles! I am only a poor ignorant man who once tended sheep…Turn to St. Philomena. I have never asked for anything through her without receiving it.”
And this was and is, the kind of leaven the Lord can and will work with. How do we know the authenticity of a Saint while he or she is still on the earth? Well, the Curé, St. John Vianney, placed no importance on Miracles bringing about bodily Curés unless they aided in great measure to the conversion, the transformation of souls.
In speaking of Miracles, we must agree with his biographers before us, the greatest single Miracle of Ars was the living out, day by day, of who he was, John Mary Vianney, Curé, holy priest and shepherd.
The Curé’s Spirituality
The Curé followed the example and teachings of the Early Fathers of the Desert and that of Saint Sulpice. In that of the Fathers of the Desert, he not only derived inspiration from their teachings, he followed them to the letter, often quoting them verbatim.
The Curé had many friends but he had enemies as well, who were always trying to discredit him. Those who loved him, wanted him to answer his accusers, to defend himself. In response, he told 36
this story, from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers:
“One day a Saint commanded one of his monks: `Go to the cemetery and say insulting things to the dead.’ The monk obeyed and when he returned the Saint commanded him: `What did they answer?’ `Nothing.’ `Well then return and praise them.’ The monk obeyed once more and came back. `Did they answer you this time?’ `Still nothing’ `Well then,’ answered the Saint, `whether people insult you or praise you, do the same as the dead.’”
Another time, making reference to the lukewarm, those who just go through the motions, mouthing prayers, attending Mass, distracted by the world and its attractions rather than centering on Him, without Whom there would be no world no less its beauty, he again used teachings from the Sayings of the Fathers:
“Flies do not settle on boiling water. They fall into cold or tepid water.”
He was warning: Unless when you are on fire: you continue to stoke up the fire with spiritual reading, attend Holy Mass daily, receive the Sacrament of Penance often, fast, practice abstinence, make use of the crosses handed to you each day of your life; unless you become a contemplative in action making every thought, every action, every step, every beat of your heart in adoration of the Lord and His Sacred Wounds, you will become as tepid or cold as the stagnant water flies like to habitat.
Father Vianney was not one who lived in the past, the good old days. True, he was influenced by the lives of the Saints before him, using forms of their spirituality and wisdom to more closely portray Jesus Christ in our midst. But he was a man for all seasons. He tried to walk boldly in the footsteps of the Desert Fathers while accepting and using the available gifts of the Church of the nineteenth century.
These two spiritualities were closely fused into the man-priest that made up Father John Mary Vianney: one from the ancients and the other from the Church of his day. He loved this Church on the move. He revered this Church which stood on the foundation of centuries of faithfulness and martyrdom. Right from his days in the Seminary and with Father Balley, strength was formed within him which would last and sustain him throughout his entire priesthood. He had Jesus as the center of his life and the Blessed Mother as his mother and intercessor.
From the spirituality of Saint Sulpice, he developed an acute awareness of his Lord in the Holy Eucharist. From this 7th century Saint, he learned, the one perfect Adorer of His Father was Jesus, the Eternal priest, in the Eucharist.
The burning love Father Vianney had for the Savior was manifested as he prepared for the Sacred Celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy. But although the Eucharistic Liturgy was the high point of his Mass, he carefully balanced the Liturgy of the Word with the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
He could feel his Savior’s presence in the Tabernacle, so he took every opportunity to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament. His Presence brought tears to the Curé’s eyes. This passion he felt for the Lord was no on-again off-again affair. Speaking of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, he said:
“If we had a lively faith, we would certainly be able to see Him in the Blessed Sacrament. There are priests who see Him every day during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
Many who saw the Curé during the Mass, believed he was speaking of himself as one of those priests, but the Curé would never have admitted that, never wanting attention brought to himself. He would have considered this consolation. He not only did not seek consolation, he distrusted it:
“When we have no consolations, we serve God for God’s own sake. When we have them, we are in danger of serving Him for ourselves.”