8 August: Feast of St John Mary Vianney

8 August: Feast of St John Mary Vianney


Everything is a reminder of the Cross. We ourselves are made in the shape of a Cross.     St John Vianney                                                                                          
Everything is a reminder of the Cross.                   We ourselves are made in the shape of a Cross.     St John Vianney

The Feast of St John Vianney, Patron Saint of priests, is celebrated on 8th August. This from the 1962 missal:  The Cure d’Ars was born at Dardilly, near Lyons, in  1786. The sanctity of St John Vianney gives to the obscure village of Ars a universal fame.  As parish priest he converted sinners and directed souls, not only those of his own flock, but people of all nations and conditions who came to consult this spiritual director.  He died on August 4, 1859,  and was canonised in 1925.      

Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the angels and the saints - they are your public. St John Vianney
Do not try to please everybody. Try to please God, the angels and the saints – they are your public. St John Vianney


Below, one of the saint’s sermons…  


There is always the person who says to me: “What harm can there be in enjoying oneself for a while? I do no wrong to anyone; I do not want to be religious or to become a religious! If I do not go to dances, I will be living in the world like someone dead!”

My good friend, you are wrong. Either you will be religious or you will be damned. What is a religious person? This is nothing other than a person who fulfils his duties as a Christian.

You say that I shall achieve nothing by talking to you about dances and that you will indulge neither more nor less in them.

You are wrong again. In ignoring or despising the instructions of your pastor, you draw down upon yourself fresh chastisements from God, and 1, on my side, will achieve quite a lot by fulfilling my duties. At the hour of my death, God will ask me not if you have fulfilled your duties but if I have taught you what you must do in order to fulfil them. You say, too, that I shall never break down your resistance to the point of making you believe that there is harm in amusing yourself for a little while in dancing? You do not wish to believe that there is any harm in it? Well, that is your affair. As far as I am concerned, it is sufficient for me to tell you in such a way as will insure that you do understand, even if you want to do it all the same. By doing this I am doing all that I should do. That should not irritate you: your pastor is doing his duty. But, you will say, the Commandments of God do not forbid dancing, nor does Holy Scripture, either. Perhaps you have not examined them very closely. Follow me for a moment and you will see that there is not a Commandment of God which dancing does not cause to be transgressed, nor a Sacrament which it does not cause to be profaned.

You know as well as I do that these kinds of follies and wild extravagances are not ordinarily indulged in, but on Sundays and feast days. What, then, will a young girl or a boy do who have decided to go to the dance? What love will they have for God? Their minds will be wholly occupied with their preparations to attract the people with whom they hope to be mixing.

Let us suppose that they say their prayers — how will they say them? Alas, only God knows that! Besides, what love for God can be felt by anyone who is thinking and breathing nothing but the love of pleasures and of creatures? You will admit that it is impossible to please God and the world. That can never be.

God forbids swearing. Alas! What quarrels, what swearing, what blasphemies are uttered as a result of the jealousy that arises between these young people when they are at such gatherings! Have you not often had disputes or fights there? Who could count the crimes that are committed at these diabolical gatherings? The Third Commandment commands us to sanctify the holy day of Sunday. Can anyone really believe that a boy who has passed several hours with a girl, whose heart is like a furnace, is really thus satisfying this precept? St. Augustine has good reason to say that men would be better to work their land and girls to carry on with their spinning than to go dancing; the evil would be less. The Fourth Commandment of God commands children to honour their parents. These young people who frequent the dances, do they have the respect and the submission to their parents’ wishes which they should have? No, they certainly do not; they cause them the utmost worry and distress between the way they disregard their parents’ wishes and the way they put their money to bad use, while sometimes even taunting them with their old-fashioned outlook and ways.

What sorrow should not such parents feel, that is, if their faith is not yet extinct, at seeing their children given over to such pleasures or, to speak more plainly, to such licentious ways?

These children are no longer Heaven-bent, but are fattening for Hell. Let us suppose that the parents have not yet lost the Faith…. Alas! I dare not go any further! …. What blind parents! …. What lost children! ….

