Summary of The Curé d’Ars by Abbé Francis Trochu

The Curé d’Ars by Abbé Francis Trochu, Translated by Dom Ernest Graf, OSB, Baronius Press, 2015.

Abbe Trochu presents an inspiring journey into the life of the Cure that is at once marvelous and authentic. As no one else, the author gives readers a vivid and accurate picture of this loving and generous saint, remarkable for his burning desire to make God’s goodness known to a world that had hardened itself against Him.

Ars’ Church

The time not taken up with study and prayer was spent transforming the lowly village church. First, the high altar. Later, statues and images.

“Sometimes the mere sight of a picture is enough to move and convert us; at times pictures make almost as deep an impression as the objects they represent” (Vianney, 157).

Breviary

“He so loved the volume of his Breviary,” says the Abbe Tailhades, “that as he went to and fro he nearly always carried it under his arm. On my asking him the reason why, he replied: ‘The Breviary is my constant companion; I could not go anywhere without it'” (308). Whenever he was in the Church, he always recited the Breviary on his knees (520). 

Confession

During the last 10 years of his life, Vianney would often spend 16 to 18 hours in the confessional, while pilgrims waited between 30 to 70 hours before reaching the blessed tribunal (268). 

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“He did not mince matters in dealing with sinners; his sublime faith raised him far above the fear of men, and, putting all his trust in God alone, he knew, when necessary, how to say to men, irrespective of their condition: “It is not lawful!” Who can tell the number of souls whom the lancet of his word freed from the hidden virus that poisoned their life? He knew the spot which it was necessary to touch, and he rarely missed his aim” (273).

“Save your poor soul! What a pity to lose a soul that has cost our Lord so much! What harm then has he done to you that you treat him thus?” (273)

In order to move big sinners, M. Vianney, without other exhortation, contented himself with uttering one phrase, simple but terrible on the lips of one who read the future: “My friend, you are damned!” It was short, but it was eloquent. Obviously, the saint meant to speak conditionally, and meant to say: “Unless you avoid such an occasion, if you persist in such a habit, if you do not follow such and such advice, you will be damned” (274).

“As a rule, the direction of pious souls did not demand many more words. But here also his utterances were fiery darts that buried themselves in the heart for all time… He was very short, a word of exhortation and it was over” (274-5).

It was the holiness of the Cure d’Ars that imparted to his words their power and efficacy; on the lips of other men they might have seemed commonplace, but with what expression he uttered them! In addition to words, there was about M. Vianney something even more irresistable, namely, his tears. To soften a hardened heart, it was at times enough for him to point, in the midst of his tears, to the crucifix that hung on the wall. From his confessional proceeded groans and sighs that escaped him against his will, and which moved the penitent to repentance and love” (275).

“Why do you weep so much, Father?” the saint was asked by a sinner kneeling by his side. “Ah! my friend, I weep because you do not weep enough” (276).

M. Vianney always insisted on adequate signs of conversion (280). 

“Although M. Vianney would perform penances for the penitents, he by no means forgot that the sacramental penance must be medicinal. In this matter, the saint exhibited great ability in touching the weak spot: such a sin had to be expiated, such a defect had to be corrected – very well, an appropriate expiation must be undertaken” (282). 

“This morning I should have liked to stay in bed,” he said one day, “but I did not hesitate to get up; the salvation of souls is so important a matter!” And thus, though already worn out with fatigue, he entered his confessional (521). 

Death

“How sweet it is to die if one has lived on the cross!” (531)

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Demonic Attacks

“It was indeed a battle, and in order to fight it the holy man had no other resource than patience and prayer. “I sometimes asked him,” his confessor relates, “how he repelled those attacks. He replied: ‘I turn to God; I make the sign of the cross; I address a few contemptuous words to the devil. I have noticed, moreover, that the tumult is greater and the assaults more numerous if, on the following day, some big sinner is due to come.’ This knowledge was his comfort during sleepless nights. ‘It is a good sign: there is always a good haul of fish the next day… The devil gave me a good shaking last night, we shall have a great number of people tomorrow. The grappin is very stupid: he himself tells me of the arrival of big sinners… He is angry. So much the better!” (226-227)

“With a fearful voice the devil shouted: ‘Vianney! Vianney! potato eater! Ah! thou art not yet dead! I shall get thee all right!” (227).

