John Vianney, Priest
Agabius of Verona B (RM)
Died c. 250. Agabius is believed to have been an early bishop of Verona; however, even his existence is uncertain (Benedictines).
Aristarchus of Salonika BM (RM)
Born in Salonika, 1st century. Saint Aristarchus was one of Saint Paul's travel companions (Acts 20:4; 27:2) and a fellow-worker (Philemon 24). He was arrested with Paul at Ephesus, and shared his imprisonment. Tradition reports that he was the first bishop of Salonika (Thessalonica) and adds that he was beheaded in Rome with Saint Paul under Nero (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Blessed Cicco of Pesaro, OFM Tert. (AC)
Born in Pesaro; died 1350; cultus confirmed by Pius IX. Cicco was a Franciscan tertiary who was a hermit near his hometown (Benedictines).
Eleutherius of Constantinople M (RM)
Died before 310. Saint Eleutherius was martyred at Tarsus, where his tomb became a popular pilgrimage site, the passio recorded in the Roman Martyrology, however, is unreliable. A basilica was built in his honor at Constantinople (Benedictines).
Euphronius of Tours B (RM)
Born 530; died 573. During the episcopacy of Bishop Saint Euphronius of Tours (556-573), the city was burned. Thereafter, Euphronius worked tirelessly to rebuild Tours (Benedictines).
Ia and Companions MM (RM)
Died 360. Unreliable sources have made Saint Ia (meaning "violet") a Greek, perhaps a slave, who was so successful in converting Persian ladies to Christianity that she was arrested during the persecution of the Christians by King Shapur II of Persia. She was tortured for months in an attempt to force her to apostatize but it was without effect. Eventually she was scourged to death and then beheaded, allegedly with 9,000 others. Very little is known about this saint--even the gender is uncertain--and no passio is extant (Benedictines, Delaney, Encyclopedia).
John Baptist Vianney (Curé d'Ars), Priest (RM)
Born at Dardilly (near Lyons), France, on May 8, 1786; died at Ars, August 4, 1869; beatified on January 8, 1905, by Pope Pius IX; canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925; in 1929, he was declared the principal patron of parish priests.
"We cannot comprehend the power that a pure soul has over God. It is not the soul that does God's will, but God who does the soul's will." -- Saint John Vianney.
Without his iron-will, it is very unlikely that John Baptist Vianney would have been ordained. He was the son of a small farmer near Lyons and raised during the French Revolution and its aftermath. He had to take his First Communion in secret when he was 13, because the Church was still being persecuted. By the time this shepherd on his father Matthew's farm reached age 18 and decided that he was being called to the priesthood, open worship was again permitted. Unfortunately, John's father could not afford to send him to school for the proper education.
Two years later he managed to get into the presbytery-school of the Abbé Balley in the neighboring village of Ecully, but he had trouble keeping up with the others because he had received so little previous education (a single year when he was nine). John was sure of his goal, so he persisted.
Though a seminarian, through an error he was drafted into the army in 1809. He was ordered to report to the depot in Loyons on October 26, 1809, but two days after receiving the order he was hospitalized and his company left him behind. On January 5, while still convalescing, he was ordered to report to Roanne for another draft the following day. They left without him, because he had stopped to pray in the church. He tried to catch up with them at Renaison, although the only military equipment he had was a knapsack.
While he was resting at the approach to the mountains of Le Forez, a stranger suddenly appeared, picked up his knapsack, and ordered him to follow. He found himself in a hut near the remote mountain village of Les Noës. The stranger was a deserter from the army, one of many hiding in the woods and hills of the area. Vianney saw that the situation was compromising, and reported himself to the mayor of the commune. Monsieur Fayot was both humane and sensible; he pointed out to John that he technically was already a deserter, and that of two evils the lesser was to remain in refuge where he was. The mayor found Vianney a place in his own cousin's home, where John remained in hiding in a stable for 14 months. Several times he was nearly found by the gendarmes, once even feeling the point of a sword between his ribs as it was thrust about in the hay.