Is there any place, any time, any occasion wherein so many sins of impurity are committed as the dancehalls and their sequels? Is it not in these gatherings that people are most violently prompted against the holy virtue of purity? Where else but there are the senses so strongly urged towards pleasurable excitement? If we go a little more closely into this, should we not almost die of horror at the sight of so many crimes which are committed? Is it not at these gatherings that the Devil so furiously kindles the fire of impurity in the hearts of the young people in order to annihilate in them the grace of Baptism? Is it not there that Hell enslaves as many souls as it wishes? If, in spite of the absence of occasions and the aids of prayer, a Christian has so much difficulty in preserving purity of heart, how could he possibly preserve that virtue in the midst of so many sources which are capable of breaking it down?

“Look,” says St. John Chrysostom, “at this worldly and flighty young woman, or rather at this flaming brand of diabolical fire who by her beauty and her flamboyant attire lights in the heart of that young man the fire of concupiscence. Do you not see them, one as much as the other, seeking to charm one another by their airs and graces and all sorts of tricks and wiles? Count up, unfortunate sinner, if you can, the number of your bad thoughts, of your evil desires and your sinful actions. Is it not there that you heard those airs that please the ears, that inflame and burn hearts and make of these assemblies furnaces of shamelessness?”

Is it not there, my dear brethren, that the boys and the girls drink at the fountain of crime, which very soon, like a torrent or a river bursting its banks, will inundate, ruin, and poison all its surroundings? Go on, shameless fathers and mothers, go on into Hell, where the fury of God awaits you, you and all the good actions you have done in letting your children run such risks. Go on, they will not be long in joining you, for you have outlined the road plainly for them. Go and count the number of years that your boys and girls have lost, go before your Judge to give an account of your lives, and you will see that your pastor had reason to forbid these kinds of diabolical pleasures! ….

Ah, you say, you are making more of it than there really is! I say too much about it? Very well, then. Listen. Did the Holy Fathers of the Church say too much about it? St. Ephraim .tells us that dancing is the perdition of girls and women, the blinding of men, the grief of angels, and the joy of the devils.

Dear God, can anyone really have their eyes bewitched to such Ian extent that they will still want to believe that there is no harm in it, while all the time it is the rope by which the Devil pulls the most souls into Hell? …. Go on, poor parents, blind and lost, go on and scorn what your pastor is telling you! Go on! Continue the way you are going! Listen to everything and profit nothing by it! There is no harm in it? Tell me, then, what did you renounce on the day of your Baptism? Or on what conditions was Baptism given to you? Was it not on the condition of your taking a vow in the face of Heaven and earth, in the presence of Jesus Christ upon the altar, that you would renounce Satan and all his works and pomps, for the whole of your lives — or in other words that you would renounce sin and the pleasures and vanities of the world?

Was it not because you promised that you would be willing to follow in the steps of a crucified God? Well then, is this not truly to violate those promises made at your Baptism and to profane this Sacrament of mercy? Do you not also profane the Sacrament of Confirmation, in exchanging the Cross of Jesus Christ, which you have received, for vain and showy dress, in being ashamed of that Cross, which should be your glory and your happiness?

St. Augustine tells us that those who go to dances truly renounce Jesus Christ in order to give themselves to the Devil.

What a horrible thing that is! To drive out Jesus Christ after having received Him in your hearts! “Today,” says St. Ephraim, “they unite themselves to Jesus Christ and tomorrow to the Devil.” Alas! What a Judas is that person who, after receiving our Lord, goes then to sell Him to Satan in these gatherings, where he will be reuniting himself with everything that is most vicious! And when it comes to the Sacrament of Penance, what a contradiction is such a life! A Christian, who after one single sin should spend the rest of his life in repentance, thinks only of giving himself up to all these worldly pleasures! A great many profane the Sacrament of Extreme Unction by making indecent movements with the feet, the hands and the whole body, which one day must be sanctified by the holy oils. Is not the Sacrament of Holy Order insulted by the contempt with which the instructions of the pastor are considered? But when we come to the Sacrament of Matrimony, alas! What infidelities are not contemplated in these assemblies? It seems then that everything is admissible. How blind must anyone be who thinks there is no harm in it! ….