“As the Cure d’Ars advanced in years these diabolical vexations decreased both in frequency and in intensity. The evil spirit, far from succeeding in disheartening that heroic soul, was himself the first to lose heart. By degrees, he gave up the contest, or more accurately, it was the will of God that an existence so beautiful, so pure, apparently so calm and yet so much tried, should end in profound peace” (242).

So we can well understand that the devil, the implacable enemy of souls, should have exclaimed by the mouth of a possessed woman: “How thou makest me suffer! If there were three men on earth like thyself, my kingdom would be destroyed” (301). 

Eucharist

“When we receive Holy Communion, we experience something extraordinary – a joy – a fragrance – a well-being that thrills the whole body and causes it to exult. With St. John we feel compelled to exclaim: ‘It is the Lord!’ ‘O my God! what joy is a Christian’s who, as he rises from the holy table, carries all heaven in his heart” (Catechisms on Holy Communion, 25).

“He realized that devotion to the Eucharist is, and always will be, the most powerful means towards the regeneration of a people” (173).

He was known in his early days to “spend all his time before the Blessed Sacrament” (174).

“Throughout his priestly life it was his most intense happiness to distribute Holy Communion. He would have loved to spend all his time in this consoling function, and when he fulfilled it his face was generally bathed in tears” (214).

Vianney urged pious souls to a frequent reception of the Sacrament. He used to say that “all those who receive them are not saints, but the saints are always taken from the ranks of those who receive them frequently.” Thus at a time when frequent Communion was almost unknown in France, he became one of the first promoters of that holy practice” (298). 

Fasting

Catherine Lassagne recounts how Vianney forbade her to fast at the beginning of Lent. “But you, M. le Cure,” I replied, “you fast.” “That is true,” he replied, but though I fast I can do my work, but you would not be able to do yours” (296).

“One day a parish priest came to him lamenting the indifference of his people and the fruitlessness of his labours. M. Vianney replied in words that may sound harsh, but he to whom they were addressed was, no doubt, strong enough to bear them: “You have preached, you have prayed; but have you fasted? Have you taken the discipline? Have you slept on the bare floor? So long as you have done none of these things you have no right to complain” (297-8).

Although he loved fruits, his love of penance always caused him to abstain… The only thing he ever consented to accept was an occasional cup of coffee; he took it without sugar, and found it particularly bitter (315).

God’s Will

“O what a beautiful thing it is to do all things in union with the good God! Courage, my soul, if you work with God; you shall, indeed, do the work, but he will bless it; you shall walk and he will bless your steps. Everything shall be taken count of, the forgoing of a look, of some gratification – all shall be recorded. There are people who make capital out of everything, even the winter. If it is cold they offer their little sufferings to God. Oh! what a beautiful thing it is to offer oneself, each morning, as a victim to God!” (28).

During his formation, “he practically spoke of nothing but God and the necessity of doing His holy will” (50).

Vianney promised to God never to complain. “I have kept my word,” he added in all simplicity (60).

His obedience was perfect. Vianney said that he never did his own will. “May God’s will be done!” he would exclaim. “We must will what God wills; we must be content with whatever God sends us” (401). 

M. Vianney invariably commanded all persons, without distinction, to begin by doing that which is of obligation (295). 

Humility

The Cure d’Ars had reached the highest degree of humility. He was not merely detached from worldly honours, he despised honour and reputation. His life demonstrates what moral greatness and what merit may be won from the humiliations of this life. Expecting neither recognition nor reward from men, he went on working solely for the glory of God. “Far more is done for God,” he said, “when we do things without pleasure or relish” (170).

“I thought a time would come when people would rout me out of Ars with sticks, when the Bishop would suspend me, and I should end my days in prison. I see, however, that I am not worthy of such a grace” (Vianney, 166).

“Humility, chiefest of moral virtues, without which a man has but the appearance of virtue, was truly the guiding principle of M. Vianney’s life and conduct. It radiated from his whole person” (423).

