St. John  Vianney

Feast • Aug. 4

Church • South Burlington

The Church has canonized many different kinds of saints, but St. John Vianney could have been the patron saint of average people. With God, however, initial appearances are often deceiving and this outwardly “average” man turned out to have many above average gifts to share.

Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney was born in Dardilly, France, in 1786. Although he greatly desired to be a priest, his tremendous educational difficulties, especially with Latin, seemed to spell the end of that dream.

When he was finally ordained in 1815, he was assigned to a remote parish called Ars. His parishioners were at best lukewarm in the practice of their faith, and so their new pastor undertook severe fasts and long nights of prayer on their behalf

But the gifts for which he was best known and most loved were his wisdom, knowledge and spiritual insight in the confessional. Before long, it was not only the people of Ars who came to him for guidance; by 1855 more than 20,000 pilgrims had journeyed to Ars for the sacrament. The Cure of Ars, as he was now known, often spent from 16 to 18 hours a day in the confessional. Although he asked many times to be transferred to the relative peace of a monastery, he persevered as a parish priest for some 40 years. St. John Vianney died in 1859 at the age of 73 while hearing confessions.

Canonized in 1925, St. John Vianney is the patron of priests and confessors. His feast is Aug. 4.

St. John Vianney Church in South Burlington is home to artwork and a relic. Their patron saint is depicted in one of the main stained-glass windows. Additionally, in their votive area, as of last August 4 at a Vespers service for the parish feast day, they put on display a first class relic that has been in the custody of the parish for several decades. In recent years the parish has had its annual summer picnic social on the weekend closest to Aug. 4 to celebrate St. John Vianney’s Feast Day.

—Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.