The Council of Aix-la-Chapelle forbids dancing, even at weddings. And St. Charles Borromeo, the Archbishop of Milan, says that three years of penance were given to someone who had danced and that if he went back to it, he was threatened with excommunication. If there were no harm in it, then were the Holy Fathers and the Church mistaken? But who tells you that there is no harm in it? It can only be a libertine, or a flighty and worldly girl, who are trying to smother their remorse of conscience as best they can. Well, there are priests, you say, who do not speak about it in Confession or who, without permitting it, do not refuse absolution for it. Ah! I do not know whether there are priests who are so blind, but I am sure that those who go looking for easygoing priests are going looking for a passport which will lead them to Hell. For my own part, if I went dancing, I should not want to receive absolution not having a real determination not to go back dancing.

Listen to St. Augustine and you will see if dancing is a good action. He tells us that “dancing is the ruin of souls, a reversal of all decency, a shameful spectacle, a public profession of crime.” St. Ephraim calls it “the ruin of good morals and the nourishment of vice.” St. John Chrysostom: “A school of public unchastity.” Tertullian: “The temple of Venus, the consistory of shamelessness, and the citadel of all the depravities.”

“Here is a girl who dances,” says St. Ambrose, “but she is the daughter of an adulteress because a Christian woman would teach her daughter modesty, a proper sense of shame, and not dancing! “

Alas! How many young people are there who since they have been going to dances do not frequent the Sacraments, or do so only to profane them! How many poor souls there are who have lost therein their religion and their faith! How many will never open their eyes to their unhappy state except when they are falling into Hell! …   Source


Is St John Vianney a good model for contemporary priests, or is he too distant in time and thinking to resonate with modern clergy and candidates for seminary?  Given his focus in preaching (e.g. the virtues) and his austere approach to personal  self-sacrifice, is he likely to be dismissed as being out of kilter with the modern Church? 

Comments (18)

  • Elizabeth

    It strikes me that the dances the Saint refers to were undoubtedly less erotic than what happens in modern nightclubs! Fuelled by excesses of alcohol and drugs they are indeed an occasion of sin. I have never heard a sermon on which a priest warns of these dangers to young people, or of any dangers at all now I think of it.

    The cure d’ars emphasises his own duty of the care of souls which obliges him to warn and advise his parishioners. I wonder to what extent that duty weighs on the modern parish priest?

    August 7, 2016 at 7:37 pm
    • Josephine


      I really couldn’t agree more. I wonder what St John Mary Vianney would say about this priest, who is not only not preaching about the dangers of erotic dancing but he’s joining in himself!

      August 7, 2016 at 8:27 pm
    • Petrus

      On the contrary, Father John Keenan, when he was a university chaplain, used to accompany young people to nightclubs.

      August 8, 2016 at 7:43 am
      • Nicky


        Are you sure about that? I am utterly shocked if that is true (and I’m not doubting your word, just totally horrified). What kind of example is that to set to the young? No need to ask how many conversions he was able to achieve.

        August 8, 2016 at 8:53 am
      • Petrus

        I am 100% certain. I’m sure “The Garage” in Glasgow was a popular haunt.

        August 8, 2016 at 10:34 am
      • Nicky

        Petrus, thank you for that confirmation. I am 100% shocked. Shows you how bad things are when he was made a bishop. If he was frequenting nightclubs, the mind boggles.

        August 8, 2016 at 11:08 am
  • Laura

    I do agree about erotic dancing but I don’t think dancing per se is a bad thing. It can be quite innocent.

    There’s no way that modern clergy would preach in the same was as St John Vianney, because, for one thing, people would just up and walk out. They’ve become used to homilies about saving the third world and trees, so anything that is stronger and about personal sins, would not go down well, IMHO.

    August 7, 2016 at 8:37 pm
  • Athanasius

    I think it is important to point out that, like our own day, there was initially much laxity, even apostasy, in the village where St. John Vianney lived and preached. He eventually changed that but it took time and some apparently harsh words concerning certain otherwise innocent pleasures. I think we can imagine that dances in Ars were less than modest when St. John first arrived there.