“Though M. Vianney was not ignorant of all the good that was brought about by his ministry, he looked upon himself as no more than an instrument and gave the glory to him to whom it is due… He likewise knew the depths into which he might have sunk had God not kept him from danger” (425).

“He did not look for humiliations for their own sake… nor did he seek ridicule. There was tact and discretion in his very humility… his humility had a certain character of unction and dignity” (426).

“He loved to relate the following anecdote: The devil one day appeared to St. Macarius. “All that you do, I do likewise,” Satan said to the solitary of the Thebaid. “You fast; I never eat at all. You watch; I never sleep. There is only one thing you do that I am unable to perform.” “Oh! What is it?” “To humble thyself” (433-4).

“Humility is to the various virtues what the chain is in a rosary: take away the chain and the beads are scattered; remove humility, and all the virtues vanish” (Vianney, 434).

Intellectual

“Our saint never experienced what is called a literary curiosity. During the whole of his priestly life, he never indulged in any light reading, not even that of the newspaper” (253).

“The intellectual insufficiency of the Cure d’Ars has been greatly exaggerated… He did not possess what is commonly called genius, but there was much clearness and distinction in his mind… Until the very end of his life he imposed on himself the duty of going over textbooks and arduously preparing for his sermons… Slowly, by the sweat of his brow, he had assimilated the knowledge of theology… He possessed a priest’s professional knowledge… Over and above the knowledge acquired by study, the mind of the saint was often enlightened by a direct intervention from above” (253-255).

“M. Borjon once wrote to Vianney saying: “M. le Cure, when a man knows as little theology as you do, he should not go into the confessional.”… Vianney replied: “Most dear and most venerable confrere, what good reasons I have for loving you! You are the only person who really knows me. Since you are so good and kind as to take an interest in my poor soul, do help me to obtain the favour for which I have been asking for so long a time, that being released from a post which I am not worthy to hold by reason of my ignorance, I may be allowed to retire into a little corner, there to weep over my poor life. What penances there are to be undertaken! how many expiations to be offered! how many tears to be shed!’ This is not the language of mock humility. False or even ordinary virtue would have found no such accents. To speak in this way a man must have kissed his crucifix long and ardently. In fact, the sorrowful mysteries of the life of Christ had become the habitual subject of M. Vianney’s meditations” (260-261).

Intuitions and Predictions

The Cure d’Ars possessed that gift which mystical theology calls intuition. He foretold to several persons what was to befall them at a later date (vocation, lawsuits, family problems, illnesses, etc). He knew the conscience and interior dispositions of many. However, this intuition was not continuous.

Liturgy

“To draw his people more effectually to the Holy Eucharist, the Cure d’Ars had endeavoured to communicated to them a taste for all holy things, and his efforts were not in vain. Sunday after Sunday these good people feasted their eyes on beautiful banners and vestments. For a long time, the saint himself trained the altar boys, and he achieved wonderful results. He carried out with gravity, dignity, and the utmost care all the ceremonies of the rite… He had so fine a liturgical spirit, and he drilled the children with so much precision and good taste” (214).

Love

The love of God and the love of souls were the motive power of the Cure d’Ars.

“When the heart is pure, it cannot help loving, because it has rediscovered the source of love, which is God” (399).

“His heart was so full of the love of God that he introduced it into all his conversations, and he would often break off to join his hands and with his eyes lifted up to heaven, exclaim: ‘My God, how good thou art!'” (410).

Mass

“At the time of his Mass he appeared as if lost to the world; his face no longer showed even a shadow of sadness. He once said: “I should not care to be curé in a parish, but I am very happy to be a priest because I can say Mass” (304).

“According to a remark of his confessor, “all that he had done from the moment of his rising until then could be considered as an excellent preparation”; none the less, he was anxious to collect himself for a few minutes before approaching the altar” (304-5).

“He never deemed the vestments too magnificent. He would have wished the chalice to be of solid gold, because “even the best that he had did not seem worthy to contain the body of Jesus Christ”… But for him the chief glory of the church was the irreproachable beahviour of the people” (305).

The spectacle of the Cure d’Ars saying Mass converted many sinners. He shed tears often during the holy sacrifice (306).

Mortification

Vianney’s mortifications are more admirable than imitable, for in this respect the solider of Christ “went as far as human strength could go, if not beyond that limit” (449).

