John Mary Vianney was born in Dardilly, near Lyons, France, on May 8, 1786; he died in Ars, on August 4, 1859. In 1806, John Mary was sent to a school for ecclesiastical students. Although he was of average intelligence and his masters never seem to have doubted his vocation, he found learning, especially the study of Latin, excessively difficult. Another obstacle presented itself. Young Vianney was drawn in the conscription, the war with Spain and the urgent need of recruits having caused Napoleon to withdraw the exemption enjoyed by the ecclesiastical students in the diocese of his uncle, Cardinal Fesch. The morning of departure, John went to church to pray, and on his return to the barracks found that his comrades had already left...
In 1812, John was sent to the seminary at Verrieres; he was so deficient in Latin as to be obliged to follow the philosophy course in French. He failed to pass the examinations for entrance to the seminary proper, but on re-examination three months later succeeded. On August 13, 1815, he was ordained priest by Mgr. Simon, Bishop of Grenoble. He was sent to Ecully as assistant to Fr. Balley, who had first recognized and encouraged his vocation, who urged him to persevere when the obstacles in his way seemed insurmountable, who interceded with the examiners when he failed to pass for the higher seminary, and who was his model as well as his preceptor and patron. In 1818, after the death of Fr. Balley, Fr. Vianney was made parish priest of Ars, a village not very far from Lyons. It was in the exercise of the functions of the parish priest in this remote French hamlet that as the "cure of Ars" he became known throughout France and the Christian world. A few years after he went to Ars, he founded a sort of orphanage for destitute girls. It was called "The Providence" and was the model of similar institutions established later all over France.
The chief labor of the Cure of Ars was the direction of souls. He had not been long in Ars when people began coming to him from other parishes, then from distant places, then from all parts of France, and finally from other countries. During the last ten years of his life, he spent from sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional. His advice was sought by bishops, priests, religious, young men and women in doubt as to their vocation, sinners, persons in all sorts of difficulties and the sick. In 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached twenty thousand a year. He would sometimes divine sins withheld in an imperfect confession. His instructions were simple in language, full of imagery drawn from daily life and country scenes, but breathing faith and that love of God which was his life principle and which he infused into his audience as much by his manner and appearance as by his words, for, at the last, his voice was almost inaudible.
The miracles recorded by his biographers are of three classes:
The greatest miracle of all was his life. He practiced mortification from his early youth, and for forty years his food and sleep were insufficient, humanly speaking, to sustain life. And yet he labored incessantly, with unfailing humility, gentleness, patience, and cheerfulness, until he was more than seventy-three years old.On October 3, 1874, John Mary Vianney was proclaimed Venerable by Pius IX and on January 8, 1905, he was enrolled among the Blessed. Pope Pius X proposed him as a model to the parochial clergy. In 1925, Pope Pius XI canonized him. His feast is kept on August 4.