Saint John Chrysostom

Feast Day: January 27th

Saint John Chrysostom

Great Doctor of the Church

When you are before the altar where Christ reposes, you ought no longer to think that you are amongst men; but believe that there are troops of angels and archangels standing by you, and trembling with respect before the sovereign Master of Heaven and earth. Therefore, when you are in church, be there in silence, fear, and veneration.

-Saint John Chrysostom

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Doctor of the Church, born at Antioch, c. 347; died at Commana in Pontus, 14 September, 407.

    John -- whose surname "Chrysostom" occurs for the first time in the "Constitution" of Pope Vigilius (cf. P.L., LX, 217) in the year 553 -- is generally considered the most prominent doctor of the Greek Church and the greatest preacher ever heard in a Christian pulpit. His natural gifts, as well as exterior circumstances, helped him to become what he was.

I. LIFE

(1) Boyhood

    At the time of Chrysostom's birth, Antioch was the second city of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. During the whole of the fourth century religious struggles had troubled the empire and had found their echo at Antioch. Pagans, Manichaeans, Gnostics, Arians, Apollinarians, Jews, made their proselytes at Antioch, and the Catholics were themselves separated by the schism between the bishops Meletius and Paulinus. Thus Chrysostom's youth fell in troubled times. His father, Secundus, was an officer of high rank in the Syrian army. On his death soon after the birth of John, Anthusa, his wife, only twenty years of age, took the sole charge of her two children, John and an elder sister. Fortunately she was a woman of intelligence and character. She not only instructed her son in piety, but also sent him to the best schools of Antioch, though with regard to morals and religion many objections could be urged against them. Beside the lectures of Andragatius, a philosopher not otherwise known, Chrysostom followed also those of Libanius, at once the most famous orator of that period and the most tenacious adherent of the declining paganism of Rome. As we may see from the later writings of Chrysostom, he attained then considerable Greek scholarship and classical culture, which he by no means disowned in his later days. His alleged hostility to classical learning is in reality but a misunderstanding of certain passages in which he defends the philosophia of Christianity against the myths of the heathen gods, of which the chief defenders in his time were the representatives and teachers of the sophia ellenike (see A. Naegele in "Byzantin. Zeitschrift", XIII, 73-113; Idem, "Chrysostomus und Libanius" in Chrysostomika, I, Rome, 1908, 81-142).

(2) Chrysostom as Lector and Monk

    It was a very decisive turning-point in the life of Chrysostom when he met one day (about 367) the bishop Meletius. The earnest, mild, and winning character of this man captivated Chrysostom in such a measure that he soon began to withdraw from classical and profane studies and to devote himself to an ascetic and religious life. He studied Holy Scriptures and frequented the sermons of Meletius. About three years later he received Holy Baptism and was ordained lector. But the young cleric, seized by the desire of a more perfect life, soon afterwards entered one of the ascetic societies near Antioch, which was under the spiritual direction of Carterius and especially of the famous Diodorus, later Bishop of Tarsus (see Palladius, "Dialogus", v; Sozomenus, "Hist. eccles.", VIII, 2). Prayer, manual labour and the study of Holy Scripture were his chief occupations, and we may safely suppose that his first literary works date from this time, for nearly all his earlier writings deal with ascetic and monastic subjects [cf. below Chrysostom writings: (1) "Opuscuia"]. Four years later, Chrysostom resolved to live as an anchorite in one of the caves near Antioch. He remained there two years, but then as his health was quite ruined by indiscreet watchings and fastings in frost and cold, he prudently returned to Antioch to regain his health, and resumed his office as lector in the church.

(3) Chrysostom as Deacon and Priest at Antioch

    As the sources of the life of Chrysostom give an incomplete chronology, we can but approximately determine the dates for this Aniochene period. Very probably in the beginning of 381 Meletius made him deacon, just before his own departure to Constantinople, where he died as president of the Second Ecumenical Council. The successor of Meletius was Flavian (concerning whose succession see F. Cavallera, "Le Schime d'Antioche", Paris, 1905). Ties of sympathy and friendship connected Chrysostom with his new bishop. As deacon he had to assist at the liturgical functions, to look after the sick and poor, and was probably charged also in some degree with teaching catechumens. At the same time he continued his literary work, and we may suppose that he composed his most famous book, "On the Priesthood", towards the end of this period (c. 386, see Socrates, "Hist. eccl.", VI, 3), or at latest in the beginning of his priesthood (c. 387, as Nairn with good reasons puts it, in his edition of "De Sacerd.", xii-xv). There may be some doubt if it was occasioned by a real historical fact, viz., that Chrysostom and his friend Basil were requested to accept bishoprics (c. 372). All the earliest Greek biographers seem not to have taken it in that sense. In the year 386 Chrysostom was ordained priest by Flavian, and from that dates his real importance in ecclesiastical history. His chief task during the next twelve years was that of preaching, which he had to exercise either instead of or with Bishop Flavian. But no doubt the larger part of the popular religious instruction and education devolved upon him. The earliest notable occasion which showed his power of speaking and his great authority was the Lent of 387, when he delivered his sermons "On the Statues" (P.G., XLVIII, 15, xxx.). The people of Antioch, excited by the levy of new taxes, had thrown down the statues of Emperor Theodosius. In the panic and fear of punishment which followed, Chrysostom delivered a series of twenty or twenty-one (the nineteenth is probably not authentic) sermons, full of vigour, consolatory, exhortative, tranquilizing, until Flavian, the bishop, brought back from Constantinople the emperor's pardon. But the usual preaching of Chrysostom consisted in consecutive explanations of Holy Scripture. To that custom, unhappily no longer in use, we owe his famous and magnificent commentaries, which offer us such an inexhaustible treasure of dogmatic, moral, and historical knowledge of the transition from the fourth to the fifth century. These years, 386-98, were the period of the greatest theological productivity of Chrysostom, a period which alone would have assured him for ever a place among the first Doctors of the Church. A sign of this may be seen in the fact that in the year 392 St. Jerome already accorded to the preacher of Antioch a place among his Viri illustres ("De Viris ill.", 129, in P.L., XXIII, 754), referring expressly to the great and successful activity of Chrysostom as a theological writer. From this same fact we may infer that during this time his fame had spread far beyond the limits of Antioch, and that he was well known in the Byzantine Empire, especially in the capital.

(4) St. Chrysostom as Bishop of Constantinople

    In the ordinary course of things Chrysostom might have become the successor of Flavian at Antioch. But on 27 September 397, Nectarius, Bishop of Constantinople, died. There was a general rivalry in the capital, openly or in secret, for the vacant see. After some months it was known, to the great disappointment of the competitors, that Emperor Areadius, at the suggestion of his minister Eutropius, had sent to the Prefect of Antioch to call John Chrysostom out of the town without the knowledge of the people, and to send him straight to Constantinople. In this sudden way Chrysostom was hurried to the capital, and ordained Bishop of Constantinople on 26 February, 398, in the presence of a great assembly of bishops, by Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who had been obliged to renounce the idea of securing the appointment of Isidore, his own candidate. The change for Chrysostom was as great as it was unexpected. His new position was not an easy one, placed as he was in the midst of an upstart metropolis, half Western, half Oriental, in the neighbourhood of a court in which luxury and intrigue always played the most prominent parts, and at the head of the clergy composed of most heterogeneous elements, and even (if not canonically, at least practically) at the head of the whole Byzantine episcopate. The first act of the new bishop was to bring about a reconciliation between Flavian and Rome. Constantinople itself soon began to feel the impulse of a new ecclesiastical life.

    The necessity for reform was undeniable. Chrysostom began "sweeping the stairs from the top" (Palladius, op. cit., v). He called his oeconomus, and ordered him to reduce the expenses of the episcopal household; he put an end to the frequent banquets, and lived little less strictly than he had formerly lived as a priest and monk. With regard to the clergy, Chrysostom had at first to forbid them to keep in their houses syneisactoe, i.e. women housekeepers who had vowed virginity. He also proceeded against others who, by avarice or luxury, had given scandal. He had even to exclude from the ranks of the clergy two deacons, the one for murder and the other for adultery. Of the monks, too, who were very numerous even at that time at Constantinople, some had preferred to roam about aimlessly and without discipline. Chrysostom confined them to their monasteries. Finally he took care of the ecclesiastical widows. Some of them were living in a worldly manner: he obliged them either to marry again, or to observe the rules of decorum demanded by their state. After the clergy, Chrysostom turned his attention to his flock. As he had done at Antioch, so at Constantinople and with more reason, he frequently preached against the unreasonable extravagances of the rich, and especially against the ridiculous finery in the matter of dress affected by women whose age should have put them beyond such vanities. Some of them, the widows Marsa, Castricia, Eugraphia, known for such preposterous tastes, belonged to the court circle. It seems that the upper classes of Constantinople had not previously been accustomed to such language. Doubtless some felt the rebuke to be intended for themselves, and the offence given was the greater in proportion as the rebuke was the more deserved. On the other hand, the people showed themselves delighted with the sermons of their new bishop, and frequently applauded him in the church (Socrates, "Hist. eccl." VI). They never forgot his care for the poor and miserable, and that in his first year he had built a great hospital with the money he had saved in his household. But Chrysostom had also very intimate friends among the rich and noble classes. The most famous of these was Olympias, widow and deaconess, a relation of Emperor Theodosius, while in the Court itself there was Brison, first usher of Eudoxia, who assisted Chrysostom in instructing his choirs, and always maintained a true friendship for him. The empress herself was at first most friendly towards the new bishop. She followed the religious processions, attended his sermons, and presented silver candlesticks for the use of the churches (Socrates, op. cit., VI, 8; Sozomenus, op. cit., VIII, 8).

    Unfortunately, the feelings of amity did not last. At first Eutropius, the former slave, now minister and consul, abused his influence. He deprived some wealthy persons of their property, and prosecuted others whom he suspected of being adversaries of rivals. More than once Chrysostom went himself to the minister (see "Oratio ad Eutropium" in P.G., Chrys. Op., III, 392) to remonstrate with him, and to warn him of the results of his own acts, but without success. Then the above-named ladies, who immediately surrounded the empress, probably did not hide their resentment against the strict bishop. Finally, the empress herself committed an injustice in depriving a widow of her vineyard (Marcus Diac., "Vita Porphyrii", V, no. 37, in P.G., LXV, 1229). Chrysostom interceded for the latter. But Eudoxia showed herself offended. Henceforth there was a certain coolness between the imperial Court and the episcopal palace, which, growing little by little, led to a catastrophe. It is impossible to ascertain exactly at what period this alienation first began; very probably it dated from the beginning of the year 401. But before this state of things became known to the public there happened events of the highest political importance, and Chrysostom, without seeking it, was implicated in them. These were the fall of Eutropius and the revolt of Gainas.

    In January, 399, Eutropius, for a reason not exactly known, fell into disgrace. Knowing the feelings of the people and of his personal enemies, he fled to the church. As he had himself attempted to abolish the immunity of the ecclesiastical asylums not long before, the people seemed little disposed to spare him. But Chrysostom interfered, delivering his famous sermon on Eutropius, and the fallen minister was saved for the moment. As, however, he tried to escape during the night, he was seized, exiled, and some time later put to death. Immediately another more exciting and more dangerous event followed. Gainas, one of the imperial generals, had been sent out to subdue Tribigild, who had revolted. In the summer of 399 Gainas united openly with Tribigild, and, to restore peace, Arcadius had to submit to the most humiliating conditions. Gainas was named commander-in-chief of the imperial army, and even had Aurelian and Saturninus, two men of the highest rank at Constantinople, delivered over to him. It seems that Chrysostom accepted a mission to Gainas, and that, owing to his intervention, Aurelian and Saturninus were spared by Gainas, and even set at liberty. Soon afterwards, Gainas, who was an Arian Goth, demanded one of the Catholic churches at Constantinople for himself and his soldiers. Again Chrysostom made so energetic an opposition that Gainas yielded. Meanwhile the people of Constantinople had become excited, and in one night several thousand Goths were slain. Gainas however escaped, was defeated, and slain by the Huns. Such was the end within a few years of three consuls of the Byzantine Empire. There is no doubt that Chrysostom's authority had been greatly strengthened by the magnanimity and firmness of character he had shown during all these troubles. It may have been this that augmented the jealousy of those who now governed the empire -- a clique of courtiers, with the empress at their head. These were now joined by new allies issuing from the ecclesiastical ranks and including some provincial bishops -- Severian of Gabala, Antiochus of Ptolemais, and, for some time, Acacius of Beroea -- who preferred the attractions of the capital to residence in their own cities (Socrates, op. cit., VI, 11; Sozomenus, op. cit., VIII, 10). The most intriguing among them was Severian, who flattered himself that he was the rival of Chrysostom in eloquence. But so far nothing had transpired in public. A great change occurred during the absence of Chrysostom for several months from Constantinople. This absence was necessitated by an ecclesiastical affair in Asia Minor, in which he was involved. Following the express invitation of several bishops, Chrysostom, in the first months of 401, had come to Ephesus, where he appointed a new archbishop, and with the consent of the assembled bishops deposed six bishops for simony. After having passed the same sentence on Bishop Gerontius of Nicomedia, he returned to Constantinople.

    Meanwhile disagreeable things had happened there. Bishop Severian, to whom Chrysostom seems to have entrusted the performance of some ecclesiastical functions, had entered into open enmity with Serapion, the archdeacon and oeconomus of the cathedral and the episcopal palace. Whatever the real reason may have been, Chrysostom, found the case so serious that he invited Severian to return to his own see. It was solely owing to the personal interference of Eudoxia, whose confidence Serapion possessed, that he was allowed to come back from Chalcedon, whither he had retired. The reconciliation which followed was, at least on the part of Severian, not a sincere one, and the public scandal had excited much ill-feeling. The effects soon became visible. When in the spring of 402, Bishop Porphyrius of Gaza (see Marcus Diac., "Vita Porphyrii", V, ed. Nuth, Bonn, 1897, pp. 11-19) went to the Court at Constantinople to obtain a favour for his diocese, Chrysostom answered that he could do nothing for him, since he was himself in disgrace with the empress. Nevertheless, the party of malcontents were not really dangerous, unless they could find some prominent and unscrupulous leader. Such a person presented himself sooner than might have been expected. It was the well-known Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria. He appeared under rather curious circumstances, which in no way foreshadowed the final result. Theophilus, toward the end of the year 402, was summoned by the emperor to Constantinople to apologize before a synod, over which Chrysostom should preside, for several charges, which were brought against him by certain Egyptian monks, especially by the so-called four "tall brothers". The patriarch, their former friend, had suddenly turned against them, and had them persecuted as Origenists (Palladius, "Dialogus", xvi; Socrates, op. cit., VI, 7; Sozomenus, op. cit., VIII, 12).

    However, Theophilus was not easily frightened. He had always agents and friends at Constantinople, and knew the state of things and the feelings at the court. He now resolved to take advantage of them. He wrote at once to St. Epiphanius at Cyprus, requesting him to go to Constantinople and prevail upon Chrysostom at to condemn the Origenists. Epiphanius went. But when he found that Theophilus was merely using him for his own purposes, he left the capital, dying on his return in 403. At this time Chrysostom delivered a sermon against the vain luxury of women. It was reported to the empress as though she had been personally alluded to. In this way the ground was prepared. Theophilus at last appeared at Constantinople in June, 403, not alone, as he had been commanded, but with twenty-nine of his suffragan bishops, and, as Palladius (ch. viii) tells us, with a good deal of money and all sorts of gifts. He took his lodgings in one of the imperial palaces, and held conferences with all the adversaries of Chrysostom. Then he retired with his suffragans and seven other bishops to a villa near Constantinople, called epi dryn (see Ubaldi, "La Synodo ad Quercum", Turin, 1902). A long list of the most ridiculous accusations was drawn up against Chrysostom (see Photius, "Bibliotheca", 59, in P.G., CIII, 105-113), who, surrounded by forty-two archbishops and bishops assembled to judge Theophilus in accordance with the orders of the emperor, was now summoned to present himself and apologize. Chrysostom naturally refused to recognize the legality of a synod in which his open enemies were judges. After the third summons Chrysostom, with the consent of the emperor, was declared to be deposed. In order to avoid useless bloodshed, he surrendered himself on the third day to the soldiers who awaited him. But the threats of the excited people, and a sudden accident in the imperial palace, frightened the empress (Palladius, "Dialogus", ix). She feared some punishment from heaven for Chrysostom's exile, and immediately ordered his recall. After some hesitation Chrysostom re-entered the capital amid the great rejoicings of the people. Theophilus and his party saved themselves by flying from Constantinople. Chrysostom's return was in itself a defeat for Eudoxia. When her alarms had gone, her rancour revived. Two months afterwards a silver statue of the empress was unveiled in the square just before the cathedral. The public celebrations which attended this incident, and lasted several days, became so boisterous that the offices in the church were disturbed. Chrysostom complained of this to the prefect of the city, who reported to Eudoxia that the bishop had complained against her statue. This was enough to excite the empress beyond all bounds. She summoned Theophilus and the other bishops to come back and to depose Chrysostom again. The prudent patriarch, however, did not wish to run the same risk a second time. He only wrote to Constantinople that Chrysostom should be condemned for having re-entered his see in opposition to an article of the Synod of Antioch held in the year 341 (an Arian synod). The other bishops had neither the authority nor the courage to give a formal judgment. All they could do was to urge the emperor to sign a new decree of exile. A double attempt on Chrysostom's life failed. On Easter Eve, 404, when all the catechumens were to receive baptism, the adversaries of the bishop, with imperial soldiers, invaded the baptistery and dispersed the whole congregation. At last Arcadius signed the decree, and on 24 June, 404, the soldiers conducted Chrysostom a second time into exile.