Vianney’s penance was constant, extreme, universal; it embraced his whole existence. He utterly killed the old Adam in him (449).

“On the path of penance only the first step costs,” the saint himself used to say, but what heroism and what grace are required to make a man take that first step and then to lead him to the heights of so difficult a virtue!” (449)

“M. Vianney’s disciplines and hair-shirt are, like trophies of victory, preserved in the old presbytery of Ars. But the most awful of all his instruments of penance is not there; it has been left in the church: that instrument is his confessional. We may say that the confessional was his instrument of crucifixion. He was a martyr of the confessional” (449).

Vianney thirsted for mortifications as others thirst for pleasure, and he never had his fill of penance. He laid on himself the sacrifice never to enjoy the fragrance of a flower, never to taste fruit nor to drink, were it only a few drops of water, during the heigh of the summer heat. He would not brush away a fly that importuned him. When on his knees he would not rest his elbows on the kneeling-bench. He had made a law unto himself never to show any dislike, and to hide all natural repugnances. He mortified the most legitimate curiosity” (451)

“He had made a covenant with his eyes because he felt himself to be as frail as only other human being. He prayed and mortified himself so as to subdue the flesh, for his lower nature was not as yet insensible to the fatal fascination of evil” (89).

To save souls the price must be paid. To prayer he joined penance, punishing “this old Adam”, as he called it (114).

“My friend, the devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one’s food, drink, and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God. Oh! how often have I experienced it! Whilst I was alone – and I was alone during eight or nine years, and therefore quite free to yield to my attraction – it happened at times that I refrained from food for entire days. On those occasions I obtained, both for myself and for others, whatsoever I asked of Almighty God” (118).

Deliberately, from a motive of mortification and humility, he wore a shabby cassock, an old hat, shoes patched and always innocent of polish” (250).

His body was covered with hair-shirts and other instruments of penance (453).

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Consecrated to Mary at birth, Vianney said “the Blessed Virgin was the object of my earliest affections; I loved her even before I knew her” (8). After his mother’s passing, “his devotion to Mary become more tender and filial [and] prompted him to consecrate himself to Mary as her slave” (71).

Pastoral Heart

“His programme – which he had pondered before the tabernacle – was that of every pastor who has at heart the welfare of souls. He resolved to get in touch with the people as early as possible; to make sure of the concurrence of those families who enjoyed general respect; to make the good yet more perfect; to bring back the indifferent; to convert open and public evil-doers; above all, to persevere in prayer to God from whom all blessings flow; to sanctify himself so as to be able to sanctify others, and to offer expiation for the sins of those who refused to do penance for themselves. How weak and helpless he felt when he considered the magnitude of his task! But his soul was filled with divine energy, and God makes choice of the helplessness of the lowly ones to crush the power of human pride. A holy priest is able to achieve great results with means that would seem wholly inadequate” (107-108).

One man overheard Vianney say this in his chapel: “My God, grant me the conversion of my parish; I am willing to suffer all my life whatsoever it may please thee to lay upon me; yes, even for a hundred years am I prepared to endure the sharpest pains, only let my people be converted” (112).

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Vianney “would not leave them undisturbed in their sluggish tranquility. Conscious of his responsibility towards his flock, he was fully resolved to give them no peace until the day when abuses should have vanished from the parish. He would indeed pray and act and do penance, but he would likewise speak and act” (124).

“The leading idea of his whole priestly career was to detach souls from earthly preoccupations and to draw them to the altar of God” (128).

“His plan was to form an elite which, together with the priest, should be the heart, so to speak, of the parish and should help him in his task of reaching and winning souls… He realized that devotion to the Eucharist is, and always will be, the most powerful means towards the regeneration of a people” (173).

“It was assuredly his zeal for the salvation of so many sinful souls that made him undertake, during the whole of a long life, a crushing ministry, that knew no interruption, no relaxation, no mitigation; it was his zeal that compelled him to rise at midnight or one o’clock in the morning, and only to leave the church late at night; it was his zeal that robbed him almost completely of sleep, and that enabled him to preserve an unfailing patience  in the midst of the most trying importunities” (279).

