Pope Benedict said about St. John Vianney (1786-1859):
His "deep personal identification with the Sacrifice of the Cross led him … from the altar to the confessional. … In France, at the time of the Cure of Ars, confession was no more easy or frequent than in our own day, since the upheaval caused by the revolution had long inhibited the practice of religion. Yet he sought in every way, by his preaching and his powers of persuasion, to help his parishioners to rediscover the meaning and beauty of the Sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence. He thus created a "virtuous" circle. By spending long hours in church before the tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus with the knowledge that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and offer forgiveness. Later, the growing numbers of penitents from all over France would keep him in the confessional for up to sixteen hours a day. It was said that Ars had become "a great hospital of souls". His first biographer relates that "the grace he obtained [for the conversion of sinners] was so powerful that it would pursue them, not leaving them a moment of peace!". The saintly Cure reflected something of the same idea when he said: "It is not the sinner who returns to God to beg his forgiveness, but God Himself who runs after the sinner and makes him return to Him". "This good Saviour is so filled with love that He seeks us everywhere".
St. John Vianney was not only a great confessor but he was a great teacher of the art of going to confession. His lessons are still valid today.
That's why, as the Diocese is preparing for the upcoming Reconciliation Weekend, it is worthwhile to focus on the wisdom of the teaching and example of St. John Vianney on the great sacrament of God's mercy.
We invite you to click on any of the articles below to learn more about this great saint and this great sacrament. They are reprinted from a series by Fr. Roger Landry in The Anchor, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River.The Price of the Conversion of Ars