(5) Exile and Death

    They had scarcely left Constantinople when a huge conflagration destroyed the cathedral, the senate-house, and other buildings. The followers of the exiled bishop were accused of the crime and prosecuted. In haste Arsacius, an old man, was appointed successor of Chrysostom, but was soon succeeded by the cunning Atticus. Whoever refused to enter into communion with them was punished by confiscation of property and exile. Chrysostom himself was conducted to Cucusus, a secluded and rugged place on the east frontier of Armenia, continually exposed to the invasions of the Isaurians. In the following year he had even to fly for some time to the castle of Arabissus to protect himself from these barbarians. Meanwhile he always maintained a correspondence with his friends and never gave up the hope of return. When the circumstances of his deposition were known in the West, the pope and the Italian bishops declared themselves in his favour. Emperor Honorius and Pope Innocent I endeavoured to summon a new synod, but their legates were imprisoned and then sent home. The pope broke off all communion with the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch (where an enemy of Chrysostom had succeeded Flavian), and Constantinople, until (after the death of Chrysostom) they consented to admit his name into the diptychs of the Church. Finally all hopes for the exiled bishop had vanished. Apparently he was living too long for his adversaries. In the summer, 407, the order was given to carry him to Pithyus, a place at the extreme boundary of the empire, near the Caucasus. One of the two soldiers who had to lead him caused him all possible sufferings. He was forced to make long marches, was exposed to the rays of the sun, to the rains and the cold of the nights. His body, already weakened by several severe illnesses, finally broke down. On 14 September the party were at Comanan in Pontus. In the morning Chrysostom had asked to rest there on the account of his state of health. In vain; he was forced to continue his march. Very soon he felt so weak that they had to return to Comana. Some hours later Chrysostom died. His last words were: Doxa to theo panton eneken (Glory be to God for all things) (Palladius, xi, 38). He was buried at Comana. On 27 January, 438, his body was translated to Constantinople with great pomp, and entombed in the church of the Apostles where Eudoxia had been buried in the year 404 (see Socrates, VII, 45; Constantine Prophyrogen., "Cæremoniale Aul Byz.", II, 92, in P.G., CXII, 1204 B).

II. THE WRITINGS OF ST. CHRYSOSTOM

    Chrysostom has deserved a place in ecclesiastical history, not simply as Bishop of Constantinople, but chiefly as a Doctor of the Church. Of none of the other Greek Fathers do we possess so many writings. We may divide them into three portions, the "opuscula", the "homilies", and the "letters". (1) The chief "opuscula" all date from the earlier days of his literary activity. The following deal with monastical subjects: "Comparatio Regis cum Monacho" ("Opera", I, 387-93, in P.G., XLVII-LXIII), "Adhortatio ad Theodorum (Mopsuestensem?) lapsum" (ibid., 277-319), "Adversus oppugnatores vitae monasticae" (ibid., 319-87). Those dealing with ascetical subjects in general are the treatise "De Compunctione" in two books (ibid., 393-423), "Adhortatio ad Stagirium" in three books (ibid., 433-94), "Adversus Subintroductas" (ibid., 495-532), "De Virginitate" (ibid., 533-93), "De Sacerdotio" (ibid., 623-93). (2) Among the "homilies" we have to distinguish commentaries on books of Holy Scripture, groups of homilies (sermons) on special subjects, and a great number of single homilies. (a) The chief "commentaries" on the Old Testament are the sixty-seven homilies "On Genesis" (with eight sermons on Genesis, which are probably a first recension) (IV, 21 sqq., and ibid., 607 sqq.); fifty-nine homilies "On the Psalms" (4-12, 41, 43-49, 108-117, 119-150) (V, 39-498), concerning which see Chrys. Baur, "Der urspr ngliche Umfang des Kommentars des hl. Joh. Chrysostomus zu den Psalmen" in Chrysostomika, fase. i (Rome, 1908), 235-42, a commentary on the first chapters of "Isaias" (VI, 11 sqq.). The fragments on Job (XIII, 503-65) are spurious (see Haidacher, "Chrysostomus Fragmente" in Chrysostomika, I, 217 sq.); the authenticity of the fragments on the Proverbs (XIII, 659-740), on Jeremias and Daniel (VI, 193-246), and the Synopsis of the Old and the New Testament (ibid., 313 sqq.), is doubtful. The chief commentaries on the New Testament are first the ninety homilies on "St. Matthew" (about the year 390; VII), eighty-eight homilies on "St. John" (c. 389; VIII, 23 sqq. -- probably from a later edition), fifty-five homilies on "the Acts" (as preserved by stenographers, IX, 13 sqq.), and homilies "On all Epistles of St. Paul" (IX, 391 sqq.). The best and most important commentaries are those on the Psalms, on St. Matthew, and on the Epistle to the Romans (written c. 391). The thirty-four homilies on the Epistle to the Galatians also very probably comes to us from the hand of a second editor. (b) Among the "homilies forming connected groups", we may especially mention the five homilies "On Anna" (IV, 631-76), three "On David" (ibid., 675-708), six "On Ozias" (VI, 97-142), eight "Against the Jews" (II, 843-942), twelve "De Incomprehensibili Dei Natur " (ibid., 701-812), and the seven famous homilies "On St. Paul" (III, 473-514). (c) A great number of "single homilies" deal with moral subjects, with certain feasts or saints. (3) The "Letters" of Chrysostom (about 238 in number: III, 547 sqq.) were all written during his exile. Of special value for their contents and intimate nature are the seventeen letters to the deaconess Olympias. Among the numerous "Apocrypha" we may mention the liturgy attributed to Chrysostom, who perhaps modified, but did not compose the ancient text. The most famous apocryphon is the "Letter to C sarius" (III, 755-760). It contains a passage on the holy Eucharist which seems to favour the theory of "impanatio", and the disputes about it have continued for more than two centuries. The most important spurious work in Latin is the "Opus imperfectum", written by an Arian in the first half of the fifth century (see Th. Paas, "Das Opus impefectum in Matthæum", Tübingen, 1907).

III. CHRYSOSTOM'S THEOLOGICAL IMPORTANCE

(1) Chrysostom as Orator

    The success of Chrysostom's preaching is chiefly due to his great natural facility of speech, which was extraordinary even to Greeks, to the abundance of his thoughts as well as the popular way of presenting and illustrating them, and, last but not least, the whole-hearted earnestness and conviction with which he delivered the message which he felt had been given to him. Speculative explanation did not attract his mind, nor would they have suited the tastes of his hearers. He ordinarily preferred moral subjects, and very seldom in his sermons followed a regular plan, nor did he care to avoid digressions when any opportunity suggested them. In this way, he is by no means a model for our modern thematic preaching, which, however we may regret it, has to such a great extent supplanted the old homiletic method. But the frequent outbursts of applause among his congregation may have told Chrysostom that he was on the right path.

(2) Chrysostom as an exegete

    As an exegete Chrysostom is of the highest importance, for he is the chief and almost the only successful representative of the exegetical principles of the School of Antioch. Diodorus of Tarsus had initiated him into the grammatico-historical method of that school, which was in strong opposition to the eccentric, allegorical, and mystical interpretation of Origen and the Alexandrian School. But Chrysostom rightly avoided pushing his principles to that extreme to which, later on, his friend Theodore of Mopsuestia, the teacher of Nestorius, carried them. He did not even exclude all allegorical or mystical explanations, but confined them to the cases in which the inspired author himself suggests this meaning.

(3) Chrysostom as Dogmatic Theologian

    As has already been said, Chrysostom's was not a speculative mind, nor was he involved in his lifetime in great dogmatic controversies. Nevertheless it would be a mistake to underrate the great theological treasures hidden in his writings. From the very first he was considered by the Greeks and Latins as a most important witness to the Faith. Even at the Council of Ephesus (431) both parties, St. Cyril and the Antiochians, already invoked him on behalf of their opinions, and at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, when a passage of Chrysostom had been read in favour of the veneration of images, Bishop Peter of Nicomedia cried out: "If John Chrysostom speaks in the way of the images, who would dare to speak against them?" which shows clearly the progress his authority had made up to that date.

    Strangely enough, in the Latin Church, Chrysostom was still earlier invoked as an authority on matters of faith. The first writer who quoted him was Pelagius, when he wrote his lost book "De Naturæ" against St. Augustine (c. 415). The Bishop of Hippo himself very soon afterwards (421) claimed Chrysostom for the Catholic teaching in his controversy with Julian of Eclanum, who had opposed to him a passage of Chrysostom (from the "Hom. ad Neophytos", preserved only in Latin) as being against original sin (see Chrys. Baur, "L'entrée littéraire de St. Jean Chrys. dans le monde latin" in the "Revue d'histoire ecclés.", VIII, 1907, 249-65). Again, at the time of the Reformation there arose long and acrid discussions as to whether Chrysostom was a Protestant or a Catholic, and these polemics have never wholly ceased. It is true that Chrysostom has some strange passages on our Blessed Lady (see Newman, "Certain difficulties felt by Anglicans in Catholic Teachings", London, 1876, pp. 130 sqq.), that he seems to ignore private confession to a priest, that there is no clear and any direct passage in favour of the primacy of the pope. But it must be remembered that all the respective passages contain nothing positive against the actual Catholic doctrine. On the other side Chrysostom explicitly acknowledges as a rule of faith tradition (XI, 488), as laid down by the authoritative teaching of the Church (I, 813). This Church, he says, is but one, by the unity of her doctrine (V, 244; XI, 554); she is spread over the whole world, she is the one Bride of Christ (III, 229, 403; V, 62; VIII, 170). As to Christology, Chrysostom holds clearly that Christ is God and man in one person, but he never enters into deeper examination of the manner of this union. Of great importance is his doctrine regarding the Eucharist. There cannot be the slightest doubt that he teaches the Real Presence, and his expressions on the change wrought by the words of the priest are equivalent to the doctrine of transubstantiation (see Naegle, "Die Eucharistielehre des hl. Joh. Chry.", 74 sq.).

A complete analysis and critique of the enormous literature on Chrysostom (from the sixteenth century to the twentieth) is given in BAUR, S. Jean Chrysostome et ses oeuvres dans l'histoire litt raire (Paris and Louvain, 1907), 223-297.

(1) LIFE OF CHRYSOSTOM. (a) Sources. -- PALLADIUS, Dialogue cum Theodoro, Ecclesioe Romanoe Diacono, de vit et conversatione b. Joh. Chrysostomi(written c. 408; best source; ed. BIGOT, Paris, 1680; P.G., XLVII, 5-82) MARTYRIUS, Panegyricus in S. Joh. Chrysostomum (written c. 408; ed. P.G., loc. cit., XLI-LII); SOCRATES, Hist. Eccl., VI, 2-23, and VII, 23, 45 (P.G., LXVII, 661 sqq.); SOZOMENUS, Hist. eccl., VIII, 2-28 (P.G.,ibid., 1513 sqq.), more complete than Socrates, on whom he is dependent; THEODORET, Hist. eccl., V, 27-36; P.G., LXXXII, 1256-68, not always reliable; ZOSIMUS, V, 23-4 (ed. BEKKER, p. 278-80, Bonn. 1837), not trustworthy.

(b) Later Authors. -- THEODORE OF THRIMITUS, (P.G., XLVII, col. 51-88), without value, written about the end of the seventh century; (PSEUDO-) GEORGIUS ALEXANDRINUS, ed. SAVILE, Chrys. opera omnia (Eton, 1612), VIII, 157-265 (8th - 9th century); LEO IMPERATOR, Laudatio Chrys. (P.G., CVII, 228 sqq.); ANONYMUS, (ed. SAVILE, loc. cit., 293-371); SYMEON METAPHRASTES, (P.G., CXIV, 1045-1209).

(c) Modern Biographies. -- English: STEPHENS, Saint John Chrysostom, his life and times, a sketch of the Church and the empire in the fourth century (London, 1871; 2nd ed., London, 1880), the best English biography, but it anglicanizes the doctrine of Chrysostom; BUSH, The Life and Times of Chrysostom (London, 1885), a popular treatise. French: HERMANT, La Vie de Saint Jean Chrysostome . . . divis e en 12 livres (Paris, 1664; 3rd ed., Paris, 1683), the first scientific biography; DE TILLEMONT, M moires pour servir l'histoire eccl siastique des six premiers si cles, XI, 1-405, 547-626 (important for the chronology); STILTING, De S. Jo. Chrysostomo . . . Commentarius historicus in Acta SS., IV, Sept., 401-700 (1st ed., 1753), best scientific biography in Latin; THIERRY, S. Jean Chrysostome et l'imp ratrice Eudoxie (Paris, 1872; 3rd ed., Paris, 1889), "more romance than history"; PUECH, Saint Jean Chrysostome (Paris, 1900); 5th ed., Paris, 1905), popular and to be read with caution. German: NEANDER, Der hl. Joh. Chrysostomus und die Kirche, besonders des Orients, in dessen Zeitalter, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1821 - 22; 4th ed., Berlin 1858); first vol., translated into English by STAPLETON (London, 1838), gives an account of the doctrine of Chrysostom with Protestant views; LUDWIG, Der hl. Joh. Chrys. in seinem Verh liniss zum byzantinischen Hof. (Braunsberg, 1883), scientific. Chrysostom as orator: ALBERT, S. Jean Chrysostome consid r comme orateur populaire (Paris, 1858); ACKERMANN, Die Beredsamkeit des hl. Joh. Chrys. (W rzburg, 1889); cf. WILLEY, Chrysostom: The Orator (Cincinnati, 1908), popular essay.

(2) CHRYSOSTOM'S WRITINGS. (a) Chronology. -- See TILLEMONT, STILTING, MONTFAUCON, Chrys. Opera omnia; USENER, Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, I (Bonn, 1889), 514-40; RAUSCHEN, Jahrb cher der christl. Kirche unter dem Kaiser Theodosius dem Grossen (Freiburg im Br., 1897), 251-3, 277-9, 495-9; BATIFFOL, Revue bibl., VIII, 566-72; PARGOIRE, Echos d'Orient, III 151-2; E. SCHARTZ, J dische und chrisl. Ostertafeln (Berlin, 1905), 169-84.

(b) Authenticity. -- HAIDACHER, Zeitschr. f r Kath. Theologie, XVIII-XXXII; IDEM, Deshl. Joh. Chrys. Buchlein ber Hoffart u. Kindererziehung (Freiburg, im Br., 1907).

(3) CHRYSOSTOM'S DOCTRINE. MAYERUS, Chrysostomus Lutheranus (Grimma, 1680: Wittenberg, 1686); HACKI, D. Jo. Chrysostomus . . . a Lutheranismo . . . vindicatus (Oliva, 1683); F RSTER, Chrysostomus in seinem Verh ltniss zur antiochen. Schule (Gotha, 1869); CHASE, Chrysostom, A Study in the History of Biblical Interpretation (London, 1887); HAIDACHER, Die Lehre des hl. Joh. Chrys. ber die Schriftinspiration (Salzburg, 1897); CHAPMAN, St. Chrysostom on St. Peter in Dublin Review (1903), 1-27; NAEGLE, Die Eucharistielehre des hl. Johannes Chrysostomus, des Doctor Eucharisti (Freiburg im Br., 1900).