“If I already had my foot in heaven and were told to return to earth to work for the conversion of one sinner, I would gladly return; and if, to obtain that end, it were necessary for me to remain here till the world’s last day, to get up at midnight and to suffer all that I now suffer, I would agree to it with all my heart” (327). 

When discerning whether he should leave Ars to go weep over his poor life in a secluded place: “Is not the conversion of even one soul of greater value than all the prayers that I might say in solitude?” (328)

“One of my sisters begged for some relics,” Mlle. Marthe des Garets relates. ” Make them yourself,” replied the Cure, thereby wishing to insinuate that she had but to become a saint” (411). 

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“If a priest were to die in consequence of his labours and sufferings for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, it would not be a bad thing!” (528)

Pastoral Heart for Adults

Vianney burned with an even more fiery zeal for the instruction of the adult population of his parish. He sought inspiration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, pleading with tears that Christ would inspire him with the thoughts and accents that would convert his parish (124-125).

Acting on the counsels of St. Paul (2 Tim 4:2), he reproved, entreated, rebuked, in the pulpit, in the confessional, when visiting the people on the occasion of chance meetings, in season and out of season. Nothing stopped him (132).

Pastoral Heart for Families

“The great longing of his heart was to see every family animated by a truly Christian spirit” (177).

Vianney made sure to do house visits, striving to get a knowledge of his people and gauge their faith: “House visits made in such a manner were bound to be most beneficial. In the pulpit the Cure d’Ars spoke for the benefit of all; in those private visits he was able to apportion to each family its own meed of advice and, at times, of blame” (206).

Priesthood

From a young age, he stated the true motivation of his vocation: “If I were a priest I should gain many souls to God” (33). “From the moment of his ordination, he looked upon himself – soul and body – as a sacred vessel destined exclusively for the service of God” (86).

“Oh! how great is the priest. The priest will only be understood in heaven. Were he understood on earth, people would die, not of fear, but of love” (86).

Preaching

“In the pulpit, he was short but to the point… he was not afraid to utter stern truths and castigate certain vices… When he exhorted the people to lead a moral life and even to aspire after perfection, Vianney only preached what he practiced in his own person” (89).

“He wrote, in a standing position, as if prepared to do battle for the truth. His pen ran rapidly over the paper. Occasionally he worked for over seven hours on end. Time was precious – he felt he must get on at all costs. He would spend Saturday night to Sunday in reciting his discourse aloud. Vianney’s “only thought was of the salvation of these poor souls. He knew that in the pulpit a priest fulfills one of the most important duties of his sacred office. This conviction fired him with zeal and gave him courage… He spoke for the benefit of his flock alone, and he did so with great clearness, directness, and without a shadow of flattery” (125-126).

“Above all, the life of the parish priest was the most persuasive of all sermons; in it, men could see the Gospel in action. Whatever he recommended, he first did himself” (140).

“The style of his preaching was quick, direct, personal, and very much to the point in its simplicity” (380). 

Poor People
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M. Vianney’s love for the poor was wholly supernatural and inspired by the Gospel. In the poor he saw our Lord, the divine Pauper who has blessed poverty. 

“His charity was inexhaustible… Towards the end of his life, he was paying the rent of at least 30 families” (437). 

“When some spoke of reimbursing him, he said: “I do not lend, I give. Has not the good God been the first to give to me?” (437)

Responding to someone who said people must be cheating him: “We are never taken in if we give to God” (439).

Poverty

“Vianney took no interest whatever in the furnishing of his presbytery… he was anxious to retain nothing except what was indispensable… His way of living was so very plain! the Cure kept nothing whatever for himself” (109-110).

“M. Vianney’s room was poor, his furniture was poor, his dress was poor, his food was poor” (434).

Miracles

The Cure always demanded faith from those who wanted a miracle. “God is always almighty: he can at all times work miracles and he would work them now as in the days of old were it not that faith is wanting!” (486).

Since M. Vianney sought the glory of God through the salvation of souls above all else, “he attached a quite secondary importance to miracles of bodily healing, whereas he greatly esteemed miracles of conversion” (486). 