    August 7, 2016 at 9:09 pm
  • RCA Victor

    St. John Vianney obviously surrendered himself completely to God, and taught his flock to do likewise. His every word was bent toward that goal. The Church of VII, on the other hand, culminating in the mealy-mouthed Church of Francis, not only teaches us to surrender to the world, but that this surrender is a virtue.

    August 7, 2016 at 10:19 pm
    • Helen

      Well I don’t know. I’m all for modesty and decency but when did a little lively dancing ever cause sinfulness? Before I was married I loved going to dances and larking about. Yes, there was a lot to be desired with some folk’s behavior but generally, we kept up a good show. My goodness, how to turn young people off!!

      August 7, 2016 at 11:39 pm
      • Petrus

        I think the issue is that in a lot of modern nightclubs, it’s a bit of a cattle market – with immodest dressing, impure moves and excessive drinking.

        As Athanasius said, there was probably a lot of that going on in Ars.

        August 8, 2016 at 7:47 am
  • Nicky

    Happy Feast day everyone!

    I agree that modern erotic dancing is just totally immodest and immoral and I was shocked to see that priest dancing in the aisle with that woman. They’re just as sex obsessed as the rest of the population, and St John Vianney must be spinning in his grave at it all.

    No way would a modern day John Vianney be welcomed by the majority of Catholics who have lost the faith and are no different any well meaning Protestant. I know from my own conversations with them that when they hear genuine Catholic doctrine, they cringe and object. If they were to read the sermon from John Vianney in any church today, they would be reporting the priest to the bishop! LOL!

    August 8, 2016 at 8:51 am
  • Theresa Rose

    Happy Feast Day everyone.

    It is a measure of the holiness of St John Mary Vianney is one of several saints whose bodies have not been corrupted by death.



    I agree with you in wondering what St John Vianney would say about this priest dancing within the Church. He probably would say something about the immodest clothes that the women wore, and dancing with him.

    August 8, 2016 at 4:27 pm
  • Michaela

    This is from the USA SSPX website on the saint of the day:

    Aug 8: St. John Vianney – Patron of Priests
    August 04, 2016 District of the USA

    In commemoration of the feast of St. John Mary Vianney on Aug. 8, we share how he is the patron of priests – who need our prayers more than ever

    St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, better known to English-speaking Catholics as John Vianney or simply the Curé of Ars, is commemorated by the Catholic Church on August 8 according to the 1962 liturgical calendar used by the SSPX. A brief account of St. John’s life is included as the third reading at Matins for this day.

    John Mary Vianney was born in the Village of Dardilly in the diocese of Lyons, and gave many indications of his future sanctity. As an eight year old boy, keeping sheep, he would lead the other children to kneel before the image of the Mother of God, teaching them the rosary by word and example: and he loved to work in the fields and meditate on divine things. He was a great lover of the poor and took delight in helping them in every way. He was slow to learn, but after imploring God’s help, and working hard to complete his course in theology, he was judged fit to be ordained. Receiving an appointment as pastor he made spiritual flowers bloom again in a parish that had been nothing but a dried up wasteland. Busy every day hearing confessions and giving spiritual counsel, he bore patiently the most horrible attacks of Satan. He established a practice of making missions in more than a hundred parishes. The faithful came flocking to his parish, even from distant places in a holy desire to see him; but he did not share their high opinion of him, and more than once he tried to slip away. Worn out by his labors rather than his old age, he rested in the Lord at the age of seventy-three, on the day he had foretold, August 4, 1859. Famous for many miracles, he was enrolled among the Blessed by Pius X, and among the Saints by Pius XI, who on the fiftieth anniversary of his own priesthood, appointed him the heavenly patron of all parish priests.

    As the reading makes clear, St. John lived a strictly devout life in service to the Church and Christ’s flock. According to various accounts, the Curé of Ars spent between 16 and 18 hours in the confessional during the final decade of his life and was granted the gift to divine sins that were withheld by penitents. Despite being blessed with only modest intelligence and struggling to pass his courses at the seminary, his spiritual guidance was sought by bishops, priests, religious, and laity from all over France. Moreover, his fervent prayers brought forth an array of miracles, including monetary support for charities and orphanages; supernatural knowledge of past and future events; and healing for sick children.