(4) EDITIONS. (a) Complete. -- SAVILE (Eton, 1612), 8 volumes (the best text); DUCAEUS, (Paris, 1609-1636), 12 vols.; DE MONTFAUCON, (Paris, 1718-1738), 13 vols.; MIGNE, P.G., XLVII - LXIII.

(b) Partial. -- FIELD, Homilies in Matth. (Cambridge, 1839), 3 vols., best actual text reprinted in MIGNE, LVII - LVIII; IDEM, Homilioe in omnes epistolas Pauli (Oxford, 1845-62), VII. The last critical edition of the De Sacerdotio was edited by NAIRN (Cambridge, 1906). There exist about 54 complete editions (in five languages), 86 percent special editions of De Sacerdotio (in twelve languages), and the whole number of all (complete and special) editions is greatly over 1000. The oldest editions are the Latin; of which forty-six different incunabula editions (before the year 1500) exist. See DIODORUS OF TARSUS, METETIUS OF ANTIOCH, ORIGENISTS, PALLADIUS, THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII
Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910, Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

Prayer to Saint John Chrysostom

Dear Saint John, your oratorical gifts inspired thousands and earned you the name "golden-mouthed." Continue to inspire Christians through your writings and grant us a rebirth of Christian preaching for the spiritual renewal of the Church. Obtain from God preachers like yourself who, animated by the Holy Spirit, deserve to be called other Christs and forcefully preach the Good News. Amen.

Prayer to Jesus before Holy Communion

O Lord, my God, I am not worthy that you should come into my soul, but I am glad that you have come to me because in your loving kindness you desire to dwell in me. You ask me to open the door of my soul, which you alone have created, so that you may enter into it with your loving kindness and dispel the darkness of my mind. I believe that you will do this for you did not turn away Mary Magdalene when she approached you in tears. Neither did you withhold forgiveness from the tax collector who repented of his sins or from teh good thief who asked to be received into your kingdom. Indeed, you numbered as your friends all who came to you with repentant hearts. O God, you alone are blessed always, now, and forever.

St John Chrysostom, Bishop, Orator, Doctor

Saint John Fisher

Feast Day: June 22nd

[Saint John Fisher]

"Had you but tasted one drop of the sweetness which inebriates the souls of those religious from their worship of this Sacrament, you would never have written as you have, nor have apostatized from the faith that you formerly professed.

--John Fisher, writing to the bishop of Winchester

 

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    The son of a textile merchant who died while John was still a boy, Saint John Fisher was a Catholic of high ideals. He was equally distinguished as a humanistic scholar, a fosterer of sound learning in others, and a faithful bishop. Educated at Michaelhouse at Cambridge (since merged into Trinity) from age 14, forever afterwards he was connected with the life of the university. Fisher was ordained a priest under a special dispensation at the age of 22. He became a doctor of divinity, master of Michaelhouse, and vice chancellor.

    In 1502, he resigned his mastership to become the chaplain of the king's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, countess of Richmond and Derby. Under his direction, Lady Margaret founded Christ's College and Saint John's College at Cambridge, and established there and at Oxford a Lady Margaret divinity chair. Because of this and other princely gifts, she has come to be regarded as Cambridge's greatest benefactress.

    Fisher's contributions have not been as readily recognized. He was the first to fill the divinity chair at Cambridge. But more important than that, he himself endowed scholarships, provided for Greek and Hebrew in the curriculum, and engaged his friend, the famous humanist, Erasmus as a professor of divinity and Greek at a time was the school's scholarship was at its lowest ebb. Before that no Greek or Hebrew was taught, and the library had been reduced to 300 volumes. In 1504, Fisher was elected chancellor of the university. As such he did much to further the growth and progress of his alma mater, of which he may justly be considered the second founder.

    John Fisher lived in the last days of Catholic England and reached high office under Henry VII. After serving as chaplain to his patron Margaret Beaufort, he was appointed bishop of Rochester in 1504. He was only 35 years old, young to be a bishop. He accepted the office warily, as it added greatly to his responsibilities (he was still university chancellor until his death). It was the smallest and poorest diocese in England, but so great was his love for it that, later, he refused the richer sees of Ely and Lincoln, saying he "would not leave his poor old wife for the richest widow in England." The climate was so damp and the state of his palace so ruinous that Erasmus, when staying with him, was appalled; yet for 30 years Fisher chose to remain there and was one of the most faithful of the English bishops of the period.

    Fisher was a zealous and thorough pastor. He regularly made visitations, administered confirmation, disciplined his clergy, visited the sick poor, and distributed alms with his own hands. His personal life was strict and simple. "He kept a good table for every one but himself." He was such an articulate preacher that when King Henry VII died in 1509, he preached the funeral sermon, as he did for Lady Margaret in her turn.

    He discharged his public offices with dignity and courage. His reputation both at home and abroad was that of a great and distinguished figure. In the words of Erasmus: "There is not in the nation a more learned man nor a holier bishop." Henry VIII, before Fisher had roused his vindictive rage, openly gloried "that no other prince or kingdom had so distinguished a prelate."

    During this time, he continued to write books and pursue his own studies, beginning to learn Greek at age 48, and Hebrew at 51. Fisher lived austerely, sleeping and eating little, and he kept a skull in front of him at meals to remind himself of his mortality. He formed one of the most exceptional libraries in Europe with the intention of bequeathing it to the university.

    Fisher fully realized the urgent need of reform in the church, from popes and bishops downwards, but was opposed to Lutheran ideas of reform and wrote four weighty volumes against them. He preached at Paul's Cross in defense of Christian doctrine when Luther's books were banned and burned. Yet he preferred prayer and example before controversy.

    With the utmost boldness and not without justification, Fisher censured the clergy at a synod in the presence of Cardinal Wolsey himself for their corruption, vanity, laxity, and love of gain. Most of the higher clergy had won their preferments through secular service to the state or by private interest. As a member of the House of Lords, Fisher vigorously opposed the government's policy of war and criticized the measures against the clergy that were being forced through the Commons. He uttered another great protest in convocation when that assembly was called upon to agree that Henry VIII was the head of the Church of England. He did suggest adding to the oath the words, "So far as the law of Christ allows" which smoothed the path of many who signed. But boldest of all was his uncompromising attitude to the scandalous divorce of Catherine of Aragon by Henry.

    As Queen Catherine's confessor, he appeared on her behalf before the commissioners at Blackfriars in 1529 and also spoke and wrote vigorously against it. This infuriated the king and when, later, Fisher refused to take the Oath of Supremacy acknowledging the king to be head of the English Church, he was deprived of his bishopric and committed to the Tower.

    The warnings of friends and the threats of his enemies were not necessary to bring home to Fisher the danger he now ran by his opposition to the ruling powers. Despite being imprisoned for two short periods, and being the object of poisoning and a shooting attempt, Fisher persisted in espousing his views. Thomas Cromwell unsuccessfully tried to link him with Elizabeth Barton, the 'Holy Maid of Kent,' a nun who had trances and made personal attacks upon Henry for trying to divorce the queen.

    He was summoned to Lambeth, despite being so ill that he fainted on the road between Rochester and London, to sign the oath of the bill of succession. He refused, because it was in essence an oath of supremacy. He was at Rochester at the time he was arrested, and from the country round people flocked into the city to bid him farewell. After settling his affairs and making gifts to the poor, he rode bareheaded through the streets giving his blessing to the crowd.

    On his arrival in London, when confronted with the Oath he replied: "My answer is that forasmuch as mine own conscience cannot be satisfied, I do absolutely refuse the Oath. I do not condemn any other men's consciences. Their consciences may save them, and mine must save me." In April 1534, the 66-year-old prelate began a 15- month imprisonment in the Tower of London, his property was confiscated, and he was stripped of his offices. A confidential messenger from Henry asked him to declare, for the king's ears alone, his opinion on royal supremacy. His negative opinion sealed his conviction.

    During this time Pope Paul III named him a cardinal. King Henry was furious, and within a month Fisher was brought to trial in Westminster Hall, charged with treason in that he had denied the king's ecclesiastical supremacy and found guilty. Some of the judges cried as "the most holy and learned prelate in Christendom" was sentenced to death on June 17, 1535.

    On a June morning a few days later, John was awakened at 5:00 a.m. and told that he was to be executed that day. He asked to rest a little longer and slept for two hours. So frail and emaciated by illness that he could barely stand, Fisher was carried in a chair from the Tower to the place of execution.

    He courteously thanked his guards for their attentive trouble and pains. Saying that he was dying for he faith, he asked the people to pray that he might have courage. He carried his little New Testament, and at Tower Gate opened it at the words: "This is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. I have glorified Thee upon the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do" (John 17:3- 5).

    Closing the book, he said: "Here is learning enough for me to my life's end." As he mounted the scaffold, facing the morning sun, he lifted his hands and cried: "They had an eye unto Him, and were lightened; and their faces were not ashamed." Then kneeling in prayer, he repeated Psalm 31, In Thee, O Lord, have I put my trust (others say that he died with the words of the Te Deum on his lips), and was beheaded with an axe.

    His friend Thomas More wrote of Saint John of Rochester: "I reckon in this realm no one man, in wisdom, learning, and long approved virtue together, meet to be matched and compared with him." John Fisher was buried in the churchyard of All Hallows, Barking, without rites or a shroud. His head was exhibited on London Bridge for two weeks, then was thrown into the Thames (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Gill, Hughes, Reynolds, Surtz, Walsh, White).

Prayers

Prayer for Holy Bishops by Saint John Fisher

"Lord, according to Thy promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost. So, good Lord, do now in like manner with Thy Church militant. Change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stones. Set in Thy Church strong and mighty pillars that may suffer and endure great labors — watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold and heat — which also shall not fear the threatenings of princes, persecution, neither death, but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments, for the glory and laud of Thy Holy Name. By this manner, good Lord, the truth of Thy Gospel shall be preached throughout the world. Therefore, merciful Lord, exercise Thy mercy, show it indeed upon Thy Church."

This prayer was spoken by Saint John Fisher in a sermon in 1508. Twenty-seven years later he underwent martyrdom on Tower Hill in London during the reign of Henry VIII

Prayer II

Oh St. John, glorious defender of the Catholic Faith, you were willing to endure ridicule, torture and martyrdom at the hands of Henry VIII rather than renounce your loyalty to the bishop of Rome. For the sake of the True Church of Jesus Christ you were taken from the luxury of thekingly courts to the poverty of prison where you were given a martyr’s death.

 

Holy St. John, of whom St .Thomas More said “I reckon in this realm no one man, in wisdom, learning, and long approved virtue together, meet to be matched and compared with him”, pray for us to Our Heavenly Father, that we may be given the graces to always stand for the truth, even in the face of the strongest hardships. Through the merits of St. John Fisher, may we put Christ first, even before friends, family, and all worldly affections. We ask this through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.  

 

V. Pray for us St. John Fisher

R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 

Prayer by Mark Visconti, Community of Hope 2006

Speech

From the speech made by Pope Pius XI when promulgating the Decree of Canonization of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More: March 3rd, 1935:

" God might have seemed to have forgotten His servants for four long centuries. But this providential canonization reminds us that God is Master of the centuries, and that when He seems to allow darkness to fall, His providence is all the while preparing the splendors of the light. In these black days when many countries are the scene of a determined attempt to destroy the works of God; in these black days when all the interest and needs of man, religious, cultural, economic, are threatened on every side; In these black days, John Fisher and Thomas More return to earth, bidding us to be a good cheer. God is still Master of the centuries and His paths still lead onward toward the light.".. Pope Pius XI

St. John Marie Vianney

Feast Day: August 8th

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Litany in honor of St. John Vianney

Sermons and Teachings of St. John Vianney

 

 

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Curé of Ars, born at Dardilly, near Lyons, France, on May 8, 1786; died at Ars, August 4, 1859; son of Matthieu Vianney and Marie Beluze.

    In 1806, the curé at Ecully, M. Balley, opened a school for ecclesiastical students, and Jean-Marie was sent to him. Though he was of average intelligence and his masters never seem to have doubted his vocation, his knowledge was extremely limited, being confined to a little arithmetic, history, and geography, and he found learning, especially the study of Latin, excessively difficult. One of his fellow-students, Matthias Loras, afterwards first Bishop of Dubuque, assisted him with his Latin lessons.

    But now another obstacle presented itself. Young Vianney was drawn in the conscription, the war with Spain and the urgent need of recruits having caused Napoleon to withdraw the exemption enjoyed by the ecclesiastical students in the diocese of his uncle, Cardinal Fesch. Matthieu Vianney tried unsuccessfully to procure a substitute, so his son was obliged to go. His regiment soon received marching orders. The morning of departure, Jean-Baptiste went to church to pray, and on his return to the barracks found that his comrades had already left. He was threatened with arrest, but the recruiting captain believed his story and sent him after the troops. At nightfall he met a young man who volunteered to guide him to his fellow-soldiers, but led him to Noes, where some deserters had gathered. The mayor persuaded him to remain there, under an assumed name, as schoolmaster. After fourteen months, he was able to communicate with his family. His father was vexed to know that he was a deserter and ordered him to surrender but the matter was settled by his younger brother offering to serve in his stead and being accepted.

    Jean-Baptiste now resumed his studies at Ecully. In 1812, he was sent to the seminary at Verrieres; he was so deficient in Latin as to be obliged to follow the philosophy course in French. He failed to pass the examinations for entrance to the seminary proper, but on re-examination three months later succeeded. On 13 August, 1815, he was ordained priest by Mgr. Simon, Bishop of Grenoble. His difficulties in making the preparatory studies seem to have been due to a lack of mental suppleness in dealing with theory as distinct from practice -- a lack accounted for by the meagerness of his early schooling, the advanced age at which he began to study, the fact that he was not of more than average intelligence, and that he was far advanced in spiritual science and in the practice of virtue long before he came to study it in the abstract. He was sent to Ecully as assistant to M. Balley, who had first recognized and encouraged his vocation, who urged him to persevere when the obstacles in his way seemed insurmountable, who interceded with the examiners when he failed to pass for the higher seminary, and who was his model as well as his preceptor and patron. In 1818, after the death of M. Balley, M. Vianney was made parish priest of Ars, a village not very far from Lyons. It was in the exercise of the functions of the parish priest in this remote French hamlet that as the "curé d'Ars" he became known throughout France and the Christian world. A few years after he went to Ars, he founded a sort of orphanage for destitute girls. It was called "The Providence" and was the model of similar institutions established later all over France. M. Vianney himself instructed the children of "The Providence" in the catechism, and these catechetical instructions came to be so popular that at last they were given every day in the church to large crowds. "The Providence" was the favorite work of the "curé d'Ars", but, although it was successful, it was closed in 1847, because the holy curé thought that he was not justified in maintaining it in the face of the opposition of many good people. Its closing was a very heavy trial to him.

    But the chief labor of the Curé d'Ars was the direction of souls. He had not been long at Ars when people began coming to him from other parishes, then from distant places, then from all parts of France, and finally from other countries. As early as 1835, his bishop forbade him to attend the annual retreats of the diocesan clergy because of "the souls awaiting him yonder". During the last ten years of his life, he spent from sixteen to eighteen hours a day in the confessional. His advice was sought by bishops, priests, religious, young men and women in doubt as to their vocation, sinners, persons in all sorts of difficulties and the sick. In 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached twenty thousand a year. The most distinguished persons visited Ars for the purpose of seeing the holy curé and hearing his daily instruction. The Venerable Father Colin was ordained deacon at the same time, and was his life-long friend, while Mother Marie de la Providence founded the Helpers of the Holy Souls on his advice and with his constant encouragement. His direction was characterized by common sense, remarkable insight, and supernatural knowledge. He would sometimes divine sins withheld in an imperfect confession. His instructions were simple in language, full of imagery drawn from daily life and country scenes, but breathing faith and that love of God which was his life principle and which he infused into his audience as much by his manner and appearance as by his words, for, at the last, his voice was almost inaudible.

    The miracles recorded by his biographers are of three classes:

bulletfirst, the obtaining of money for his charities and food for his orphans;
bulletsecondly, supernatural knowledge of the past and future;
bulletthirdly, healing the sick, especially children.

    The greatest miracle of all was his life. He practiced mortification from his early youth. and for forty years his food and sleep were insufficient, humanly speaking, to sustain life. And yet he labored incessantly, with unfailing humility, gentleness, patience, and cheerfulness, until he was more than seventy-three years old.

