St. John Vianney was born on May 8, 1786, in Dardilly, near Lyon, France, in a family of farmers. In 1815, he was ordained a priest, and, after a few years, he was sent to the remote French community of Arc to be their parish priest.
When he arrived, John immediately began praying and working for the conversion of his parishioners. He helped revive the community’s faith through his prayers and the witness of his holy life. He preached powerfully on the mercy and love of God, and it is said that even staunch sinners converted when they heard his words. He restored the village church, established “La Providence,” an orphanage, and took care of the poor.
As John’s reputation as a confessor grew, pilgrims traveled from all over France to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation from him. He would spend up to 16 hours a day in the confessional, committed to saving souls.
John suffered from many trials and temptations, but he remained firm in his faith. If he wasn’t in the confessional, he spent a great deal of time in prayer and practicing mortification. He lived on little food and sleep, working unfailingly in cheerfulness and humility, until he was well into his 70s.
John Vianney died on August 4, 1859. Over 1,000 people attended his funeral, including the bishop and other priests of the diocese, who already held him as a model of priestly holiness.
In 1925, the Holy Curé of Ars was canonized by Pope Pius XI. St. John Vianney is the patron saint of priests, and over 450,000 pilgrims travel to Ars every year in remembrance of his holy life.