He was able to return home when Napoleon granted amnesty to all deserters in 1810 on the occasion of his marriage to the Archduchess Marie-Louise. The following year he was tonsured, then spent a year studying philosophy at the minor seminary at Verrières. In 1813, John entered the major seminary at Lyons. He never did master Latin; thus, it he was called "the most unlearned but the most devout seminarian in Lyons." In fact, his scholarship was so bad that he dropped out after the first term, was privately tutored by Abbé Balley, and then failed the seminary examinations. In spite of that, his reputation for goodness and holiness was so strong that the vicar general allowed him to take minor orders on July 2, 1814, and to be ordained to the priesthood the following year, saying, "The Church wants not only learned priests but, even more, holy ones."
He spent the next years as curate to Abbé Balley at Ecully until his mentor died in 1817. Early in 1818 he was appointed as the parish priest of the tiny village of Ars-en-Dombes (population: 230). He stayed there until he died 41 years later, and his effect was extraordinary. Ten years of patience, good example, and the mysterious outpouring of Divine grace transformed Ars from apathy into a village thriving with Christian spirit. He began personally visiting every household under his care and provided a regular catechism class for children. More important were his offering of a personal example of purity and fervor and his boldly attack on the widespread evils of drunkenness, profanity, immodesty, and slackness in attending Mass and otherwise observing the Sabbath. He had no fear of uttering from the pulpit words and expressions that offended God in order to ensure there was no misunderstanding as to what he was denouncing. He was constantly aware of his responsibility for the souls of his parishioners and gradually there was conversion because his severity in the pulpit was matched by his extraordinary insight and power of conversion in the confessional. His flock would say, "Our pastor is a saint and we must obey him."
Two miracles helped the curé to gain the attention of his people. In 1824, John Vianney encouraged Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet to open a free school for girls and three years later this became an institution known as La Providence, a shelter for orphans and deserted children. No one was ever turned away from its doors and at times there were as many as 60 people living there, so that the alms on which it depended for its existence were not always sufficient. One time the cook had only a few pounds of flour, but thanks to the prayers of Vianney, she made ten 20-pound loaves out of them. On another occasion a loft that had been almost empty was found to be full of wheat.
And soon the humble Curé d'Ars, whose reputation for holiness was augmented by reports of these miracles, was attracting penitents from all parts of Europe. A shrine he built to Saint Philomena became a place of pilgrimage. So great was his insight into people's problems that by 1855 the number of his visitors was said to be 20,000 annually, and a special railroad booking office had to be opened in Lyons. Of course, Vianney's success prompted jealousy among some of his brother priests, who accused him of being over-zealous, ignorant, a charlatan, and mentally deranged and began spreading slanderous lies about him. These proved to be without foundation, and their bishop, Monsignor Devie, answered them, "I wish, gentlemen, that all my clergy had a touch of the same madness."
The number of visitors also meant a work day that would have crushed those with less spiritual strength. During the winter months, Vianney spent up to 12 hours daily in the confessional; in the summer this increased to 16 hours. It could take a half-hour for him to move from the church to the rectory because of the density of the crowd seeking his blessing and asking his prayers. He slept a bare four hours nightly and would go before sunrise to hear the confessions of those who were already awaiting him in the church.
Countless people testified that Vianney was gifted with a remarkable ability to read souls, discernment of spirits, and prophecy. The instructions that he gave were often short but they had all the power and insight of his saintliness. His utter simplicity moved many. His discouraged fussy piety and gave pithy advice. The archbishop of Auch said that Vianney had told him, "Love your clergy very much." And what more was necessary?
It is remarkable to consider that this man had desired to become a Carthusian and live in quiet contemplation, yet in following God's plans for him, he drew many back to God and the Church. Three times he left Ars in search of solitude, but returned each time to aid the sinners who sought him in ever-increasing numbers. The last time required the diplomacy of the bishop to get him to return.