    On October3 , 1874 Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney was proclaimed Venerable by Pius IX and on January 8, 1905, he was enrolled among the Blessed. Pope Pius X proposed him as a model to the parochial clergy.

 

The Litany of St. John Vianney, the Curé of Ars

Lord, have mercy on us, Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us, Christ, hear us, Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God, the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,Pray for us.
Saint John-Mary Vianney,Pray for us.
St. John Vianney, endowed with grace from thine infancy, etc.
St. John Vianney, model of filial piety,
St. John Vianney, devoted servant of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
St. John Vianney, spotless lily of purity,
St. John Vianney, faithful imitator of the sufferings of Christ,
St. John Vianney, abyss of humility,
St. John Vianney, seraph of prayer,
St. John Vianney, faithful adorer of the Most Blessed Sacrament,
St. John Vianney, ardent lover of holy poverty,
St. John Vianney, true son of St. Francis of Assisi,
St. John Vianney, exemplary Franciscan tertiary,
St. John Vianney, tender friend of the poor,
St. John Vianney, penetrated with the fear of God's judgment,
St. John Vianney, fortified by divine visions,
St. John Vianney, who was tormented by the evil spirit,
St. John Vianney, perfect model of sacerdotal virtue,
St. John Vianney, firm and prudent pastor,
St. John Vianney, inflamed with zeal,
St. John Vianney, faithful attendant on the sick,
St. John Vianney, indefatigable catechist,
St. John Vianney, who didst preach in words of fire,
St. John Vianney, wise director of souls,
St. John Vianney, specially gifted with the spirit of counsel,
St. John Vianney, enlightened by light from Heaven,
St. John Vianney, formidable to Satan,
St. John Vianney, compassionate with every misery,
St. John Vianney, providence of the orphans,
St. John Vianney, favored with the gift of miracles,
St. John Vianney, who didst reconcile so many sinners to God,
St. John Vianney, who didst confirm so many of the just in the way of virtue,
St. John Vianney, who didst taste the sweetness of death,
St. John Vianney, who dost now rejoice in the glory of Heaven,
St. John Vianney, who givest joy to those who invoke thee,
St. John Vianney, heavenly patron of parish priests,
St. John Vianney, model and patron of directors of souls,
 
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.


Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

V
. Pray for us, blessed Jean-Marie Vianney,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let Us Pray.

Almighty and merciful God, Who didst bestow upon blessed
John Mary Vianney
wonderful pastoral zeal and a great fervor for
prayer and penance, grant, we beseech Thee, that by his example and
intercession we may be able to gain the souls of our brethren for
Christ, and with them attain to everlasting glory, through the same
Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee
and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.
R. Amen.

Sermons and Teachings of St. John Vianney

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1. Salvation 6. Death 11. The Priesthood and Confession
2. Temptations 7. Last Judgment 12. The Bad Death
3. Sin 8. Beware if you have no Temptations 13. Repentance
4. Confession 9. Prisoners of Sin 14. How St. John was tortured by demons
5. Suffering 10. How Blind the Sinner is 15. Catechism of the Priesthood

 

Salvation from the Catechism of St. John Vianney

There are many Christians who do not even know why they are in the world. "O my God, why hast Thou sent me into the world?" "To save your soul." "And why dost Thou wish me to be saved?" "Because I love you."

The good God has created us and sent us into the world because He loves us; He wishes to save us because He loves us. To be saved, we must know, love, and serve God. Oh, what a beautiful life! How good, how great a thing it is to know, to love and serve God! We have nothing else to do in this world. All that we do besides is lost time. We must act only for God, and put our works into His hands. We should say, on awaking, "I desire to do every thing today for Thee, O my God! I will submit to all that Thou shalt send me, as coming from Thee. I offer myself as a sacrifice to Thee. But, O God, I can do nothing without Thee. Do Thou help me!"

Oh, how bitterly shall we regret at the hour of death the time we have given to pleasures, to useless conversations, to repose, instead of having employed it in mortification, in prayer, in good works, in thinking of our poor misery, in weeping over our poor sins; then we shall see that we have done nothing for heaven.

Oh, my children, how sad it is! Three- quarters of those who are Christians labour for nothing but to satisfy this corpse, which will soon be buried and corrupted, while they do not give a thought to their poor soul, which must be happy or miserable for all eternity. They have no sense nor reason: it makes one tremble. Look at that man, who is so active and restless, who makes a noise in the world, who wants to govern every body, who thinks himself of consequence, who seems as if he would like to say to the sun, "Go away, and let me enlighten the world instead of you." Some day this proud man will be reduced at the utmost to a little handful of dust, which will be swept away from river to river, from Saone to Saone, and at last into the sea.

See, my children, I often think that we are like those little heaps of sand that the wind raises on the road, which whirl round for a moment, and are scattered directly. We have brothers and sisters, who are dead. Well, they are reduced to that little handful of dust of which I was speaking. Worldly people say, it is too difficult to save one's soul. Yet nothing is easier. To observe the commandments of God and the Church, and to avoid the seven capital sins; or if you like to put it so, to do good and avoid evil: that is all.

Good Christians, who labour to save their souls and to work out their salvation, are always happy and contented; they enjoy beforehand the happiness of heaven: they will be happy for all eternity. While bad Christians, who lose their souls, are always to be pitied; they murmur, they are sad, they are as miserable as stones; and they will be so for all eternity. See what a difference!

This is a good rule of conduct, to do nothing but what we can offer to the good God. Now, we cannot offer to Him slanders, calumnies, injustice, anger, blasphemy, impurity, theatres, dancing: yet that is all that people do in the world. Speaking of dances, St. Francis of Sales used to say "that they were like mushrooms, the best were good for nothing." Mothers are apt to say indeed, "Oh, I watch over my daughters." They watch over their toilets (dress), but they cannot watch over their hearts. Those who have dances in their houses load themselves with a terrible responsibility before God; they are answerable for all the evil that is done--for the bad thoughts, the slanders, the jealousies, the hatred, the revenge. Ah, if they well understood this responsibility, they would never have any dances. Just like those who make bad pictures and statues, or write bad books, they will have to answer for all the harm that these things will do during all the time they last. Oh, that makes one tremble!

See, my children, we must reflect that we have a soul to save, and an eternity that awaits us. The world, its riches, pleasures, and honors will pass away; heaven and hell will never pass away. Let us take care, then. The saints did not all begin well; but they all ended well. We have begun badly; let us end well, and we shall go one day and meet them in heaven.
 

Sermon of St. John Vianney on Temptations

We are all inclined to sin, my children; we are idle, greedy, sensual, given to the pleasures of the flesh. We want to know every thing, to learn every thing, to see every thing; we must watch over our mind, over our heart, and over our senses, for these are the gates by which the devil penetrates. See, he prowls round us incessantly; his only occupation in this world is to seek companions for himself. All our life he will lay snares for us, he will try to make us yield to temptations; we must, on our side, do all we can to defeat and resist him.

We can do nothing by ourselves, my children; but we can do every thing with the help of the good God; let us pray Him to deliver us from this enemy of our salvation, or to give us strength to fight against him. With the Name of Jesus we shall overthrow the demons; we shall put them to flight. With this Name, if they sometimes dare to attack us, our battles will be victories, and our victories will be crowns for heaven, all brilliant with precious stones.

See, my children, the good God refuses nothing to those who pray to Him from the bottom of their heart. St. Teresa, being one day in prayer, and desiring to see the good God, Jesus Christ showed to the eyes of her soul His divine Hands; then, another day, when she was again in prayer, He showed her His Face. Lastly, some days after, He showed her the whole of His Sacred Humanity.

The good God who granted the desire of St. Teresa will also grant our prayers. If we ask of Him the grace to resist temptations, He will grant it to us; for He wishes to save us all, He shed His Blood for us all, He died for us all, He is waiting for us all in heaven; we are two or three hundred here: shall we all be saved, shall we all go to heaven? Alas! my children, we know nothing about it; but I tremble when I see so many souls lost in these days.

See, they fall into hell as the leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter. We shall fall like the rest, my children, if we do not avoid temptations; if, when we cannot avoid them, we do not fight generously, with the help of the good God,--if we do not invoke His Name during the strife, like St. Antony in the desert. This saint having retired into an old sepulcher, the devil came to attack him; he tried at first to terrify him with a horrible noise; he even beat him so cruelly, that he left him half dead and covered with wounds. " Well," said St. Antony, " here I am, ready to fight again; no, thou shalt not be able to separate me from Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God." The spirits of darkness redoubled their efforts, and uttered frightful cries. St. Antony remained unmoved, because he put all his confidence in God. After the example of this saint, my children, let us be always ready for the combat; let us put our confidence in God; let us fast and pray; and the devil will not be able to separate us from Jesus Christ, either in this world or the next.
 

Sermon of St. John Vianney on Sin

Sin is a thought, a word, an action, contrary to the law of God. By sin, my children, we rebel against the good God, we despise His justice, we tread under foot His blessings. From being children of God, we become the executioner and assassin of our soul, the offspring of hell, the horror of heaven, the murderer of Jesus Christ, the capital enemy of the good God.

O my children! if we thought of this, if we reflected on the injury which sin offers to the good God, we should hold it in abhorrence, we should be unable to commit it; but we never think of it, we like to live at our ease, we slumber in sin. If the good God sends us remorse, we quickly stifle it, by thinking that we have done no harm to any body, that God is good, and that He did not place us on the earth to make us suffer.

Indeed, my children, the good God did not place us on the earth to suffer and endure, but to work out our salvation. See; He wills that we should work to-day and to-morrow; and after that, an eternity of joy, of happiness, awaits us in heaven.

O my children! how ungrateful we are! The good God calls us to Himself; He wishes to make us happy for ever, and we are deaf to His word, we will not share His happiness; He enjoins us to love Him, and we give our heart to the devil. The good God commands all nature as its Master; He makes the winds and the storms obey Him; the angels tremble at His adorable will; man alone dares to resist Him.

See; God forbids us that action, that criminal pleasure, that revenge, that injustice; no matter, we are bent upon satisfying ourselves; we had rather renounce the happiness of heaven, than deprive ourselves of a moment's pleasure, or give up a sinful habit, or change our life. What are we, then, that we dare thus to resist God? Dust and ashes, which He could annihilate with a single look.

By sin, my children, we despise the good God. We renew His Death and Passion; we do as much evil as all the Jews together did, in fastening Him to the Cross. Therefore, my children, if we were to ask those who work without necessity on Sunday: "What are you doing there" and they were to answer truly, they would say, "We are crucifying the good God." Ask the idle, the gluttonous, the immodest, what they do every day. If they answer you according to what they are really doing, they will say, "We are crucifying the good God."

O my children! it is very ungrateful to offend a God who has never done us any harm; but is it not the height of ingratitude to offend a God who has done us nothing but good? It is He who created us, who watches over us. He holds us in His hands, like a handful of hair; if He chose, He could cast us into the nothingness out of which he took us. He has given us His Son, to redeem us from the slavery of the devil; He Himself gave Him up to death, that He might restore us to life; He has adopted us as His children, and ceases not to lavish His graces upon us. Notwithstanding all this, what use do we make of our mind, of our memory, of our health, of those limbs which he gave us to serve Him with? We employ them perhaps in committing crimes.

The good God, my children, has given us eyes to enlighten us, to see heaven, and we use them to look at criminal and dangerous objects; He has given us a tongue to praise Him, and to express our thoughts, and we make it an instrument of iniquity,--we swear, we blaspheme, we speak ill of our neighbor, we slander him; we abuse the supernatural graces, we stifle the salutary remorse, by which God would convert us; we reject the inspirations of our good guardian angel.

We despise good thoughts, we neglect prayer and the Sacraments. What account do we make even of the Word of God? Do we not listen to it with disgust? How miserable we are! How much we are to be pitied! We employ in losing our souls the time that the good God has given us to save them in. We make war upon Him with the means He has given us to serve Him; we turn His own gifts against Him!

Let us cast our eyes, my children, upon Jesus fastened to the Cross, and let us say to ourselves, " This is what it has cost my Saviour to repair the injury my sins have done to God." A God coming down to the earth to be the victim of our sins! A God suffering, a God dying, a God enduring every torment, because He has put on the semblance of sin, and has chosen to bear the weight of our iniquities!

Ah! my children, at the sight of that Cross, let us conceive once for all the malice of sin, and the abhorrence in which we should hold it. Let us enter into ourselves, and see what we ought to do to repair our past sins; let us implore the clemency of the good God, and let us all together say to Him, from the bottom of our heart, " O Lord, who art here crucified for us, have mercy upon us! Thou comest down from heaven to cure souls of sin; cure us, we beseech Thee; cause our souls to be purified by approaching the tribunal of penance; yes, O God! make us look upon sin as the greatest of all evils, and by our zeal in avoiding it, and in repairing those we have had the misfortune to commit, let us one day attain to the happiness of the saints."

 

Confession from the Catechism of St. John Vianney

My children, as soon as ever you have a little spot upon your soul, you must do like a person who has a fine globe of glass, which he keeps very carefully. If this globe has a little dust on it, he wipes it with a sponge the moment he perceives it, and there is the globe clear and brilliant. In the same way, as soon as you perceive a little stain on your soul, take some holy water with respect, do one of those good works to which the remission of venial sins is attached--an alms, a genuflection to the Blessed Sacrament, hearing a Mass.

My children, it is like a person who has a slight illness; he need not go and see a doctor, he may cure himself without. If he has a headache, he need only go to bed; if he is hungry, he has only to eat. But if it is a serious illness, if it is a dangerous wound, he must have the doctor; after the doctor come the remedies. In the same way, when we have fallen into any grievous sin, we must have recourse to the doctor, that is the priest; and to the remedy, that is confession.

My children, we cannot comprehend the goodness of God towards us in instituting this great Sacrament of Penance. If we had had a favor to ask of our Lord, we should never have thought of asking Him that. But He foresaw our frailty and our inconstancy in welldoing, and His love induced Him to do what we should not have dared to ask.

If one said to those poor lost souls that have been so long in hell, " We are going to place a priest at the gate of hell : all those who wish to confess have only to go out," do you think, my children, that a single one would remain? The most guilty would not be afraid of telling their sins, nor even of telling them before all the world. Oh, how soon hell would be a desert, and how heaven would be peopled! Well, we have the time and the means which those poor lost souls have not. And I am quite sure that these wretched ones say in hell, " O accursed priest, if I had never known you, I should not be so guilty!"

It is a beautiful thought, my children, that we have a Sacrament which heals the wounds of our soul! But we must receive it with good dispositions. Otherwise we make new wounds upon the old ones. What would you say of a man covered with wounds, who is advised to go to the hospital to show himself to the surgeon? The surgeon cures him by giving him remedies. But, behold! this man takes his knife, gives himself great blows with it, and makes himself worse than he was before. Well, that is what you often do after leaving the confessional.

My children, some people make bad confessions without taking any notice of it. These persons say, " I do not know what is the matter with me." They are tormented, and they do not know why. They have not that agility which makes one go straight to the good God; they have something heavy and weary about them which fatigues them. My children, that is because of sins that remain, often even venial sins, for which one has some affection. There are some people who, indeed, tell every thing, but they have no repentance; and they go at once to Holy Communion. Thus the Blood of our Lord is profaned! They go to the Holy Table with a sort of weariness. They say, " Yet, I accused myself of all my sins. I do not know what is the matter with me." There is an unworthy communion, and they were hardly aware of it!

My children, some people again profane the Sacraments in another manner. They have concealed mortal sins for ten years, for twenty years. They are always uneasy; their sin is always present to their mind; they are always thinking of confessing it, and always putting it off; it is a hell. When these people feel this, they will ask to make a general confession, and they will tell their sins as if they had just committed them; they will not confess that they have hidden them during ten years--twenty years. That is a bad confession! They ought to say, besides, that they had given up the practice of their religion, that they no longer felt the pleasure they had formerly in serving the good God.

My children, we run the risk again of profaning the Sacrament, if we seize the moment when there is a noise round the confessional to tell the sins quickly which give us most pain. We quiet ourselves by saying, " I accused myself properly; so much the worse if the confessor did not hear." So much the worse for you who acted cunningly! At other times we speak quickly, profiting by the moment when the priest is not very attentive to get over the great sins.