Patience

“Patience was not a virtue Vianney was endowed with at birth. Had he not acquired this virtue by prolonged and heroic efforts, he would have remained brusque and violent. In the end he reached such heights of patience that the meekness of his character led people to believe that he was passionless and incapable of getting angry. However, those who saw him often, and at close quarters, noticed quickly enough that he had “a vivid imagination and a quick temper” (441).

“Monsieur le Cure,” the Abbe Raymond asked him, “how do you manage to remain calm with so vivacious a temperment?” “Ah! my friend, virtue demands courage, constant effort and, above all, help from on high” (441).

“What can I do? What would be the good of losing my temper? Oh! how good it is for a priest to offer himself every morning as a sacrifice to God!” (Vianney, 444). 

“By far the greatest trial of patience consists not so much in bearing with the importunities of the crowd, as in the daily relations with persons with whom contact is irksome and irritating. Here we have the touchstone of patience and its most splendid triumph” (444).

“M. Vianney endured the sufferings of the body no less patiently than those of the spirit. He was severely tried by sickness and infirmity… open sores, severe headaches, double hernia, toothaches… all the while retaining his liberty of spirit; nothing in his conversation or disposition betrayed his intimate tortures” (448). 

Personality

Jean-Marie Vianney was “a bright and lively boy, who could put endless zest into their games” (7). He was very smart when it came to supernatural things.

Prayer

Vianney was always fond of telling a story of when he asked a humble farmer what he was doing in Church all the time in the morning before work. And the farmer replied: “I look at the good God, and he looks at me” (175).

“My brethren, the good God looks neither at long nor at beautiful prayers, but at those that come from the bottom of the heart… There is nothing easier than to pray to the good God and nothing is more comforting” (177).

“He prayed unceasingly wherever he happened to be, in the church, in the solitude of his presbytery, in the street, and when the answer was slow in coming, according to his picturesque expression, “he just went on wearying the good saints” (192).

“He preferred public to private prayers. “Private prayer,” he used to say, “resembles straw scattered here and there over a field; if it is set on fire, the flame is not a powerful one; but if you gather those straws into a bundle, the flame is bright, and rises in a lofty column towards the sky: such is public prayer” (295). 

“M. Vianney likewise endeavoured to inculcate upon souls eager to go forward on the road of perfection the habit of daily mental prayer and he taught them how to go about it. To those who felt unable to apply themselves to methodical meditations he simply recommended to think frequently of God” (295). 

“M. Vianney appeared always recollected during his religious exercises. He always seemed to have but one thing to do – the duty of the present moment… He constantly lifted up his heart to God – in the pulpit, in the confessional, in the midst of conversations and the most varied occupations” (318). 

“Prayer was the greatest joy of his soul and his habitual refuge. “Prayer is a fragrant dew,” he used to say; “the more we pray, the more we love to pray” (318). 

“M. Vianney, by the time he became a priest, reached that exalted degree of prayer which is called “the prayer of simplicity.” He was for ever to be seen in church, on his knees, and praying without using a book.” His prayer was affective” says the Baronne de Belvey, “rather than made up of reflections and reasonings.” He gazed at the tabernacle and never ceased from assuring our Lord that he loved him” (319). 

“When the influx of pilgrims put an end to his long hours of prayer, M. le Cure accustomed himself to choosing, in the morning, a subject of meditation to which he referred all the actions of the day” (319). 

“Oh! the beautiful union of the soul with our Lord! The interior life is a bath of love into which the soul plunges” (516). 

Sacrifice, Suffering, and the Cross

“No good work ever succeeds unless it is accompanied by suffering. Sacrifice is the groundwork of every achievement of God’s saints. The pastor of Ars knew this secret of the saints, hence the cruel scourgings and severe fasts which he undertook in order to obtain the conversion of his beloved flock” (161).

His heart felt a wholly supernatural joy in the midst of his sufferings.