In 1852, Bishop Chalandon of Belley made Vianney an honorary canon of the chapter. He was invested almost by force and never again wore the mozzetta. Indeed, he sold it for the 50 francs needed for some charitable purpose. The French government in 1855 made him a knight of the Legion of Honor. John Vianney was amazed. "Suppose I die," he mused, "and God says, 'Away you go. You have already been rewarded'." So he refused to have the medal even pinned on his old cassock.
When the last sacraments were brought to him on his deathbed by Bishop Chalandon, John Vianney said, "How sad it is to receive holy communion for the last time." He died at 2:00 a.m. as a thunder storm shook the heavens; nature itself was upset at his passing (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Walsh).
Two short, very edifying, sermons on temptation by Saint John Vianney, who was often subjected to diabolical attacks over a 30- year period:
We Are Nothing in Ourselves
"Temptation is necessary to us to make us realize that we are nothing in ourselves. Saint Augustine tells us that we should thank God as much for the sins from which He has preserved us as for those which He has had the charity to forgive us. If we have the misfortune to fall so often into the snares of the devil, we set ourselves up again too much on the strength of our own resolutions and promises and too little upon the strength of God. This is very true.
"When we do nothing to be ashamed of, when everything is going along according to our wishes, we dare to believe that nothing could make us fall. We forget our own nothingness and our utter weakness. We make the most delightful protestations that we are ready to die rather than to allow ourselves to be conquered. We see a splendid example of this in Saint Peter, who told our Lord that although all others might be scandalized in Him, yet he would never deny Him.
"Alas! To show him how man, left to himself, is nothing at all, God made use, not of kings or princes or weapons, but simply of the voice of a maidservant, who even appeared to speak to him in a very indifferent sort of way. A moment ago, he was ready to die for Him, and now Peter protests that he does not even know Him, that he does not know about whom they are speaking. To assure them even more vehemently that he does not know Him, he swears an oath about it. Dear Lord, what we are capable of when we are left to ourselves!
"There are some who, in their own words, are envious of the saints who did great penances. They believe that they could do as well. When we read the lives of some of the martyrs, we would, we think, be ready to suffer all that they suffered for God; the moment is shortlived, we say, for an eternity of reward. But what does God do to teach us to know ourselves or, rather, to know that we are nothing? This is all He does: He allows the devil to come a little closer to us. Look at this Christian who a moment ago was quite envious of the hermit who lived solely on roots and herbs and who made the stern resolution to treat his body as harshly. Alas! A slight headache, a prick of a pin, makes him, as big and strong as he is, sorry for himself. He is very upset. He cries with pain. A moment ago he would have been willing to do all the penances of the anchorites--and the merest trifle makes him despair!
"Look at this other one, who seems to want to give his whole life for God, whose ardor all the torments there are cannot damp. A tiny bit of scandal mongering . . . a word of calumny . . . even a slightly cold reception or a small injustice done to him . . . a kindness returned by ingratitude . . . immediately gives birth in him to feelings of hatred, of revenge, of dislike, to the point, often, of his never wishing to see his neighbor again or at least of treating him coldly with an air which shows very plainly what is going on in his heart. And how many times is this his waking thought, just as it was the thought that almost prevented him from sleeping? Alas, my dear brethren, we are poor stuff, and we should count very little upon our good resolutions!"
Beware If You Have No Temptations
"Whom does the devil pursue most? Perhaps you are thinking that it must be those who are tempted most; these would undoubtedly be the habitual drunkards, the scandalmongers, the immodest and shameless people who wallow in moral filth, and the miser, who hoards in all sorts of ways. No, my dear brethren, no, it is not these people. On the contrary, the devil despises them, or else he holds onto them, lest they not have a long enough time in which to do evil, because the longer they live, the more their bad example will drag souls into Hell. Indeed, if the devil had pursued this lewd and shameless old fellow too closely, he might have shortened the latter's life by fifteen or twenty years, and he would not then have destroyed the virginity of that young girl by plunging her into the unspeakable mire of his indecencies; he would not, again, have seduced that wife, nor would he have taught his evil lessons to that young man, who will perhaps continue to practice them until his death. If the devil had prompted this thief to rob on every occasion, he would long since have ended on the scaffold and so he would not have induced his neighbor to follow his example. If the devil had urged this drunkard to fill himself unceasingly with wine, he would long ago have perished in his debaucheries, instead of which, by living longer, he has made many others like himself. If the devil had taken away the life of this musician, of that dancehall owner, of this cabaret keeper, in some raid or scuffle, or on any other occasion, how many souls would there be who, without these people, would not be damned and who now will be) Saint Augustine teaches us that the devil does not bother these people very much; on the contrary, he despises them and spits upon them.
