St. John Vianney exemplifies a life of sacrificial love, holy boldness and courageous perseverance. His example is absolutely relevant to our day and age. Twenty years ago on pilgrimage to Catholic shrines in France, our group visited the famous village of Ars. Our priest celebrated holy Mass in the same crypt that St. John Vianney offered Mass for his flock. That experience was marked with many extraordinary graces for everyone in our small group. After Mass we visited the cell where the Curé of Ars lived—a simple room with a single bed, a crucifix, a small table with a candle, and walls stained by smoke from the fiery ordeals that occurred there—battles between the priest and the evil one.
Ironically, the man who was not an intellectual genius models the genius of authentic masculinity: protector of what is good and vulnerable to demonic attack. He valiantly fought the good fight when he courageously persevered in the call to priesthood. That journey was particularly challenging and humbling for him. Having been ordained and sent to Ars, he had a different kind of battle. He found an entire village of people gone astray from God and he was sent to change that. He did as Saint Paul instructs, “Put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6). He was already a man in love with God, well prepared by the cross of Christ. He turned to God in prayer first. St. Vianney’s teaching on the primacy of prayer ties into Paul’s teaching on the armor of God, “With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18).
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