Sunday, 8 May 2011

A birthday

225 years ago today, in a small village in rural France, a husband and wife gave thanks to God for the safe arrival of their new-born son. Although poor by worldly standards, this family was rich in their blessings from God and love for each other. The family was the Vianney family, and the son born on this day was Jean-Marie Vianney. From the poverty of the village of Dardilly in rural France, Saint Jean-Marie Vianney now rejoices in the riches of heaven.

As part of our publishing programme for the Year for Priests, ST PAULS published Joanna Bogle's book St John Mary Vianney, the Curé of Ars.
In his Preface, Mgr Keith Barltrop says of the book, "Its greatest value... will be to point readers to what the Curé himself said, which, as Joanna Bogle shows, he first lived in an exemplary way in his parish."

A quotation from Joanna's book:

"The Church honours a vast variety of people as saints: heroes and martyrs, mystics, teachers, missionaries, founders of great religious orders, crusaders who helped the poor and downtrodden, and defenders of truth and justice in times of tyranny and oppression. But there is – so far, at any rate – only one saint who was simply a parish priest and that is John Vianney.

He is a well known saint. At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth he was, along with St Thérèse of Lisieux and St Bernadette of Lourdes, a sort of emblem of a revived French Catholicism which had appeared to triumph over atheism and revolution, ushering in a
new era.

The story of his life has already become the stuff of legend – the struggles to be ordained after many setbacks, the challenge of a bleak and apparently godless rural parish, the spiritual battles, the heroic fasting and dedication to prayer.

The problem with such a tale is that John Vianney can seem a remote figure, a priest popularised by statues and pictures, who so rapidly acquired cult status that he never seems quite real, a character from a vanished world who has nothing to say to us now. So, while recognising that he lived in an age before motorways, mobile phones or the Internet, and in a rural France of bonnets and home-baking, where the fastest news arrived at the speed of a galloping horse, we can still reach him across the centuries and recognise in his life something with a profoundly practical message for today."

For younger readers, we also published St John Mary Vianney, the Curé of Ars, written by Jack O'Neill and illustrated by Kati Teague. This illustrated book, ideal for children of all ages, tells the story of his remarkable life.

A story from the book

St John Vianney, pray for us. St John Vianney, pray for our priests.