St John Mary Baptist Vianney was born near Lyons, France in 1786. With limited schooling and being a slow learner, he had to discontinue his seminary training as he struggled with the Latin lectures. However, he sought private tuition and was eventually ordained in 1814. In 1818 he was sent to Ars- en -Dombes, the equivalent of being sent to Siberia. It was a small village of 40 houses, the Church and Presbytery were dilapidated. He would remain in Ars for 41 years until his death.
When he arrived in Ars the people were indifferent and quite comfortable with their lifestyles and due to the French Revolution were very ignorant of the Catholic faith. Through his long fasts and many hours spent in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament often during the night and his devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary, he transformed his parish. His reputation grew and by 1855 about 20,000 people a year were seeking him out from all over France and beyond.
In the winter months he would spend 11/12 hours a day in the confessional and during the summer months about 16 hours a day. Along with Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet he founded a home for girls and the establishing of this home teaches us much about the importance of God’s providence that St Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney so much relied on. Because he was bringing so many souls back to God and the Church, the devil often attacked him and St John Mary Baptist Vianney would jokingly call him the wrestler “le grappin” when asked about the noises that priest guests would hear from his bedroom at night. The devil actually set his bed on fire.
St John Marie Baptiste Vianney awoke a whole village and many souls in France from spiritual slumber and many healings were attributed to him, although he himself attributed them to whom he called his little saint, St Philomena. He died in Ars in 1859.
St John Marie Baptiste Vianney was canonised by Pope Pius XI on the 31st of May 1925. He is patron saint of Parish Priests.