Jean-Baptist Vianney, Curé d'Ars, Spiritual Guide

4 August -- Commemoration
If celebrated as a Lesser Festival, Common of Pastors, page 483

Jean-Baptist Marie Vianney was born in Dardilly near Lyons in 1786, the son of a farmer, and he spent much of his childhood working as a shepherd on his father's farm. He had little formal education but, at the age of twenty, he began studying for the priesthood which he found extremely difficult. Despite his poor academic performance, he was ordained in 1815, mainly because of his devotion and holiness. He served as assistant priest at Ecully and, in 1818, was appointed curé, or parish priest, of the remote, unimportant village of Ars-en-Dombes. From this backwater, his fame was to spread world-wide. His skills in preaching and spiritual counsel earned him a reputation as a discerning and wise priest. His visiting penitents soon numbered three hundred a day. He would preach at eleven o' clock each morning and then spend up to sixteen hours in the confessional. A Franciscan tertiary who reflected the spirituality of Francis, his compassion and understanding of human weakness often brought him to tears. His love of God and his people ensured that he remained in Ars the rest of his life, despite a call to the religious life and many offers of promotion in the Church. He died on this day in the year 1859.