Leviticus 23.1,4-11,15-16,27,34-37; Psalm 80; Matthew 13.54-58
St John Vianney (1786-1859) grew up during the Terror of the French Revolution, when the Cult of Reason was established as the summit of the radical dechristianisation of France.
Napoleon’s Concordat of 1802 enabled the restoration of Catholic life. John Vianney entered the diocesan seminary in 1806, at the age of twenty, though his preparatory schooling had been spotty due to the interruptions of the Revolution and he found academic work very taxing. A further interruption was caused by Napoleon’s draft of soldiers. St John deserted and managed to evade detection. At length an Imperial decree pardoned all deserters and
St John returned to seminary. He was ordained in 1815 and three years later was made parish priest (Curé) of Ars-sur-Formans, 20 miles north of Lyons; at that time it was a village of 230 inhabitants. He was to remain there nearly 42 years, until the end of his life.
He quickly became aware of the religious ignorance and indifference wrought by the Revolution. He patiently taught the practice of the faith and he dedicated himself to hearing confessions. By 1827 his priestly ministry had become well known and Ars had become a pilgrimage site. By 1855 it is estimated that 20,000 penitents from around the world came annually to make their confessions to the Curé, who spent from 12 to 16 hours each day in the confessional. He was canonised in 1929 by Pope Pius XI, who declared him the patron saint of parish priests.