“To suffer lovingly is to suffer no longer. To flee from the cross is to be crushed beneath its weight. We should pray for a love of the cross – then it will become sweet. I experienced it myself during four or five years. I was grievously calumniated and contradicted. Oh! I did have crosses, almost more than I could bear. Then I started praying for a love of crosses and I felt happy. I said to myself: ‘Verily, there is no happiness but in the cross.’ Thus though the tempest raged round his soul, it did not disturb that highest point where hope and peace reside. “One day,” writes the Abbe Monnin, then a young missionary, “I asked him whether his trials had caused him at any time to lose his interior peace.” “What?” he exclaimed, with a heavenly expression on his countenance, “the cross makes us lose our inward peace? Surely it is the cross that bestows it on our hearts. All our miseries come from our not loving it” (Vianney, 169-170)

“Oh, how I love those words said the first thing in the morning: ‘I will do and suffer everything to-day for the glory of God… nothing for the world or personal interest; all to please my Saviour!’ In this way, the soul unites itself to God and works for God alone” (Vianney, 178).

“My friend, the saints have suffered far more; let us offer it all to the good God” (182).

“He never complained,” says Jean Pertinand, the schoolmaster, who had taken on the duties of a nurse; “he accepted, from a motive of obedience, every remedy and, bore his sufferings with perfect submission to the divine will, which he saw in everything that befell him” (330).

St. Philomena

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In 1830, Vianney established the cult of St. Philomena in the parish and began to attribute all miracles to her intercession. Apart from her public role as heavenly wonder-worker at whose intercession any miracle would be granted, Vianney also enjoyed a private mystic friendship; she would be “his Beatrice, his ideal, his sweet star, his guide, his comforter, his pure light” (248). 

M. Vianney wanted to hide himself under the shadow of St. Philomena. Although they trusted in her intercession, many still thought that her prayers were only heard when they were mingled with those of the holy Cure (486).

Sanctity

Sanctity is both given and acquired: it springs from a gratuitous gift of an eminent order by God, and yet it is the result of a human life, the happy conclusion of a persevering, arduous, and even heroic endeavour (413). 

The secret of Vianney’s exalted holiness was a heroic will, an unflinching courage (414). Vianney attained that heroic degree of virtue which is the supreme effort of nature strengthened by grace. 

“The saints become saints only after many sacrifices and much violent effort” (Vianney, 413). 

“It seems to us that he has been especially heroic in the practice of four virtues: humility, love of poverty and of the poor, patience, and mortification – four exquisite flowers, the perfume of which we have inhaled at almost every page of this book” (423). 

Spiritual Direction

His directions, as a rule, were clear and prompt: “He would lift his eyes to heaven, and then give his decision not only without hesitation but with much assurance. People, however, consulted him on such a variety of topics that he occasionally appealed for time either for personal reflection or to take counsel with a brother priest… His decisions were free from all exaggeration or excitement… He was able to disentangle the secret motives… He refrained from offering advice when he was aware that others might have more authority to give it (291).

Sunday Mass

“His first objective was the sanctification of the Lord’s Day since there can be no Christian life without it” (120). “His first endeavor was to obtain from those who were present in the church – the absentees would have their turn! – a behavior worthy of Christians who were assisting at the most sacred of mysteries” (127).

All through life he ever spoke with a holy indignation whenever he mentioned the subject of the profanation of the Lord’s day.

“You labour, but what you earn proves the ruin of your soul and your body. If we ask those who work on Sunday, ‘What have you been doing?’ they might answer: ‘I have been selling my soul to the devil and crucifying our Lord… I am doomed to hell…’ When I behold people driving carts on Sunday, it seems to me I see them carting their souls to hell” (Vianney, 135).

“Sunday is the property of the good God; it is his own day, the Lord’s day” (135).

Work Ethic

“The devout youth never shirked work under pretence of piety, his religion made him obedient, and he was wholly free from scrupulosity” (31).

Although he struggled in school due to a lack of training growing up – especially for Latin, he had a fantastic work ethic: “Evening after evening, by the light of a small lamp, this beginner of twenty would resolutely bend over his book” (39).

Youth

Vianney’s first care was the instruction of the youth of the village. His chief object was to encourage them through short reflections and explanations, “and by his gentleness to inspire them with that filial affection which includes perfect reverence” (123).

“Whenever he sought to obtain a special favour from heaven, he made the children pray. He was wont to say that when they prayed he always obtained what he wanted. In fact he knew by personal experience the truth of his own assertion that “the prayers of children go up to heaven laden with the fragrance of their innocence” (198).

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