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Cure d’ Ars– Feast of St Jean Marie Vianney

Jean Vianney was born in 1786 near Lyons, France. It was just a few years prior to the French Revolution and the execution of countless priests, nuns, religious, and faithful Catholics.

But the evil events of the French Revolution and Reign of Terror only strengthened Vianney’s faith, and upon reception of his first Communion he heard God’s call to the priesthood. In 1815, he was ordained a priest, and he marched to the small town of Ars, to be the priest.

They townspeople had never seen anything like Fr. Vianney. He prayed constantly; he adored our Lord day and night and reverently said Mass.

St. Jean-Marie Vianney is the patron saint of Cure d’ Ars Catholic Church in Denver, Colorado, within the Archdiocese of Denver.  Jean-Marie Vianney was a priest in the small village of Ars in France.  Ars had a population of 200 and its church was the Parish of Miserieux in the Diocese of Lyons.  Over enormous difficulties, he was ordained to the priesthood on 13 August 1815.  The day after his arrival he was almost alone as he made his way toward the altar to celebrate Mass.  But a few days later, when some came to see what another priest could possibly have come to do at Ars and how he lived, the faithful found him on his knees in prayer before the Tabernacle, as though he truly saw Someone; they found him in the same position, morning, afternoon, evening and even at night.

He talked of Jesus to them, and of Heaven and Hell. He preached the Gospel with power and clarity and the town was moved to repentance and faith. He continually fasted and and did penance for the sake of his flock. His Christlike counsel and love in the confessional brought people to Ars in droves, eventually leading hundreds of thousands each year to make a pilgrimage there, hoping to receive renewal and graces from encountering the holy priest.

Fr. Vianney became known for his prayer, fasting and penance.  He looked around and saw the sins of his people and began a ruthless fight against the evils.  He offered his whole life to God with the Crucified One.  Even those who were the most remote from God, the most recalcitrant sinners, soon felt that God had sent a saint to Ars and hastened to listen to him.  The church was soon filled with people, including those who started to come from neighboring environs.  From the first moment he arrived in Ars, Fr. Jean-Marie had become the man consumed by the confessional.  His parishioners flocked to him for confession and felt the joy of God’s forgiveness and of conversion.  He listened, read their minds, prompted repentance and comforted them.  Ars became the European capital of reconciliation with God:  men and women from across Europe and around the world set out for France because they truly believed that in an out-of-the-way French village, a priest consumed by prayer and penance was speak of God, hearing confessions and guiding souls to holiness.

The pilgrimages to see Jean-Marie Vianney became international: 10,000, 100,000, 400,000 or perhaps even more pilgrims went every year to Ars for 30 years.  They were simple people, famous founders, statesmen, Bishops.  They left him being renewed in the Lord.  And all, like the peasant of Macon who when asked: “But who did you see at Ars?”, were able to reply: “I saw God, in a man”.

On August 2, 1859, Fr. Jean-Marie Vianney received Holy Communion and Extreme Unction from his own curate in simplicity and joy.  He came face-to-face with God at dawn on August 4, 1859.  On the feast of Pentecost, 31 May 1925, Pope Pius XI enrolled him among the saints, and on 23 April 1928, declared him Patron of the world’s parish priests.  Pope Benedict XVI declared him Patron of all priests.  The Feast of St. Jean-Marie Vianney is celebrated August 4th.