Take a house which has been for a long time very dirty and neglected--it is in vain to sweep it out, there will always be a nasty smell. It is the same with our soul after confession; it requires tears to purify it. My children, we must ask earnestly for repentance. After confession, we must plant a thorn in our heart, and never lose sight of our sins. We must do as the angel did to St. Francis of Assisi; he fixed in him five darts, which never came out again.
 

Suffering from the Catechism of St. John Vianney

Whether we will or not, we must suffer. There are some who suffer like the good thief, and others like the bad thief. They both suffered equally. But one knew how to make his sufferings meritorious; he accepted them in the spirit of reparation, and turning towards Jesus crucified, he received from His mouth these beautiful words: "This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise. "The other, on the contrary, cried out, uttered imprecations and blasphemies, and expired in the most frightful despair.

There are two ways of suffering--to suffer with love, and to suffer without love. The saints suffered every thing with joy, patience, and perseverance, because they loved. As for us, we suffer with anger, vexation, and weariness, because we do not love. If we loved God, we should love crosses, we should wish for them, we should take pleasure in them. We should be happy to be able to suffer for the love of Him who lovingly suffered for us. Of what do we complain? Alas! the poor infidels, who have not the happiness of knowing God and His infinite loveliness, have the same crosses that we have; but they have not the same consolations.

You say it is hard? No, it is easy, it is consoling, it is sweet; it is happiness. Only we must love while we suffer, and suffer while we love.

On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children, only the first step is painful. Our greatest cross, is the fear of crosses. We have not the courage to carry our cross, and we are very much mistaken; for, whatever we do, the cross holds us tight--we cannot escape from it. What, then, have we to lose? Why to love our crosses, and make use of them to take us to heaven? But, on the contrary, most men turn their backs upon crosses, and fly before them. The more they run, the more the cross pursues them, the more it strikes and crushes them with burdens. If you were wise, you would go to meet it like St. Andrew, who said, when he saw the cross prepared for him and raised up into the air, "Hail, O good cross! O admirable cross! O desirable cross! receive me into thy arms, withdraw me from among men, and restore me to my Master, who redeemed me through thee."

Listen attentively to this, my children: He who goes to meet the cross, goes in the opposite direction to crosses; he meets them, perhaps, but he is pleased to meet them; he loves them; he carries them courageously. They unite him to our Lord; they purify him; they detach him from this world; they remove all obstacles from his heart; they help him to pass through life, as a bridge helps us to pass over water. Look at the saints; when they were not persecuted, they persecuted themselves. A good religious complained one day to our Lord that he was persecuted. He said, "O Lord, what have I done to be treated thus? "Our Lord answered him, "And I, what had I done when I was led to Calvary?" Then the religious understood; he wept, he asked pardon, and dared not complain any more.

Worldly people are miserable when they have crosses, and good Christians are miserable when they have none. The Christian lives in the midst of crosses, as the fish lives in the sea.

Look at St. Catherine; she has two crowns, that of purity and that of martyrdom: how happy she is, that dear little saint, to have chosen to suffer rather than to consent to sin! There was once a religious who loved suffering so much, that he had fastened the rope from a well round his body; this cord had rubbed off the skin, and had by degrees buried itself in the flesh, out of which worms came. The religious asked that he should be sent out of the community. He went away happy and pleased, to hide himself in a rocky cavern. But the same night the superior heard our Lord saying to him: "Thou hast lost the treasure of thy house." Then they went to fetch back this good saint, and they wanted to see from whence these worms came. The superior had the cords taken off, which was done by turning back the flesh. At last he got well.

Very near this, in a neighboring parish, there was a little boy in bed covered with sores, very ill, and very miserable; I said to him, "My poor little child, you are suffering very much!" He answered me, "No, sir; today I do not feel the pain I had yesterday, and to-morrow I shall not suffer from the pain I have now." "You would like to get well?" "No; I was naughty before I was ill, and I might be so again. I am very well as I am." It was vinegar indeed, but there was more oil. We do not understand that, because we are too earthly. Children in whom the Holy Ghost dwells put us to shame.

If the good God sends us crosses, we resist, we complain, we murmur; we are so averse to whatever contradicts us, that we want to be always in a box of cotton: but we ought to be put into a box of thorns. It is by the Cross that we go to heaven. Illnesses, temptations, troubles, are so many crosses which take us to heaven. All this will soon be over. Look at the saints, who have arrived there before us. The good God does not require of us the martyrdom of the body; He requires only the martyrdom of the heart, and of the will. Our Lord is our model; let us take up our cross, and follow Him. Let us do like the soldiers of Napoleon. They had to cross a bridge under the fire of grape-shot; no one dared to pass it. Napoleon took the colours, marched over first, and they all followed. Let us do the same; let us follow our Lord, who has gone before us.

A soldier was telling me one day, that during a battle he had marched for half an hour over dead bodies; there was hardly space to tread upon; the ground was all dyed with blood. Thus on the road of life we must walk over crosses and troubles to reach our true country. The cross is the ladder to heaven. How consoling it is to suffer under the eyes of God, and to be able to say in the evening, at our examination of conscience: "Come, my soul! thou hast had today two or three hours of resemblance to Jesus Christ. Thou hast been scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified with Him!" Oh, what a treasure for the hour of death! How sweet it is to die, when we have lived on the cross!

We ought to run after crosses as the miser runs after money. Nothing but crosses will reassure us at the Day of Judgment. When that day shall come, we shall be happy in our misfortunes, proud of our humiliations, and rich in our sacrifices! If some one said to you, "I should like to become rich; what must I do?" You would answer him, "You must labour." Well, in order to get to heaven, we must suffer. Our Lord shows us the way in the person of Simon the Cyrenian; He calls His friends to carry His cross after Him.

The good God wishes us never to lose sight of the Cross, therefore it is placed every where; by the roadside, on the heights, in the public squares--in order that at the sight of it we may say, "See how God has loved us!" The Cross embraces the world; it is planted at the four corners of the world; there is a share of it for all. Crosses are on the road to heaven like a fine bridge of stone over a river, by which to pass it. Christians who do not suffer, pass this river by a frail bridge, a bridge of wire, always ready to give way under their feet.

He who does not love the Cross may indeed be saved, but with great difficulty: he will be a little star in the firmament. He who shall have suffered and fought for his God will shine like a beautiful sun. Crosses, transformed by the flames of love, are like a bundle of thorns thrown into the fire, and reduced by the fire to ashes. The thorns are hard, but the ashes are soft. Oh, how much sweetness do souls experience that are all for God in suffering! It is like a mixture into which one puts a deal of oil: the vinegar remains vinegar; but the oil corrects its bitterness, and it can scarcely be perceived.

If you put fine grapes into the wine-press, there will come out a delicious juice: our soul, in the wine-press of the Cross, gives out a juice that nourishes and strengthens it. When we have no crosses, we are arid: if we bear them with resignation, we feel a joy, a happiness, a sweetness! it is the beginning of heaven. The good God, the Blessed Virgin, the angels, and the saints, surround us; they are by our side, and see us. The passage to the other life, of the good Christian tried by affliction, is like that of a person being carried on a bed of roses. Thorns give out perfume, and the Cross breathes forth sweetness. But we must squeeze the thorns in our hands, and press the Cross to our heart, that they may give out the juice they contain.

The Cross gave peace to the world; and it must bring peace to our hearts. All our miseries come from our not loving it. The fear of crosses increases them. A cross carried simply, and without those returns of self-love which exaggerate troubles, is no longer a cross. Peaceable suffering is no longer suffering. We complain of suffering! we should have much more reason to complain of not suffering, since nothing makes us more like our Lord than carrying His cross. Oh, what a beautiful union of the soul with our Lord Jesus Christ by the love and the virtue of His Cross! I do not understand how a Christian can dislike the Cross, and fly from it! does he not at the same time fly from Him who has deigned to be fastened to it, and to die for us?

Contradictions bring us to the foot of the Cross, and the Cross to the gate of heaven. That we may get there, we must be trodden upon, we must be set at naught, despised, crushed. There are no happy people in this world but those who enjoy calmness of mind in the midst of the troubles of life: they taste the joy of the children of God. All pains are sweet when we suffer in union with our Lord. To suffer! what does it signify? It is only a moment. If we could go and pass a week in heaven, we should understand the value of this moment of suffering. We should find no cross heavy enough, no trial bitter enough. The Cross is the gift that God makes to His friends.

How beautiful it is to offer ourselves every morning in sacrifice to the good God, and to accept every thing in expiation of our sins! We must ask for the love of crosses; then they become sweet. I tried it for four or five years. I was well calumniated, well contradicted, well knocked about. Oh, I had crosses indeed! I had almost more than I could carry! Then I took to asking for love' of crosses, and I was happy. I said to myself, Truly there is no happiness but in this! We must never think from whence crosses come: they come from God. It is always God who gives us this way of proving our love to Him.

Sermon of St. John Vianney on Death

A day will come, perhaps it is not far off, when we must bid adieu to life, adieu to the world, adieu to our relations, adieu to our friends. When shall we return, my children? Never. We appear upon this earth, we disappear, and we return no more; our poor body, that we take such care of, goes away into dust, and our soul, all trembling, goes to appear before the good God.

When we quit this world, where we shall appear no more, when our last breath of life escapes, and we say our last adieu, we shall wish to have passed our life in solitude, in the depths of a desert, far from the world and its pleasures. We have these examples of repentance before our eyes every day, my children, and we remain always the same. We pass our life gaily, without ever troubling ourselves about eternity. By our indifference to the service of the good God, one would think we were never going to die.

See, my children, some people pass their whole life without thinking of death. It comes, and behold! they have nothing; faith, hope, love, all are already dead within them. When death shall come upon us, of what use will three-quarters of our life have been to us? With what are we occupied the greatest part of our time? Are we thinking of the good God, of our salvation, of our soul?

O my children! what folly is the world! we come into it, we go out of it, without knowing why. The good God places us in it to serve Him, to try if we will love Him and be faithful to His law; and after this short moment of trial, He promises us a recompense. Is it not just that He should reward the faithful servant and punish the wicked one?

Should the Trappist, who has passed his life in lamenting and weeping over his sins, be treated the same as the bad Christian, who has lived in abundance in the midst of all the enjoyments of life? No; certainly not. We are on earth not to enjoy its pleasures, but to labour for our salvation.

Let us prepare ourselves for death; we have not a minute to lose : it will come upon us at the moment when we least expect it; it will take us by surprise. Look at the saints, my children, who were pure; they were always trembling, they pined away with fear; and we, who so often offend the good God,--we have no fears. Life is given us that we may learn to die well, and we never think of it. We occupy ourselves with every thing else. The idea of it often occurs to us, and we always reject it; we put it off to the last moment. O my children! this last moment, how much it is to be feared!

Yet the good God does not wish us to despair; He shows us the good thief, touched with repentance, dying near Him on a cross; but he is the only one; and then see, he dies near the good God. Can we hope to be near Him at our last moment--we who have been far from Him all our life? What have we done to deserve that favor? A great deal of evil, and no good.

There was once a good Trappist Father, who was trembling all over at perceiving the approach of death. Some one said to him," Father, of what then are you afraid?" "Of the judgment of God," he said. "Ah! if you dread the judgment--you who have done so much penance, you who love God so much, who have been so long preparing for death-- what will become of me?"

See, my children, to die well, we must live well; to live well, we must seriously examine ourselves : every evening think over what we have done during the day; at the end of each week review what we have done during the week; at the end of each month review what we have done during the month; at the end of the year, what we have done during the year. By this means, my children, we cannot fail to correct ourselves, and to become fervent Christians in a short time. Then, when death comes, we are quite ready, we are happy to go to Heaven.

Sermon of St. John Vianney on the Last Judgment

Our Catechism tells us, my children, that all men will undergo a particular judgment on the day of their death. No sooner shall we have breathed our last sigh than our soul, without leaving the place where it has expired, will be presented before the tribunal of God. Wherever we may die, God is there to exercise His justice.

The good God, my children, has measured out our years, and of those years that He has resolved to leave us on this earth, He has marked out one which shall be our last; one day which we shall not see succeeded by other days; one hour after which there will be for us no more time. What distance is there between that moment and this?--the space of an instant.

Life, my children, is a smoke, a light vapor; it disappears more quickly than a bird that darts through the air, or a ship that sails on the sea, and leaves no trace of its course! When shall we die? Alas! will it be in a year, in a month?--perhaps tomorrow, perhaps today! May not that happen to us which happens to so many others?

It may be that at a moment when you are thinking of nothing but amusing yourself, you may be summoned to the judgment of God, like the impious Baltasar. What will then be the astonishment of that soul entering on its eternity? Surprised, bewildered, separated thenceforth from its relations and friends, and, as it were, surrounded with Divine light, it will find in its Creator no longer a merciful Father, but an inflexible Judge.
 

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 neighbour 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? St. 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 St. 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, St. 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 St. 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 St. 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 St. 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 rigours, 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 sombre rocks, where I have no other companions than the scorpions and the wild beasts, my spirit still bums 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 pretence 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," St. 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." St. 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.

Prisoners of Sin
by St. John Vianney

If we understood fully what it is to receive the sacraments, we should bring to the reception of them very much better sentiments than those we do. It is true that the greater number of people, in hiding their sins, always keep at the back of their minds the thought of acknowledging them.

Without a miracle, they will not be any the less lost for that.

If you want the reason, it is very easy to give it to you. The more we remain in that terrible state which makes Heaven and earth tremble, the more the Devil takes control of us, the more the grace of God diminishes in us, the more our fear increases, the more our sacrileges multiply, and the more we fall away.

The result is that we put ourselves almost beyond the possibility of returning into favour with God. I will give you a hundred examples of this against one to the contrary. Tell me, my dear brethren, can you even hope that after passing perhaps five or six years in sacrilege, during which you outraged God more than did all the Jews together, you would dare to believe that God is going to give you all the graces which you will need to emerge from this terrible state? You think that notwithstanding the many crimes against Jesus Christ of which you have been guilty, you have only to say: "I am going to give up sin now and all will be over."

Alas, my friends! Who has guaranteed to you that Jesus Christ will not have made to you the same threat He made to the Jews and pronounce the same sentence which He pronounced against them? .... You did not wish to profit by the graces which I wanted to give you; but I will leave you alone, and you will seek Me and you will not find Me, and you will die in your sin! ....

Alas, my dear brethren, our poor souls, once they are in the Devil's hands, will not escape from these as easily as we would like to believe....

Look, my dear brethren, at what the Devil does to mislead us.

When we are committing sin, he represents it to us as a mere trifle. He makes us think that there are a great many others who do much worse than we do. Or again, that as we will be confessing the sin, it will be as easy to say four times as twice.

But once the sin has been committed, he acts in exactly the opposite way. He represents the sin to us as a monstrous thing.

He fills us with such a horror of it that we no longer have the courage to confess it. If we are too frightened to keep the sin hidden, he tells us, to reassure us, that we will confess it at our very next Confession. Subsequently, he tells us that we will not have the courage to do that now, that it would be better to wait for another time to confess it. Take care, my dear brethren; it is only the first step which costs the effort. Once in the prison of the sin, it is very difficult, indeed, to break out of it....

But, you are thinking, I do not really believe that there are many who would be capable of hiding their sins because they would be too much troubled by them. Ah, my dear brethren, if I had to affirm on oath whether there were or were not such people, I would not hesitate to say that there are at least five or six listening to me who are consumed by remorse for their sins and who know that what I say is true. But have patience; you will see them on the day of judgment, and you will recall what I have said to you today. Oh, my God, how shame and fear can hold a Christian soul prisoner in such a terrifying state! Ah, my dear brethren, what are you preparing for yourselves?

You do not dare to make a clean breast of it to your pastor? But is he the only one in the world? Would you not find priests who would have the charity to receive you? Do you think that you would be given too severe a penance? Ah, my children, do not let that stop you! You would be helped; the greater part of it all would be done for you. They would pray for you; they would weep for your sins in order to draw down with greater abundance the mercies of God on you! My friends, have pity on that poor soul which cost Jesus.

Christ so dearly! .... Oh, my God, who will ever understand the blindness of these poor sinners! You have hidden your sin, my child, but it must be known one day, and then in the eyes of the whole universe, while by one word you would have hidden it forever and you would have changed your hell for an eternity of happiness. Alas, that a sacrilege can lead these poor sinners so far. They do not want to die in that state, but they have not the strength to leave it. My God, torment them so greatly that they will not be able to stay there!