"So, you will ask me, who then are the people most tempted? They are these, my friends; note them carefully. The people most tempted are those who are ready, with the grace of God, to sacrifice everything for the salvation of their poor souls, who renounce all those things which most people eagerly seek. It is not one devil only who tempts them, but millions seek to entrap them.
"We are told that Saint Francis of Assisi and all his religious were gathered on an open plain, where they had built little huts of rushes. Seeing the extraordinary penances which were being practiced, Saint Francis ordered that all instruments of penance should be brought out, whereupon his religious produced them in bundles. At this moment there was one young man to whom God gave the grace to see his guardian angel. On the one side he saw all of these good religious, who could not satisfy their hunger for penance, and, on the other, his guardian angel allowed him to see a gathering of eighteen thousand devils, who were holding counsel to see in what way they could subvert these religious by temptation. One of the devils said: 'You do not understand this at all. These religious are so humble; ah, what wonderful virtue, so detached from themselves, so attached to God! They have a superior who leads them so well that it is impossible to succeed in winning them over. Let us wait until their superior is dead, and then we shall try to introduce among them young people without vocations who will bring about a certain slackening of spirit, and in this way we shall gain them.'
"A little further on, as he entered the town, he saw a devil, sitting by himself beside the gate into the town, whose task was to tempt all of those who were inside. This saint asked his guardian angel why it was that in order to tempt this group of religious there had been so many thousands of devils while for a whole town there was but one--and that one sitting down. His good angel told him that the people of the town had not the same need of temptations, that they had enough bad in themselves, while the religious were doing good despite all the traps which the Devil could lay for them.
"The first temptation, my dear brethren, which the devil tries on anyone who has begun to serve God better is in the matter of human respect. He will no longer dare to be seen around; he will hide himself from those with whom heretofore he had been mixing and pleasure seeking. If he should be told that he has changed a lot, he will be ashamed of it! What people are going to say about him is continually in his mind, to the extent that he no longer has enough courage to do good before other people. If the devil cannot get him back through human respect, he will induce an extraordinary fear to possess him that his confessions are not good, that his confessor does not understand him, that whatever he does will be all in vain, that he will be damned just the same, that he will achieve the same result in the end by letting everything slide as by continuing to fight, because the occasions of sin will prove too many for him.
"Why is it, my dear brethren, that when someone gives no thought at all to saving his soul, when he is living in sin, he is not tempted in the slightest, but that as soon as he wants to change his life, in other words, as soon as the desire to give his life to God comes to him, all Hell falls upon him? Listen to what Saint Augustine has to say: 'Look at the way,' he tells us, 'in which the devil behaves towards the sinner. He acts like a jailer who has a great many prisoners locked up in his prison but who, because he has the key in his pocket, is quite happy to leave them, secure in the knowledge that they cannot get out. This is his way of dealing with the sinner who does not consider the possibility of leaving his sin behind. He does not go to the trouble of tempting him. He looks upon this as time wasted because not only is the sinner not thinking of leaving him, but the devil does not desire to multiply his chains. It would be pointless, therefore, to tempt him. He allows him to live in peace, if, indeed, it is possible to live in peace when one is in sin. He hides his state from the sinner as much as is possible until death, when he then tries to paint a picture of his life so terrifying as to plunge him into despair. But with anyone who has made up his mind to change his life, to give himself up to God, that is another thing altogether.'
