Today the Church honors St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. The fourth of six children in a very religious French family, John was born in 1786.
In 1792 the French Revolution, in its third year, ordered all priests to take an oath, pledging to honor the government, rather than the pope, as the head of the Church.
Even though it meant the loss of their income, three fourths of the priests took the oath, coming to being known as the Recusant Clergy. Many of them settled in America’s Midwest; while others stayed in hiding, ministering to devout Catholics; and some of them were guillotined as enemies of the State.
John was sixteen in 1802 when France, under Napoleon, recognized the Church. John was nourishing a strong desire to be a priest, however, he was twenty in 1806 before his father freed him from working on the farm. He was two years into his preliminary studies when he was called up by the army. Then, somehow missing the time for his recruitment, he found his way into a hiddent seminary where at twenty-nine, in 1815 he was ordained a priest.
In 1818, at thirty-two, John Vianney was appointed the Cure’of Ars, a village of 230 souls. In ten year’s time, every week saw hundreds of people coming to Ars to confess to the Cure’. Later that number was in the thousands; and the Cure’ was spending over ten hours a day in the confessional. While he had never been much of a student, he drew people with his appreciation of their worth, and with a honest understanding of their difficulties.
John died in 1859 at age seventy-two; and three hundred priests attended his funeral.