How Blind the Sinner Is!
by St. John Vianney

You will protest to me that this was not at all your intention when you started to pray: "The Lord protect me from committing such a horrible thing!" A nice excuse, my friend! So anyone who commits a sin has no intention of losing grace? Yet he cannot help but lose it. Is he less guilty of the sin? Undoubtedly no, because he knows very well that he cannot do such and such an action, or say such and such a thing, without incurring the guilt of mortal sin. The intention of all the damned who now burn in Hell was certainly not to get themselves damned. Are they the less guilty for all that? No, certainly not, because they knew that they would damn themselves by living the way they lived. A sinner who says his prayers with sin in his heart, without the intention of losing grace, has not the intention of mocking and insulting Jesus Christ. It is none the less true, however, that he does mock Him because he knows well that anyone mocks God when he says to Him: "O my God, I love You," while he loves the sin, or, "I will go to Confession." Listen to that for a lie! He is not even thinking of going to Confession or of being converted from his sin.

But, tell me, what is your intention when you come to church or when you say -- as you call it -- your prayers? It is, perhaps you will tell me -- if you have the hardihood to say it -- to perform an act of religion, to give to God the honour and the glory which belong to Him. Oh, horror! Oh, blindness! Oh, impiousness! To wish to honour God by lies -- in other words, to want to honour Him by what will outrage Him. Oh, abomination! To have Jesus Christ on your lips and to have Him crucified in your heart! To join what is most holy to what is most detestable, which is the service of the Devil! Oh, what horror! To offer to God a soul which has already been a thousand times prostituted to the Devil! Oh, my God, how blind the sinner is, and all the more blind in that he does not know himself nor even want to know himself! Was I not right at the beginning to tell you that the prayer of the sinner is nothing other than a tissue of lies and of contradictions? That is so true that the Holy Ghost tells us Himself that the prayer of the sinner who does not wish to renounce his sin is an execration in the eyes of the Lord. You will agree with me that this state is very terrifying and deserving of pity. Very well! Look at how sin blinds one! I say without fear of lying that at least half of those who are listening to me here in this church are in that state. Yet, in fact, is it not true that that does not touch you, but rather that you are bored and that time hangs heavily upon you? You see, my friends, the gloomy abyss to which sin leads a sinner.

To begin with, you know that you have been in sin for six months, or a year, or more, and yet are you not quite contented?

Well yes, you will tell me. That is not difficult to believe, since sin has blurred your vision. You no longer see anything in that state which has hardened your heart so that you no longer feel anything either, and I am just as sure that nothing I have said to you will cause you to think any further about it.

Oh, my God, into what depths does sin lead us! So, you will say, it is of no use saying any more prayers since ours are only insults which we are paying to God. That was not what I wanted you to understand when I told you that your prayers were merely lies. But instead of saying, "My God, I love You," say, "My God, I do not love You, but all I ask is the grace to love You." Instead of saying, "My God, I am very sorry for having offended You," say to Him, "My God, I do not feel any sorrow for my sins, but give me all the sorrow which I ought to have for them." Very far from saying, "My God, I would like to confess my sins," say instead, "My God, I feel myself very much attached to my sins, and it seems to me that I do not want ever to renounce them; give me that horror which I ought to feel for them, so that I may abhor them, detest them, and confess them, so that I may never go back to them!"

O my God, give us, please, that eternal horror of sin, since it is Your enemy, since it was sin that caused Your death, since it robs us of Your friendship, since it separates us from You. O divine Saviour, grant that whenever we come to pray, we shall do so with hearts detached from sin, hearts that love You, and hearts that in speaking to You will speak only the truth! That is the grace, my dear brethren, that I desire for you.
 

Sermon on the Priesthood
from The Little Catechism of the Cure of Ars
by Saint John Vianney 1786-1859

My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It is a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to everyone. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God--a man who is invested with all the powers of God. "Go," said Our Lord to the priest; "as My Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in Heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations. . . . He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me. " When the priest remits sins, he does not say, "God pardons you"; he says, "I absolve you. "At the Consecration, he does not say, "This is the Body of Our Lord;" he says, "This is My Body." St. Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest--always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.

Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, "Go in peace; I pardon you." Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, "What can we do in this church? there is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home. " When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.

When the bell calls you to church, if you were asked, "Where are you going?" you might answer, "I am going to feed my soul. " If someone were to ask you, pointing to the tabernacle, "What is that golden door?" "That is our storehouse, where the true Food of our souls is kept." "Who has the key? Who lays in the provisions? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table?" "The priest." "And what is the Food?" "The precious Body and Blood of Our Lord." O God! O God! how Thou hast loved us! See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world. . . . Someone said, "Does St. Philomena, then, obey the Cure of Ars?" Indeed, she may well obey him, since God obeys him.

If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, "There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul. " At the sight of a church tower, you may say, "What is there in that place?" "The Body of Our Lord." "Why is He there?" "Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass."

What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bad Death
by St. John Vianney

If you ask me what most people understand by a bad death, I will reply: "When a person dies in the prime of life, married, enjoying good health, having wealth in abundance, and leaves children and a wife desolate, there is no doubt but that such a death is very tragic." King Ezechiel said: "What, my God! It is necessary that I die in the midst of my years, in the prime of my life!" And the Prophet-King asks God not to take him in his prime. Others say that to die at the hands of the executioner on the gallows is a bad death. Others say that a sudden death is a bad death, as, for instance, to be killed in some disaster, or to be drowned, or to fall from a high building and be killed. And then some say that the worst thing is to die of some horrible disease, like the plague or some other contagious malady.

And yet, my dear brethren, I am going to tell you that none of these are bad deaths. Provided that a person has lived well, if he dies in his prime, his death will not fail to be valuable in God's eyes. We have many saints who died in the prime of their lives. It is not a bad death, either, to die at the hands of the executioner. All the martyrs died at the hands of executioners.

To die a sudden death is not to die a bad death either, provided one is ready. We have many saints who died deaths of that sort.

St. Simeon was killed by lightning on his pillar. St. Francis de Sales died of apoplexy. Finally, to die of the plague is not a dreadful death. St. Roch and St. Francis Xavier died of it.

But what makes death bad is sin. Ah, this horrible sin which tears and devours at this dread moment! Alas, no matter where the poor, unfortunate sinner looks, he sees only sin and neglected graces! If he lifts his eyes to Heaven, he sees only an angry God, armed with all the fury of His justice, Who is ready to punish him. If he turns his gaze downwards, he sees only Hell and its furies already opening its gates to receive him. Alas! This poor sinner did not want to recognise the justice of God during his life on earth; at this moment, not only does he see it, but he feels it already pressing down upon him. During his lifetime, he was always trying to hide his sins, or at least to make as little of them as possible. But at this moment everything is shown to him as in the broad light of day. He sees now what he should have seen before, what he did not want to see. He would like to weep for his sins, but he has no more time. He scorned God during his lifetime; God now, in His turn, scorns him and abandons him to his despair.

Listen, hardened sinners, you who are wallowing now, with such pleasure, in the slime of your vice, without casting even a thought upon amending your lives, who perhaps will give thought to this only when God has abandoned you, as has happened to people less guilty than you. Yes, the Holy Ghost tells us that sinners in their last moments will gnash their teeth, will be seized by a horrible dread, at the very thought of their sins.

Their iniquities will rise up before them and accuse them.

"Alas!" they will cry at this dread moment, "alas! Of what use is this pride, this vain ostentation, and all those pleasures we have been enjoying in sin? Everything is finished now. We have not a single item of virtue to our credit but have been completely conquered by our evil passions."

This is exactly what happened to the unhappy Antiochus, who, when he fell from his chariot, shattered his whole body.

He experienced such dreadful pain in his entrails that it seemed to him as if someone were tearing them out. The worms started to gnaw at him while he was still alive, and his whole body stank like carrion. Then he began to open his eyes. This is what sinners do -- but too late.

"Ah," he cried, "I realise now that it was the evils which I committed in Jerusalem that are tormenting me now and gnawing at my heart."

His body was consumed by the most frightful sufferings and his spirit with an inconceivable sadness. He got his friends to come to him, thinking that he might find some consolation in them. But no. Abandoned by God, Who gives consolation, he could not find it in others.

"Alas, my friends," he said to them, "I have fallen into a terrible affliction. Sleep has left me. I cannot rest for a single instant. My heart is pierced with grief. To what a terrible state of sadness and anguish I am reduced! It seems that I must die of sorrow, and in a strange country, too. Ah, Lord, pardon me! I will repair all the evil that I have done. I will pay back all I took from the temple in Jerusalem. I will present great gifts to the temple. I will become a Jew. I will observe the Law of Moses. I will go about publicising the omnipotence of God. Ah, Lord, have mercy on me, please!"

But his illness increased, and God, Whom he had scorned during his life, no longer had ears to hear him. He was a proud man, a blasphemer, and despite his urgent prayers, he was not listened to and had to go to Hell.

It is a grievous but a just punishment that sinners, who throughout their lives have spurned all the graces which God has offered them, find no more graces when they would like to profit by them. Alas! The number of people who die thus in the sight of God is great. Alas! That there are so many of these blind people who do not open their eyes until the moment when there are no further remedies for their ills! Yes, my dear brethren, yes, a life of sin and a death of rejection! You are in sin and you do not wish to give it up? No, you say. Very well, my children, you will perish in sin. You will see that in the death of Voltaire, the notorious blasphemer.

Listen carefully and you will see that if we despise God always and if God waits for us during our lives, often, by a just judgment, He will abandon us at the hour of our death, when we would like to return to Him.

The idea that one can live in sin and give it all up one day is one of the Devil's traps which will cause you to lose your soul as it has caused so many others to lose theirs. Voltaire, realising that he was ill, began to reflect upon the state of the sinner who dies with his conscience loaded with sins. He wished to examine his conscience and to see whether God would be willing to pardon him all the sins of his life, which were very great in number. He counted upon the mercy of God, which is infinite, and with this comforting thought in mind, he had brought to him one of those priests whom he had so greatly outraged and calumniated in his writings. He threw himself upon his knees and made a declaration to him of his sins and put into his hands the recantation of all his impieties and his scandals. He began to flatter himself on having achieved the great work of his reconciliation. But he was gravely mistaken. God had abandoned him; you will see how. Death anticipated all spiritual help. Alas! This unfortunate blasphemer felt all his terrors reborn in him. He cried out: "Alas, am I then abandoned by God and men?"

Yes, unhappy man, you are. Already your lot and your hope are in Hell. Listen to this godless man; he cries out with that mouth sullied with so many profanities and so much blasphemy against God, His religion, and His ministers.

"Ah," he cried, "Jesus Christ, Son of God, who died for all sinners without distinction, have pity on me!"

But, alas! Almost a century of blasphemy and impiety had exhausted the patience of God, Who had already rejected him.

He was no more than a victim which the wrath of God fattens for the eternal flames. The priests whom he had so derided but whom, in this moment he so desired, were not there. See him as he falls into convulsions and the horrors of despair, his eyes wild, his face ghastly, his body trembling with terror! He twists and turns and torments himself and seems as if he wants to atone for all those previous blasphemies with which his mouth had been so often sullied. His companions in irreligion, fearing, lest someone might bring him the last Sacraments, something which would have seemed to them to dishonour their cause, brought him to a house in the country, and there, abandoned to his despair ...

Sermon of St. John Vianney on Repentance
"Woe is me, for I have sinned so much during my life"--St. Augustine.

Thus spoke St. Augustine, when he thought over his past life, which he had spent incessantly in the abominable vice of impurity. As often as the thought occurred to him, his heart was torn and devoured by repentance. "Oh, my Lord," he exclaimed, "I have lived without loving Thee; oh, my Lord, how many precious years have I lost! Deign, O Lord, I implore Thee, to efface from Thy memory my past faults!" Oh precious tears, O salutary contrition, which made of such a great sinner so great a saint!

Oh, how quickly does a really contrite heart regain the friendship of God! Ah, would to God, that every time we let our sins pass before our mind's eye we could say with the repentant St. Augustine: "Ah, woe is me. I have sinned much during my life; have mercy on me, O Lord!" How soon would we alter our mode of living! Yes, my brethren, let us all who are here present, confess with the same fervent repentance and sincerity, that we are great sinners who deserve to experience the full wrath of God. And let us praise God's infinite mercy, who gives us abundantly of His treasures to solace us in our misery.

If our sins have been ever so great, and our life has been ever so dissolute, we are sure of His pardon, if we follow the example of the prodigal son and throw ourselves with a contrite heart at the feet of the best of fathers. Now let me show to you, my Christian friends, that our repentance must have this quality before it can procure for us pardon for our sins: The sinner must, in consequence of his repentance, hate his sins sincerely, and detest them.

To make you fully understand what repentance, i.e., the pain which our sins should cause our conscience, means, I would have to show you on the one hand the abhorrence which the Lord has for them, and the torments which He had to suffer to gain pardon for them from God the Father, and on the other hand the blessings we lose by committing sin, and the evils which we bring down upon ourselves in the next world; but no man will ever be able to understand this fully.

Where shall I lead you, my brethren, to show you this repentance? Into the solitude of the desert, perhaps, where so many saints spent twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or even eighty years of their lives, bemoaning faults which were no faults in the eyes of the world. No, your heart would not be moved by such as these. Or shall I lead you to the entrance of hell, so that you may hear the woeful cries and howls, and gnashing of teeth, which is caused by the repentance of their sins; but though bitter and hard to bear, their pain and repentance is useless. No, my brethren, you would not learn here the real repentance which you should feel over your sins. Oh, if I could only lead you to the foot of the cross which is still reddened with the precious Blood of our Lord, shed to wash away our sins! Oh, if I could only lead you into that garden of sorrow, where our Lord shed for our sins, not ordinary tears, but blood, which flowed forth from all the pores of His body! Oh, if I could only show Him to you laden with the cross, staggering along the streets of Jerusalem, at every step He stumbles and is driven on by kicks. Oh, if I could only lead you to Mount Calvary, where our Lord died, for the sake of our salvation.

But even if I could do all that, it would be necessary that God should give you the grace of inflaming in your heart the burning love of a St. Bernard, who broke out in tears at the mere sight of the cross. Oh, beautiful and precious repentance, how happy is he who harbors thee in his heart! But to whom am I addressing myself: where is he who feels it in his heart? Alas, I do not know. Is it to that headstrong sinner who has abandoned his God and neglected his soul for twenty or thirty years?

No, that would be like trying to soften a rock by pouring water over it. Or to that Christian who has neglected missions, and ceased prayers, and despised the admonitions of his spiritual adviser? No, that would be like trying to heat water by adding ice to it. Or, perhaps, to those persons who feel satisfied if they make their Easter duty , and then, year in and year out, continue in the same sinful course of living. No, those are the victims which are fattened to serve as food for the eternal flames. Or to those Christians who go to Communion every month, and fall back into their sins every day? No, for they are like the blind, who do not know what they do, or what they ought to do.

To whom shall I address myself, then? Alas, I do not know. Oh, my Lord, where shall I look for it, where shall I find it? Yes, my Lord, I know whence it comes and who bestows it. It comes from heaven, and Thou dost bestow it, O Lord. Oh, my Lord, we implore Thee, bestow it upon us, the repentance which crushes and devours our heart; this beautiful repentance which disarms God's justice and changes an eternity of misery into eternal bliss. Oh, beautiful virtue, how necessary thou art, and how seldom to be found! And yet, without it there can be no pardon, no heaven, and, more than that, without it all is in vain: penance, charity, alms, or anything else we might do to gain the eternal reward.

But we may ask, "What does this word 'repentance' mean, and how can we tell whether we have it or not?" My brethren, if you will listen to me, I will explain to you how you can find our whether you have it or not, and if you have it not, how you may obtain it. Now, if you ask me what repentance is, I tell you that it is an anguish of the soul and a detestation for past sin, and a firm resolve never to sin again. Yes, my brethren, this is the foremost of all conditions which God makes before pardoning our sins, and it can never be dispensed with. A sickness which deprives us of speech, may dispense us from confession; a sudden death may dispense us from the necessity of giving satisfaction for our sins during life, but with repentance it is different.