    St. John Vianney would often say: “Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire, it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.”

    It should come as no surprise then that St. John was raised by Pope Pius XI as Patron of Parish Priests. In honor of this great saint’s life, the faithful should consider joining the SSPX’s ongoing Prayer Crusade for Priests which offers prayer and penance for priests and priestly vocations. Further information on the Prayer Crusade can be found here on the Society’s website.

    Through the prayers of St. John Vianney, may young men continue to answer God’s call for the good of Holy Mother Church and the salvation of souls.

    A great example to the hedonistic world of today, and yes, a wonderful role model for priests, if only they had eyes to see.

    Happy Feast day to all CT bloggers!

    August 8, 2016 at 8:27 pm
    • editor


      “…the Curé of Ars spent between 16 and 18 hours in the confessional…”

      What on earth would he think of today’s priests who often require penitents to make an appointment for Confession? Rhetorical question – I think we all know the answer – “not a lot”...

      August 8, 2016 at 8:31 pm
  • crofterlady

    “16 to 18 hours in the confessional”? You’re kidding… Recently my daughter was refused Confession by a priest in Aberdeen and told to email him for an appointment!

    August 8, 2016 at 11:24 pm
  • spudeater

    The Curé d’Ars is undeniably one of the Church’s most extraordinary saints whilst being at the same time highly personable and easily accessible.

    To start off with what might nowadays be called his zero-tolerance approach to dancing, perhaps the clue is in his full name – Jean-Marie-Baptiste Vianney. He also chose the following inscription for a chapel dedicated to St.John the Baptist: HIS DEATH WAS THE PRICE OF ONE DANCE.

    Even the smallest incidents in his life are fascinating but I’ll just post the following three vignettes.

    One day, a possessed woman came to Ars and proceeded to shout out the particular sins of each villager that she met. When she was confronted by the saint himself, all she could accuse him of was that many years previously, he had taken a pear whilst walking through an orchard because he was hungry. “This is true”, replied the Curé, “but I left a sou on the wall for the farmer.” “Ah, yes,” the woman replied “but he NEVER RECEIVED IT.”

    It would appear therefore that the saint lived in effect a sinless life so little wonder therefore that a woman from a neighbouring village wrote a letter to one of his successors in Ars in which she mentioned that one day, being eager to see the Curé, she waited outside his church and when he emerged after many hours of hearing confessions, tried to grasp his hand in order to kiss it. The saint however, withdrew it and said ‘gravely yet graciously’, “Oh, do not rob me of my ring!” Only then did the woman notice on the fourth finger of his left hand a gold ring of extraordinary brilliance. It seems Our Lord had allowed the saint to undergo a mystical wedding, a privilege similarly bestowed upon other saints like St.Teresa of Avila.

    And finally one of his near superhuman penances. For the first 9 years after he came to Ars, he used to boil enough potatoes to sustain him for the next seven days, hang them from the wall in an iron basket and then eat one or two (never more) cold, whenever his extreme hunger pangs dictated. The inevitable mould growing on the potatoes by the end of each week didn’t deter him and he lived off little else for all that time. Moreover, the devil used to abuse him saying “Vianney, Vianney! Mangeur de truffes!* I shall get thee all right!”. Even the most die-hard fan of all things tuberous would probably swallow hard before trying that diet.

    *potato-eater (in Lyons district dialect)

    By the way, I read last week that two thirds of the dioceses in England and Wales have struck a deal whereby they significantly reduce their energy bills. Call me a nostalgic medieval ostrich but I’d feel a bit more enthused if I’d read that two thirds of dioceses (or even three quarters) were being electrified by parish priests with their hearts set on emulating their patron saint.

    August 11, 2016 at 9:15 pm
    • editor


      What a lovely post! Stories from the lives of the saints are edifying, so thank you for those.

      August 11, 2016 at 11:22 pm

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