"While Saint Augustine lived in sin and evil, he was not aware of anything by which he was tempted. He believed himself to be at peace, as he tells us himself. But from the moment that he desired to turn his back upon the devil, he had to struggle with him, even to the point of losing his breath in the fight. And that lasted for five years. He wept the most bitter of tears and employed the most austere of penances: 'I argued with him,' he says, 'in my chains. One day I thought myself victorious, the next I was prostrate on the earth again. This cruel and stubborn war went on for five years. However, God gave me the grace to be victorious over my enemy.'
"You may see, too, the struggle which Saint Jerome endured when he desired to give himself to God and when he had the thought of visiting the Holy Land. When he was in Rome, he conceived a new desire to work for his salvation. Leaving Rome, he buried himself in a fearsome desert to give himself over to everything with which his love of God could inspire him. Then the devil, who foresaw how greatly his conversion would affect others, seemed to burst with fury and despair. There was not a single temptation that he spared him. I do not believe that there is any saint who was as strongly tempted as he. This is how he wrote to one of his friends:
'My dear friend, I wish to confide in you about my affliction and the state to which the devil seeks to reduce me. How many times in this vast solitude, which the heat of the sun makes insupportable, how many times the pleasures of Rome have come to assail me! The sorrow and the bitterness with which my soul is filled cause me, night and day, to shed floods of tears. I proceed to hide myself in the most isolated places to struggle with my temptations and there to weep for my sins. My body is all disfigured and covered with a rough hair shirt. I have no other bed than the naked ground and my only food is coarse roots and water, even in my illnesses. In spite of all these rigors, my body still experiences thoughts of the squalid pleasures with which Rome is poisoned; my spirit finds itself in the midst of those pleasant companionships in which I so greatly offended God. In this desert to which I have condemned myself to avoid Hell, among these somber rocks, where I have no other companions than the scorpions and the wild beasts, my spirit still burns my body, already dead before myself, with an impure fire; the Devil still dares to offer it pleasures to taste. I behold myself so humiliated by these temptations, the very thought of which makes me die with horror, and not knowing what further austerities I should exert upon my body to attach it to God, that I throw myself on the ground at the foot of my crucifix, bathing it with my tears, and when I can weep no more I pick up stones and beat my breast with them until the blood comes out of my mouth, begging for mercy until the Lord takes pity upon me. Is there anyone who can understand the misery of my state, desiring so ardently to please God and to love Him alone? Yet I see myself constantly prone to offend Him. What sorrow this is for me! Help me, my dear friend, by the aid of your prayers, so that I may be stronger in repelling the devil, who has sworn my eternal damnation.'
"These, my dear brethren, are the struggles to which God permits his great saints to be exposed. Alas, how we are to be pitied if we are not fiercely harried by the devil! According to all appearances, we are the friends of the devil: he lets us live in a false peace, he lulls us to sleep under the pretense that we have said some good prayers, given some alms, that we have done less harm than others. According to our standard, my dear brethren, if you were to ask, for instance, this pillar of the cabaret if the devil tempted him, he would answer quite simply that nothing was bothering him at all. Ask this young girl, this daughter of vanity, what her struggles are like, and she will tell you laughingly that she has none at all, that she does not even know what it is to be tempted. There you see, my dear brethren, the most terrifying temptation of all, which is not to be tempted. There you see the state of those whom the devil is preserving for Hell. If I dared, I would tell you that he takes good care not to tempt or torment such people about their past lives, lest their eyes be opened to their sins.
