St. John Vianney & Ars

Friends in Christ, today we are in our continuing Novena to St. John Vianney, and so, even though it is Sunday, it seems fitting to speak about our great patron saint today.
.
One fine day in 1818, a boy herding sheep in the Dombes region of France met a young priest walking towards him; the priest was pushing a rickety cart full of objects and some furniture. He asked the boy, ‘Is it much further to the town of Ars?’ The boy pointed to the tiny town that lay ahead. “How small it is!” said the priest. Then he knelt on the ground and prayed.
.
As he set out again with his cart, the boy was at his side. When they arrived at the poor church, the priest said to him: “Thank you for showing me the way to Ars… now I will show you the way to Heaven”.
.
It was a tiny parish, the town, a mere 230 people. John Vianney saw that the church was a dilapidated mess, and filthy. He began himself to clean it. He would clean the church, but he wished even more, to clean hearts – the souls of the people.
.
The people in Ars were not hostile to the Faith, he would have preferred that; what he found, was complete apathy and indifference. 19 years after the French Revolution, when ½ the priests in France had disappeared, and thousands of heads were cut off in the hatred of God – after all that, well, France was spiritually dead. Nobody except a handful of people cared at all whether a priest came to their village or said Mass.
.
The town’s fame for dances and drunkenness was widespread. People came from miles around to join in the carousing, and to go wild in the four taverns there. The people would say, ‘this village is too small to have a church,’ but yet – there were 4 saloons. People did not go to Mass on Sundays and they even worked on that day; John Vianney came upon a drunk man one time who was swearing. he said to him, ‘My child, you are an animal.’ And indeed, people without God become animals.
.
At the time of the village festival, came the parties, the dancing, and after hours, the expected mortal sins between men and women. But in the Sunday sermon, their new parish priest did not waste any time addressing these things: ‘The tavern is the devil’s shop, he said. ‘in the tavern, hell pours forth its doctrine, souls are put up for sale, and families are ruined. ‘At the dance club, a Christian leaves his guardian angel at the door, and a devil takes his place. Soon, there are as many devils in the room as dancers.’
.
As St. John preached, and prayed for his people, and fasted; little by little, people were no longer comfortable in their sins. A small group at first, wished to learn about God. Some youth came to pray the Rosary. Improving morals led to the two taverns nearest the Church closing for lack of business; although 7 new ones appeared, eventually each of them had to close as well.
.
Tirelessly the holy priest taught the people: ‘My children, we must love God above all.’ ‘We must not sin, or if we do, let us repent and make our souls clean.’
.
Miracles started to happen. John Vianney had a great devotion to St. Philomena; when miracles started to occur, he would blame them on St. Philomena. ‘She is the one doing this,’ he would say. A young girl was paralyzed on one side; although she was able to drag herself along, her left arm was quite useless. She was about to tell her troubles to St. John, when he said: ‘Go and talk about this to St. Philomena!’ So she made her way over to her statue: ‘Restore my arm to me,’ she pleaded.’ She was cured at that instant.
.
His preaching and miracles and – really it was his prayers: the love of God began to gain a foothold in Ars. In that little corner of France, the Word of God began to matter. Christianity was being lived again.
.
Men got into the habit of making a visit to the Church before going to their fields, leaving their tools and their flocks waiting outside on the road. No longer would anyone cheat his neighbor or steal even a penny. In a Christ-like atmosphere, people became polite, and even hired servants were cared for and treated like children.
.
The law of Sunday Mass and Sunday rest was carefully observed; on Sunday, there was a beautiful silence and peace in the town. Even clothes changed. The immodest fashions of Paris gave way to traditional and simple clothing. It was just a beginning, but it would be part of a renewal of families and the Christian faith that would blossom over the next century.
.
Friends, we will have our procession on Tuesday evening to conclude our Novena. We are praying to St. John for our so-many needs and hopes, but also asking him to change our hearts, and make us real Christians. Let us pray to our Patron, and let us pray to the Blessed Virgin as well. Mary, pray for us, that we will become worthy disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

.

[Entrusted to the prayers of St. John Vianney]

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation