Main Altar – John Vianney

John Vianney (French: Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, May 8, 1786 – August 4, 1859) was a French parish priest who is venerated as a saint and as the patron saint of all priests. He is often referred to as the “Curé d’Ars.” He became renowned for his priestly and pastoral work in his parish and bringing about the radical spiritual transformation of the community and its surroundings, which was attributed to his saintly life and mortification and his persevering ministry in the sacrament of confession. Vianney was born in the French town of Dardilly and was baptized the same day. The Vianneys were traditional Catholics who helped the poor and gave hospitality to Saint Benedict Joseph Labré, who passed through Dardilly on his pilgrimage to Rome. By 1790, the French Revolution forced many loyal priests to hide from the government in order to carry out the sacraments in their parish. Vianney’s first communion lessons were secretly carried out in a private home by two nuns. He made his first communion at the age of 13. In 1802, the Catholic Church was reestablished in France. He received minor orders and the subdiaconate on July 2, 1814, was ordained deacon in June 1815, and was ordained priest on August 12, 1815. He said his first Mass the next day. He was appointed pastor of the parish of Ars, a town of 230, and realized that the Revolution’s aftermath resulted in religious ignorance, due to many years of the destruction of the Catholic Church in France. (At the time, Sundays in rural areas were spent in the fields working, or spent dancing and drinking in taverns.) He came to be known internationally, and people from distant places began traveling to consult him as early as 1827. By 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached 20,000 a year. During the last ten years of his life, he spent sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional. Vianney died at age 73. Biographers recorded miracles performed throughout his life, obtaining money for his charities and food for his orphans; he also had supernatural knowledge of the past and future and could heal the sick, especially children. On January 8, 1905, Pope Pius X declared him Blessed and proposed him as a model to the parochial clergy; in 1925 Pope Pius XI canonized him. In 1959, Pope John XXIII issued Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia, an encyclical on Vianney. In honor of the 150th anniversary of Vianney’s death, Pope Benedict XVI declared a year for priests (2009-2010.)

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