Without it, it is impossible, absolutely impossible, to obtain forgiveness. Yes, my brethren, I must say with deep regret that the want of repentance is the cause of a great number of sacrilegious confessions and Communions, and what is still more to be regretted is the circumstance that many do not realize what a sad state they are in, and live and die in it. Now, my friends, if we have the misfortune to conceal a sin in confession, this sin is constantly before our eyes like a monster which threatens to devour us, and it causes us to soon go to confession again, so as to free ourselves from it. But it is different with repentance; we confess, but our heart does not take part in the accusation which we make against ourselves. We approach the Holy Sacrament with as cold, unfeeling, and indifferent a heart as if performing an indifferent act of no consequence.

Thus we live from day to day, from year to year, until we approach death, when we expect to find that we have done something to our credit, only to discover nothing but sacrileges, which we have committed by our confessions and Communions. Oh, my God, how many Christians there are who will discover at the hour of their death nothing but invalid confessions! But I will not go further into this matter, for fear that I may frighten you, and yet you ought really to be brought to the verge of despair, so that you may stop immediately, and improve your condition right now, instead of waiting until that moment when you will recognize your condition, and when it will be too late to improve it.

But let us continue with our explanation, and you will soon learn, my brethren, whether you had the repentance in all your confessions, which is so absolutely necessary for the forgiveness of sin.

I said that repentance is an anguish of soul. It is absolutely necessary that a sinner weep over his sins either in this world or the next. In this world we can wipe out our sins by repentance, but not in the next. We should be very grateful to our dear Lord that the anguish of our soul is sufficient for Him to let it be followed by eternal joy, instead of making us suffer that eternal repentance and those awful tortures which would be our lot in the next life, that is, hell. Oh, my God, with how little art Thou satisfied!

Now, let me tell you that this anguish of soul must have four qualities; if any one of these qualities is wanting, we can not obtain forgiveness for our sins. the first quality is that it must come from the bottom of the heart. It need not necessarily show itself in tears; they are good and useful, but they are not essential. It is a fact that when St. Paul and the penitent thief turned to God, it is not reported that they wept, and yet their anguish of soul was sincere. No, my friends, you must not rely on tears alone. they are often deceiving, and many persons weep in the confessional and fall back into the same sin at the first opportunity. The anguish of soul which God demands of us, is like the one of which the prophet says:

"Rend your heart and not your garments. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit; a contrite and humble heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise."

Why does God require that our heart should feel this anguish? Because it is in the heart we commit our sins. "It is in the heart," says the Lord, "where all bad thoughts, all sinful desires, originate." Therefore, if our heart is guilty, the heart must suffer, or God will never forgive us. The second quality of this anguish which we must feel over our sins, is that it must be supernatural; that means, that the Holy Ghost and not natural causes must call it forth. To be troubled about a sin one has committed because it would exclude us from paradise and lead us into hell, is a supernatural motive, of which the Holy Ghost is the originator, and will lead to true repentance. But to be troubled about a sin because of the shame which will be the consequence, or the misfortune it will cause us, that is merely a natural sorrow, which does not merit pardon. It is perfectly plain, then, that the anguish of soul caused by our sins, must arise from our love of God and our fear of His chastisement. He who, in his repentance, thinks only of God, feels a perfect repentance. But he who only repents of his sins merely on account of the temporal punishments which they will bring upon him, has no proper repentance and is not justified in expecting forgiveness of his sins. The third quality of repentance is that it must be unlimited, that is, the anguish it calls forth must be greater than any other sorrow, as, for instance, at the loss of our parents, or our health, or in general at the loss of anything that is dearest to us in this life. The reason why our sorrow must be so great, is because it must be equivalent to the loss it will cause us, and the misfortune it will bring us after our death. Imagine, then, how great an anguish ought to be ours over a sin which deprives us of all the glories of heaven, alienates our dear Lord from us, and casts us into hell, which is the greatest of all misfortunes.

But, you may ask, how are we to know whether we possess this true repentance? Nothing is easier. If you have real repentance, you will neither act, nor think, as you did before, and you will change your mode of life completely; you will hate what you have loved and you will love what you have despised and avoided. For instance, if you had to confess that in action and speech you were of a hasty temper, you would hereafter be remarkable for your gentleness of behavior, and your consideration for all. You need not trouble yourself whether you have made a perfect confession, as errors are easily committed, but the consequence of your confession should be that the people say of you: "how he has changed; he is not the same man. A wonderful change has taken place in him!" Oh, my Lord, how rare are the confessions which cause such a great change! The fourth and last quality is that repentance must be comprehensive. We see in the lives of the saints, in regard to the comprehensiveness of repentance, that we can not receive pardon for one mortal sin, even if we have properly repented the same, if we do not feel the same repentance for all our mortal sins.

History furnishes us with an example which shows us how absolutely necessary the saints considered this anguish over our sins, to obtain forgiveness. One of the papal officers fell sick. The Holy Father, who had a high esteem of his bravery and sanctity of life, sent one of his cardinals to express his sympathy, and to give him absolution. "Tell the Holy Father," said the dying man to the Cardinal, "that I am very thankful to him for his tender regard, but tell him also that I would be infinitely more thankful to him if he would pray to God to obtain for me the grace of a true repentance for my sins. Oh!" he cried, "what good is anything to me if my heart does not break with anguish at the thought that I have offended so good a God. Oh, Lord, if it be possible, make the repentance over my sins equal to the offense which I have given you!"

And this disposition is obtained by prayer--earnest, fervent prayer. "Create a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels. Cast me not away from thy face, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me," etc. (Ps.1.12). Joined to this repentance will naturally be a firm resolve not to commit the sin again; and this is the contrite and humble heart which God will not despise.

Such a one He will receive again as His child, and restore to him all the privileges of a child of God, and heir to the Heavenly Kingdom.

How St. John Vianney was Persecuted by Demons

The numerous instances recorded in the lives of the saints, of the manner in which those holy men were assailed and tormented by wicked and malignant spirits, appear to have found their counterpart in that marvelous episode in Vianney's life which now lies before us.

Soon after the Cure d'Ars had opened his house of refuge for the poor orphans of the district, the strangest noises began to disturb his rest at night, and to trouble the quiet of his presbytery. His own account of the origin of these persecutions is as follows: "It was about nine o'clock at night, I was just going to bed, when the demon came to torment me for the first time. Three heavy blows were leveled at the door of my court-yard: you would have thought some one was trying to break it open by force. I opened my window, and asked 'Who is there?' but I saw nothing, and commending myself to God, I quietly retired to rest. I had not, however, gone to sleep, before I was again startled by three still louder knocks, not now at the outer door, but at that on the staircase, which led to my chamber. I rose up, and cried out a second time, "Who is there?" No one replied. At the first commencement of these noises at night, I imagined that they were caused by robbers, and fearing lest the beautiful ornaments of the Viscount d'Ars might be in danger of being carried off, I thought it well to take precautions. Accordingly, I had two courageous men to sleep in the house, who were ready to assist me in case of need. They came several nights successively. They heard the noise, but discovering nothing, they were convinced that it proceeded from other causes than the malice of men. I myself soon came to the same conclusion; for one night in the midst of winter, three violent knocks were heard. I rose quickly from my bed, and went down into the court-yard, expecting to see the intruders making their escape, and intending to call for help; but, to my astonishment, I saw nothing, I heard nothing, and, what is more, I discovered no traces of foot-marks upon the snow. I resigned myself to God's will, praying Him to be my guard and protector, and to surround me with his angels if my enemy should again return to torment me."

If the object of Vianney's invisible persecutor was to strike terror into his heart, he succeeded only too well; for the poor Cure confessed that in the early times, before the cause of these mysterious noises, which were renewed every night for hours together, was known, he was often ready to die with fear in his bed. His health, indeed, was so much affected by the strain upon his nerves, caused by the terrible apprehension he endured, that he visibly declined. Kind friends offered to keep watch round the house, and to sleep in the room adjoining his own; and several young men, under arms, stationed themselves near the church, where they could command a view of all the approaches to the presbytery.

Some of these good people were very much terrified, among others, Andre Verchere, the wheelwright of the village, who, when his turn to act as sentinel came round, was installed, his gun by his side, in a room in the presbytery. At midnight he heard a frightful crash close to him. It seemed to him that all the furniture in the room fled to pieces under a storm of invisible blows. The poor man cried out for help, and the Cure came quickly to his assistance. They searched the room and the house, examining every corner, but all in vain.

When Vianney was entirely convinced that these unearthly sounds had no humanly assignable cause, he dismissed his guards. By degrees his alarm was, in some measure, allayed, and in the end he became in a manner accustomed to this terrible visitation.

Before this period poor Vianney had been a prey to a different kind of conflict. He had been tormented by the most despairing thoughts of his future destiny. He seemed continually to see under his feet the lake of fire, and to hear a voice telling him that his place was already marked in it. Day and night he was haunted by the fear of being eternally lost; and, after having combated and overcome this internal temptation, he had less difficulty in resisting his external, though invisible foes. Still, the martyrdom to which he was now subjected was no light one. It lasted, not for days or months, but for thirty-five years, with different phases, and under different forms, but almost without intermission.

At midnight three violent knocks against the door of the presbytery generally warned the Cure d'Ars of the presence of his enemy; these knocks were followed by others more or less heavy, according as his sleep was more or less profound. After having diverted himself by making a frightful uproar on the staircase, the demon entered the room, seized the curtains of the bed, shook them so furiously that the poor inmate never could understand why they were not torn to atoms. Sometimes the malignant spirit knocked like some one who was demanding admittance, and the next moment, without the door being opened, he was in the room, moving about the chairs, deranging the furniture, rummaging everywhere, calling the Cure with a mocking voice, 'Vianney, Vianney!' and adding to his name the most outrageous qualifications and menaces. 'Eater of truffles, we shall have you, we shall have you! We hold you, we hold you!'

At other times, without giving himself the trouble to mount, he hailed Vianney from the court-yard, and, after having vociferated for a long time, he would imitate a charge of cavalry, or the noise of an army in march. Sometimes he drove nails into the floor, with heavy strokes as of a hammer, sometimes he cut wood, sometimes sawed and planed planks like a carpenter actively employed in the interior of a house, or he would play upon the table, the chimneypiece, and especially upon the water-jug, always choosing in preference the most sonorous objects.

Sometimes the Cure' heard in the hall below him a noise like that of a horse bounding up to the ceiling and again falling down heavily on his four feet. At other times it was the noise of a great flock of sheep grazing above his head. One night when he was more than usually disquieted, he said, 'My God, I willingly make to Thee the sacrifice of some hours' sleep for the conversion of sinners. Immediately the infernal troupe disappeared, and all was silent. All these details were given by M. Vianney himself.

For several nights consecutively, he heard such loud and menacing clamors in the court, that he trembled with fear. These voices spoke in an unknown tongue, and in the most confused manner. The tumult they made recalled to Vianney's mind the recent invasion; he compared it to the noise of an Austrian army. And on another occasion, making a still more characteristic comparison, he said that, 'Troops of demons had held their parliament in his court.'

Rumors of these marvelous histories were circulated far and wide; they were received in divers manners, and elicited the most contradictory opinions. It appears, however, to have been universally acknowledged by all who knew Vianney that he had not the temperament of a visionary, but was possessed of all the qualifications of a good witness--good eyes, good ears, and a good judgment.

Catherine relates many confidences made to her by the Cure, during the early days of this extraordinary and mysterious persecution. The following extracts are taken from her notes:

M. le Cure often says, "I do not know if they are demons, but they come in great bands; you would say they were a large flock of sheep: I can hardly sleep." One day he remarked, "I was just falling asleep, when the grappin (The nom de guerre which Vianney gave to the demon whom he supposed to be his chief tormentor) began to make a noise like that of a man hooping a cask with bands of iron."

"August 18, 1825. M. the Cure told us yesterday that the demon sung in his chimney like a nightingale!

"September 15th. M. the Cure has ordered us to enlarge his mattress, because the demons throw him out of bed. "I have not seen him," said he, "but he has many times seized me and precipitated me out of my bed." One night, when M. the Cure had come to the Providence to visit a patient, he said to me, 'Listen to what happened to me this morning. I had something on my table--you know what it was. (It was his discipline.) Suddenly it rose up and moved along like a serpent. This frightened me a little. You know there is a rope fastened to one end of it; I seized hold of it, it was as stiff as wood. I placed it again on the table; it again began to move, and went round three times.'"

Vianney's brother-priests were at first little disposed to believe in the reality of these diabolical manifestations; they sought to account for them by natural and physiological causes. "If the Cure d'Ars lived like other men," said they "if he took a proper quantity of sleep and nourishment his imagination would be calmed, his brain would no longer be peopled with spectres, and all this infernal phantasmagoria would vanish."

About this time a venerable cure, M. Granger, who had known and loved Vianney since the commencement of his ministry at Ars, anxious to procure for his people the benefit of his presence amongst them, prayed him to join the missionaries who were about to celebrate the approaching jubilee with the usual services. Vianney immediately acceded to his friend's wishes; he remained three weeks at Saint-Trivier, preached from time to time, and confessed many penitents.

The vexation to which the Cure d'Ars was subjected on the part of his spiritual foes was now everywhere talked about. His clerical companions made it a subject of amusement, "Come, come, dear Cure," said they, "do as others do, nourish yourself better: that is the way to finish with all their jugglery."

One night, however, they assumed a more serious tone, the discussion became more animated, and the raillery of Vianney's companions more bitter and reproachful. It was agreed that all this infernal mystification had no other origin than delirium and hallucination, and the poor Cure was consequently treated as a visionary and an enthusiast. To all this he answered not a word, but retired to his room, apparently insensible to everything but the joy of being persecuted. Soon afterwards his joking companions separated for the night, with the indifference of wise men, who, if they believed in the existence of the devil at all, had at least a very feeble faith in his intervention in the affairs of the Cure d'Ars.

But behold! at midnight all the inmates of the house are awakened by a horrible fracas. The cure is shaken from the very foundation, the doors bang, the windows clatter, the walls totter, sinister cracks are heard, as if the whole building were just about to fall to the ground.

In a moment everyone was on his feet. They recollected that the Cure d'Ars had said, "You must not be surprised if you should hear a noise this night." They rushed simultaneously into his room, where they found him in tranquil repose. "Get up," cried they, "the house is falling to the ground." "Oh, I know what it is," replied he, smiling; "return to your rest, there is nothing to fear." They were reassured, and the clamour ceased.

An hour later in the night a faint bell was heard. The Abbe Vianney rose up and went to the door, where he found a man who had travelled several leagues to confess to him. This, we are told, was no unusual occurrence; it often happened that after the most cruel nights the Cure found at his door in the morning pilgrims who had made long journeys in order to be confessed by him.

Indeed, when the persecution to which he was subjected was more than usually violent, he received it as a sign of some signal mercy, or some special consolation about to be granted to him. One of the missionaries, an ancient soldier of the empire--M. the Abbe Chevalon--was so much struck with the strange adventure we have just recounted, that, when afterwards relating it, he said, "I have made a vow to God never again to joke over these histories of apparitions and nocturnal noises; and as for the Cure d'Ars, I believe him to be a saint."

In the meantime Vianney's tormentor appeared to be unceasingly occupied in devising new modes of attack. No longer content with disturbing his unfortunate victim by frightful noises and knocking of doors, he now sometimes hid under his bed; and the whole night long the poor Cure's repose was interrupted and his ear distracted by piercing cries, or mournful groans, or smothered sighs.

"The demon is very cunning," said he one day, in his catechism, "but he is not strong; a sign of the cross soon puts him to flight. A few days since he made an uproar, like the driving of all the carriages in Lyons, over my head; only last night troops of demons were shaking my door--their speech was like an army of Austrians, I did not understand a word of their jargon,--I made the sign of the cross, and they departed."

One night he was suddenly awakened by feeling himself lifted up in the air. "Gradually je perdais mon lit," said he. "I armed myself with the sign of the cross, and the grappin left me."

Another time the demon is said to have assumed the form of a soft pillow, and when the poor Cure placed his head upon it, there issued forth a plaintive groan. He confessed that this time he was really terrified; it seemed to him that this new device of his enemy imperilled his soul. He invoked the aid of Heaven, and he was immediately left in peace.

When he was called on one occasion to assist in some missionary labour at Montmerle, his indefatigable foe followed him; and on the first night of his stay, he found himself drawn all round the room in his bed. He arose early the next morning, and went to the confessional. He had hardly sat down before he felt himself lifted up and tossed about, as if he had been on a rough sea in a frail bark.

"I once went on a mission to Montmerle," he remarked, long afterwards, to the Abbe Toccanier; "et je m'en suis bien vu avec le grappin. He amused himself by carrying me round the room in a bed on rollers."