"The greatest of all evils is not to be tempted because there are then grounds for believing that the devil looks upon us as his property and that he is only awaiting our deaths to drag us into Hell. Nothing could be easier to understand. Just consider the Christian who is trying, even in a small way, to save his soul. Everything around him inclines him to evil; he can hardly lift his eyes without being tempted, in spite of all his prayers and penances. And yet a hardened sinner, who for the past twenty years has been wallowing in sin, will tell you that he is not tempted! So much the worse, my friend, so much the worse! That is precisely what should make you tremble--that you do not know what temptations are. For to say that you are not tempted is like saying the devil no longer exists or that he has lost all his rage against Christian souls. 'If you have no temptations,' Saint Gregory tells us, 'it is because the devils are your friends, your leaders, and your shepherds. And by allowing you to pass your poor life tranquilly, to the end of your days, they will drag you down into the depths.' Saint Augustine tells us that the greatest temptation is not to have temptations because this means that one is a person who has been rejected, abandoned by God, and left entirely in the grip of one's own passions."
In art, John Vianney is depicted as a little old priest in a black cassock, standing with folded hands and his head tilted to one side, smiling. His emblem is so indistinct that he can really only be identified by his face, which is similar in type to that of Saint Bernardino of Siena (Roeder).
Molua, Abbot (AC)
(also known as Lua, Da Lua, Luanus, Lugid, Lughaidh)
Born in Limerick; died August 4, 622. Saint Molua was educated at Bangor under Saint Comgall and was known as a monk, hermit and builder. As Saint Bernard assures us, Molua founded over 100 monasteries in Ireland, including that of Killaloe (County Clare) and Cluain-Fearta Molua, on the borders of Ossory and Queen's County in Leinster. Saint Molua prescribes a most austere monastic rule that was long observed in Ireland. It enjoined the strictest silence and recollection, and forbade women from approaching the church of the monks. Despite his strict observance of the monastic discipline, he was a man of great tenderness to both man and beast. His principal disciple was Saint Flannan, who succeeded him in the governance of Killaloe. Molua's oratory on Friars' Island, a few hundred yards from the cathedral, was re-erected before the area was submerged by the Shannon hydro-electric works in 1929 (Benedictines, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth).
Perpetua of Rome (RM)
Died c. 80. 1st century. Perpetua is said to be the wife of Saint Peter, who was undoubtedly married (Luke 4:38-39); some sources have called his wife Joan, Concordia, and even Heleca. The more likely story is that Perpetua was a Roman matron who was converted by Saint Paul or Saint Peter. In turn she converted her husband and her son, Saint Nazarius the Martyr. Her relics are at Milan and Cremona (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Protasius of Cologne M (RM)
Date unknown. Protasius, who is venerated at Cologne, Germany, is probably the same martyr as Saint Gervase's companion (Benedictines).
Raynerius of Spalatro, OSB BM (AC)
Died 1180. Saint Raynerius, a Camaldolese monk of Fontavellana, became bishop of Cagli in 1156 and then archbishop of Spalatro (1175) where he was stoned to death for defending the rights of the Church (Benedictines, Encyclopedia).
Date unknown. The legend of Saint Sithney is an interesting adaptation of that of Saint Kieran of Saighir. According to a Breton folk story, God revealed to Sithney that he was to be the patron of young girls. The alarmed saint begged God to spare him from such an onerous task because they would plague him for husbands, fine clothes, and numerous other things and never allow him any peace. He said that he would rather look after mad dogs than women any day. From that day, sick and mad dogs have been taken to Sithney's well to drink. He is the patron of Sithney near Helston in Cornwall, England, where William Worcestre saw his tomb. His cultus is still alive at Guissény (formerly Ploesezny) in Brittany (Farmer).
Tertullinus of Rome M (RM)
Died 257. Tertullinus was martyred by Valerian two days after his priestly ordination (Benedictines).
Blessed William Horne and Companions, O.Cart. MM (AC)
Died 1540; beatified in 1886. William Horne was one of the lay- brothers at the Carthusian Charterhouse in London who was martyred at Tyburn outside the city (Benedictines).
About Saints of the Day
These summaries were prepared in 1998 by St. Patrick's parishioner Katherine I. Rabenstein and are reproduced on www.saintpatrickdc.org with the permission of the author. Note that the content has not been updated since that time and represents the research of the author. An alphabetical index of all saints on our site is available. Source references are also available. HTML formatting © 2007-2008 by St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.