St John Vianne is the patron saint of parish priests. Considered a slow learner who struggled with academics, he even got lost when trying to get to his first assignment in the tiny town of Ars, France (pop. 230 people). It was a difficult time of rebuilding as the French Revolution’s reign of terror had previously forced repression of Catholics. But his patient work with his tiny flock began to spread. Known as a great mystic, he spent long days in the confessional with people who would flock to him from all over Europe and the world. By the end of his life, almost 20,000 people a year would go to confession with him and many miraculous events are well documented by those that confessed with him.
The shrine of Ars has entrusted his incorrupt heart of St John Vianne to the Knights of Columbus who are hosting him traveling the US. His heart will be arriving here in the Pacific Northwest the first week of March. Find the locations and dates here, but act fast because his relics will only be at some locations for mere hours:
Brief info about St John Vianne from wikipedia:
Around 1790, the anticlerical terror phase of the French Revolution forced many priests to hide from the regime in order to carry out the sacraments. John Vianne’s parents were ardent Catholics and gave often to the local poor as well as raised John with the same faith despite the persecution. After the Catholic Church was re-established in France in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte,
John entered the seminary, but struggled academically. Considered too slow, he was returned to Abbé Balley. However, Balley persuaded the Vicar general that Vianney’s piety was great enough to compensate for his ignorance. The seminarian was ordained priest on 12 August 1815.
He was then appointed the priest of Ars, a town of 230 inhabitants. Vianne got lost trying to find the town and two young men tending flocks in the fields pointed him in the right direction. With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls.
As parish priest, Vianney realized that the Revolution’s aftermath had resulted in religious ignorance and indifference, due to the devastation wrought on the church in France. At the time, Sundays in rural areas were spent working in the fields, or dancing and drinking in taverns. Vianney spent time in the confessional and gave homilies extorting people to turn towards God.
Despite the tiny parish of just a few hundred souls, Vianney came to be known internationally, and people from distant places began travelling 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 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional.
The hours he spent in the confessional were surrounded by mystical experiences for both he and his confessors. Numerous tales are told of his humility, holiness, and miraculous knowledge of people’s sins and the disposition of their souls.