When he went to Saint-Trivier, to preach at the jubilee, he set out on foot early in the morning. As he walked along, reciting his chaplet, the air around him became full of sinister light; the whole atmosphere appeared to be on fire, and the trees on either side his path like columns of flaming light. He, however, quietly pursued his way, trusting to the protection of the Virgin and his good angel, and seeing nothing in these manoeuvres of his enemy but a new sign of God's blessing upon his work.

We believe it was about the same time that the destruction, or, at least, the profanation, of a picture of the Annunciation, which the poor Cure highly valued, took place.

The relation of M. Monnin is as follows: "Seeing that the Cure d'Ars honoured this sacred image with a special worship, what did the wicked grappin? Every day he covered and disfigured it with mud. It was in vain that it was cleansed and washed; the next day it was found blacker and more polluted than ever. These cowardly insults were repeated, till at length M. Vianney, renouncing the consolation which he derived from the contemplation of this picture, determined to have it removed. Several individuals were witnesses of these odious profanations, or have, at least, had the opportunity of observing the traces of them. M. Renard testifies to having seen this picture so contaminated, that the face of the Holy Virgin was hardly discernible."

Towards the end of Vianney's life these demoniacal persecutions were less violent and less continuous; during the last six months they ceased altogether; and even before that time his invisible foe ceased to disturb him at night, and confined his attacks to the short interval of rest which the poor Cure allowed himself in the afternoon. Sometimes on these occasions he raised a hue and cry at his door, imitating alternately the growling of a bear, the barking of a dog, and the howling of a wolf.

Sometimes he called him, with his rude and insolent voice, 'Vianney, Vianney, come!' giving him to understand that numerous penitents were awaiting him.

Vianney often expatiated to his friends upon the vexation he experienced, when one day his malignant enemy seized a vessel containing holy water, which was placed at the head of his bed, and broke it to pieces before his eyes.

But what appears to us to be one of the most extraordinary of these demoniacal manifestations was the burning of Vianney's bed. We relate the circumstance exactly as it is recorded by the Abbe Monnin, who was at Ars at the time, and all but an eye-witness of the fact:

"One morning, at the time of the first celebration of the quarante heures at Ars, as I was going out very early, in order to assist in the services, I perceived at the threshold of my door a strong and overpowering smell of burning. The mass, the catechism, and some confessions detained me at the church till nine o'clock; on my return, I found all the village congregated round the presbytery 'What is the matter?' said I, approaching one of the groups. 'What! do you not know,' cried they, 'that the devil set fire last night to M. Vianney's bed?' . . . . . I entered the house, and went straight to the Cure's sleeping apartment, where I indeed found all the traces of a recent and hardly-extinguished conflagration. The bed, the curtains, and all that surrounded them--including some old paintings on glass, which Vianney greatly valued, and of which he had said only a few days previously that they were the only things in this world that he prized, and that he had refused to sell them, because he wished to leave them to the missionaries--all had been consumed. The fire had stopped before the shrine of Saint-Philomene; and, describing from that point an exact geometrical line, it had destroyed all that was on the one side, and spared all that was on the other side of the holy relique. In the midst of the confusion the Cure arrived; but he hardly appeared to perceive what was going on. He crossed several people who were carrying away the debris without asking them any questions; and it was not till after the mass that, as he was signing some images, he suddenly interrupted himself, and fixing upon me his grave and gentle gaze, he said, 'I have long besought this grace of God, and now at last He has granted my request: now I am the poorest in the parish; they have all a bed, and I, thanks to God, none have.' At noon, when he came to see me, we conversed a little more in detail over the event of the night. I told him that everyone was agreed in thinking it a wicked trick of the demon; and asked whether he too thought that the malignant spirit had had to do with it. 'Oh, my friend,' replied he, 'that is very evident; not being able to burn the man, he has burnt his bed . . . . .he is very angry. . . . . It is a good sign'"

In 1829, a young priest, the son of the good widow whose acquaintance we made in the first pages of this book--the Abbe Bibost--came to Ars, in order to make a retreat in the parish of the man he so highly revered. M. Vianney, who had directed his first steps in the priesthood, received him with much kindness, and offered him a room in his house.

"I was intimately acquainted with this priest," says the Abbe Renard, "and it happened that Providence also led me to my native parish at the time of his stay there. In our first interview the conversation turned upon the extraordinary events which were occurring at Ars, and of which the whole country were talking.

"'You sleep at the presbytery,' said I, 'tell me, is it true that the devil makes all this clamour at night?'

"'Yes,' replied he, 'I hear him every night. He has a rough, harsh voice, like the cry of a wild beast; he seizes the bed-curtains of M. Vianney, and shakes them violently. He calls him by his name; I have distinctly heard these words, Vianney, Vianney, what are you doing there? Go away, go away!'

"'These frightful cries must have terrified you?'

"'Not exactly; I am not fearful, and besides, the presence of M. Vianney reassured me; but I sincerely pity the poor Cure. I should not like to live with him.'

"'Have you questioned M. Vianney upon this subject?'

"'No; I have frequently thought of it, but the fear of giving him pain has closed my lips. Poor Cure! Poor holy man! How can he live in the midst of this uproar?'"

In 1842, an ancient officer of the French army, who was at that time attached to a brigade of the gendarmes, came to Ars. He had risen, on one occasion, at midnight, and was, with many others, awaiting Vianney at the door of the chapel. Finding the Cure did not immediately appear, he took a turn round the presbytery, in order to keep himself awake. He was sad at heart, having lately been visited by a heavy affliction; but he states that at this moment he was oppressed by a sensation of mingled disquietude and apprehension, for which he was unable to account.

Suddenly he was startled by a strange and unearthly sound, which appeared to proceed from the window of the presbytery. He distinctly heard these words several times repeated, in a rough, harsh, and shrill voice: 'Vianney, Vianney! come, come!'

Seized with horror, he fled from the spot. The church clock at that moment struck one, and soon the Cure appeared--a light in his hand. He found the unfortunate gendarme in the most violent agitation. He endeavoured to reassure him, and conducted him to the church.

Before he had asked a question, or heard one word of his history, he astonished him with these words: "My friend, you are in much affliction; you have just lost your wife, but trust God, and He will come to your aid. First, put your conscience in order, and then will you more easily put your worldly affairs in order."

"Yielding to the counsel of the holy man," said the tried penitent, "I began my confession. In my trouble I could hardly put two words together, but the good Cure assisted me. He penetrated the very depths of my soul, and he revealed to me many things of which he could not have been informed, and which astonished me beyond expression. I did not know that it was possible to read men's hearts in this manner."

It is attested by Catherine, and the other directresses, that at the Providence strange noises were heard on the stairs and in the dormitories, which never could be accounted for, and the cause of which could never be discovered.

Many other instances of these mysterious and terrible manifestations are attested by the Abbe Monnin, but we think that those which we have stated may suffice.

We cannot, however, close this chapter without recording one or two facts, too closely connected with the subject which has now been engaging our attention, to be omitted. It is affirmed that several persons came to Ars from different places, and at divers periods, bearing marks, more or less positive, of demoniacal possession.

Two of these unhappy beings--a man and a woman--constantly appeared at Ars, and were known by all the inhabitants. Vianney did not profess to practice exorcism, but, in the instance before us, he treated one of these afflicted individuals as if his body only, and the other as if body and soul were possessed. It is affirmed that when, in the midst of the most fearful and violent attacks, he pronounced his blessing over them, they instantly became calm.

The following dialogue is declared to have been found in a narrative of undoubted authenticity, and bearing every mark of incontestable truth. It is entitled, "Dialogue between a Possessed, from the neighbourhood of Puy, in Velay, and the Cure d'Ars." This colloquy took place in the afternoon of January 23, 1840, in the chapel of Saint-John Baptist, and in the presence of eight witnesses:

 
The Possessed--'I am immortal.'

Cure-- 'Are you then the only person who will not die?'

The Possessed--'I have never committed but one sin in my life, and the fruit of that sin I am ready to share with all who will. . . .'

The Cure-- 'In quis es?'

The Possessed-- 'Magister caput.' Then continuing in French, 'Vilain crapaud noir! How you torment me! It is a mutual warfare between us, which shall overcome the other; but, do what you will, you are often doing my work. You think your people well disposed; they are not. Why do you examine the consciences of your penitents? What is the use of so much investigation? Is not my examination sufficient?'

The Cure--'You say you examine the conscience of my penitents? Have they not recourse to God before all?'

The Possessed--'Yes, with their lips. I tell you it is I who examine them. I am oftener in your chapel than you think. My body goes out, but my spirit remains . . . . . I like to hear plenty of talking . . . . All who come to you are not saved. You are a miser.'

The Cure--'It would be difficult for me to be a miser. I have but little, and that little I give with all my heart.'

The Possessed--'It is not of that kind of avarice that I speak. You are a miser of souls. You rob me of all you can, but I shall endeavour to get them back again. You are a liar! You said, a long while ago, that you wished to depart from this place, and here you still remain. What do you mean by that? Why do you not retire and rest, as others do? you have worked long enough. You wished to go to Lyons.' [This was true. M. Vianney thought much, at that time, of Fourvieres.] ' At Lyons you would have been as avaricious as you are here. You talked of retiring into solitude.' [This was also true. He was anxious to make a retreat to Fourvieres, or to La Trappe.] 'Why do you not do so? '

The Cure--'Have you anything else to reproach me with?'

The Possessed--' I sifted you well last Sunday, during the mass, you remember?' [The Cure confessed that he had, at that precise time, experienced extraordinary trouble and embarrassment.] 'Your violet robe has just written to you, but I so managed it that he forgot what should have formed an essential part of his letter, and he is greatly vexed thereby.' [M. Vianney had that day received a letter from his Bishop.]

The Cure--'Will my lord allow me to depart?'

The Possessed--'He loves you too much. . . Your violet robe is as great a miser as you are, and he equally embarrasses me; but, no matter, we have lulled him to sleep with respect to an abuse in his diocese. . . . Come, lift up your hand over me, as you do over so many others who come here every day. You imagine that you convert them all. You are mistaken. It is very well for a moment, but I find them again. I have some of your parishioners on my list.'

The Cure--'What do you think of . . . ?' naming a priest of great piety.

The Possessed--'I do not like him.' [These words were pronounced in a tone of concentrated rage, accompanied by frightful grinding of the teeth.]

The Cure--'And of . . . ?' naming another.

The Possessed--'Very well. He lets me do what I like; there are crapauds noirs, who do not embarass me as you do. I perform their mass; they say mine.'

The Cure--'Do you perform mine?'

The Possessed--'You weary me. Ah, if the Virgin did not protect you; but, patience, we have brought greater than you to ruin; you are not dead yet. Why do you rise so early? You disobey your violet robe, who has ordered you to take more care of yourself. Why do you preach so simply? You will pass for an ignorant man. Oh, how I like those grand sermons which disturb no one, and which allow people to live in their own way, and do as they like! Many sleep at your catechisms, but there are others who are touched to the heart by your simple words.'

The Cure--'What yo you think of the dance?'

The Possessed--'I surround a dance as a wall surrounds a garden.'

On one occasion an unhappy woman, who gave proof of possession, said to Vianney: 'Why do you make me suffer so much? If there were three upon earth like you, my kingdom would be destroyed. You have robbed me of eighty thousand souls.' The Cure addressed himself to the daughter of this unfortunate woman. 'You will commence,' said he, 'this day a neuvaine to Sainte-Philomene, and you will bring her to me to-morrow in the sacristy. I will hear her confession after I have performed the mass. In the meantime, let her kneel down, and I will give her my blessing.'

The poor child implored him to deliver her mother, but he refused, saying he was not authorised.

This poor woman passed ten days at Ars, made a general confession, and left in a much more tranquil state. She exclaimed before several people, at a moment when she was much agitated: 'Ah, if all the lost could come to Ars, they would profit by it more than you all.'

Some one asked her what made the tables turn. She answered, 'It is I; magnetism, somnambulism--all that is my affair.'

Catechism on the Priesthood
by St. John Vianney (A.D. 1786-1859)

"No matter how much difficulties and dangers multiply in our path from day to day, a true and fervent priest must not on that account lose his way, nor fail to perform his duties, nor pause from the fulfillment of his spiritual mission for the welfare and salvation of the human family and the maintenance of that holy religion of which he is the herald and minister. For it is in labors and trials that priestly virtue waxes strong and gets purified; the blessed and all-restoring action of his divine ministry shines forth more resplendently in times of great need and amid social revolutions and transformations."

Pope Leo XIII, June 29, 1866, The Life of Pope Leo XIII: From His Personal Memoirs by Monsignor Bernard O'Reilly

My children, we have come to the Sacrament of Orders. It is a Sacrament which seems to relate to no one among you, and which yet relates to everyone. This Sacrament raises man up to God. What is a priest! A man who holds the place of God -- a man who is invested with all the powers of God. "Go, " said Our Lord to the priest; "as My Father sent Me, I send you. All power has been given Me in Heaven and on earth. Go then, teach all nations. . . . He who listens to you, listens to Me; he who despises you despises Me. " When the priest remits sins, he does not say, "God pardons you"; he says, "I absolve you. " At the Consecration, he does not say, "This is the Body of Our Lord;" he says, "This is My Body. "

Saint Bernard tells us that everything has come to us through Mary; and we may also say that everything has come to us through the priest; yes, all happiness, all graces, all heavenly gifts. If we had not the Sacrament of Orders, we should not have Our Lord. Who placed Him there, in that tabernacle? It was the priest. Who was it that received your soul, on its entrance into life? The priest. Who nourishes it, to give it strength to make its pilgrimage? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, by washing that soul, for the last time, in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest -- always the priest. And if that soul comes to the point of death, who will raise it up, who will restore it to calmness and peace? Again the priest. You cannot recall one single blessing from God without finding, side by side with this recollection, the image of the priest.

Go to confession to the Blessed Virgin, or to an angel; will they absolve you? No. Will they give you the Body and Blood of Our Lord? No. The Holy Virgin cannot make her Divine Son descend into the Host. You might have two hundred angels there, but they could not absolve you. A priest, however simple he may be, can do it; he can say to you, "Go in peace; I pardon you. " Oh, how great is a priest! The priest will not understand the greatness of his office till he is in Heaven. If he understood it on earth, he would die, not of fear, but of love. The other benefits of God would be of no avail to us without the priest. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures; it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth. Without the priest, the Death and Passion of Our Lord would be of no avail. Look at the heathens: what has it availed them that Our Lord has died? Alas! they can have no share in the blessings of Redemption, while they have no priests to apply His Blood to their souls!

The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself. He is not for himself, he is for you. After God, the priest is everything. Leave a parish twenty years without priests; they will worship beasts. If the missionary Father and I were to go away, you would say, "What can we do in this church? there is no Mass; Our Lord is no longer there: we may as well pray at home. " When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because where there is no longer any priest there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.

When the bell calls you to church, if you were asked, "Where are you going?" you might answer, "I am going to feed my soul. " If someone were to ask you, pointing to the tabernacle, "What is that golden door?" "That is our storehouse, where the true Food of our souls is kept. " "Who has the key? Who lays in the provisions? Who makes ready the feast, and who serves the table?" "The priest. " "And what is the Food?" "The precious Body and Blood of Our Lord. " O God! O God! how Thou hast loved us! See the power of the priest; out of a piece of bread the word of a priest makes a God. It is more than creating the world. . . . Someone said, "Does St. Philomena, then, obey the Cure of Ars?" Indeed, she may well obey him, since God obeys him.

If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I should salute the priest before I saluted the angel. The latter is the friend of God; but the priest holds His place. St. Teresa kissed the ground where a priest had passed. When you see a priest, you should say, "There is he who made me a child of God, and opened Heaven to me by holy Baptism; he who purified me after I had sinned; who gives nourishment to my soul. " At the sight of a church tower, you may say, "What is there in that place?" "The Body of Our Lord. " "Why is He there?" "Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass. "

What joy did the Apostles feel after the Resurrection of Our Lord, at seeing the Master whom they had loved so much! The priest must feel the same joy, at seeing Our Lord whom he holds in his hands. Great value is attached to objects which have been laid in the drinking cup of the Blessed Virgin and of the Child Jesus, at Loretto. But the fingers of the priest, that have touched the adorable Flesh of Jesus Christ, that have been plunged into the chalice which contained His Blood, into the pyx where His Body has lain, are they not still more precious? The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus. When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.