In Uncompromising Devotion

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In college seminary, I developed an admiration and devotion to St. John Vianney, starting during the “Year of the Priest.” So you can imagine the excitement I felt when I learned that I would have the opportunity to join Fr. Fred Miller (Mount St. Mary’s seminary) and brother seminarians on an annual pilgrimage to Ars, France!  During the 5-day retreat in Ars, Fr. Miller gave conferences on the life of St. John Vianney to help us grow in our pastoral awareness. Two points I would like to share from my study and time in Ars:


When Vianney first arrived in Ars he went around and visited the people of the area assessing their spiritual wounds and needs. He then took this to the altar of God, praying for healing. Vianney first and foremost depended upon the grace of God to help him with evangelizing the people of Ars. The conversions were not automatic. Vianney spent many hours in prayer for his people, long before anyone came knocking on his door for confession. He understood that this would be the work of God through him. Sometimes we can become so focused on bringing someone to the faith that we try to do it alone and focus on our own efforts. We must always remember that we are servants of the Lord and it is through Him that all things are possible.

We lift up our works to Lord and ask for the intercession of our Blessed Mother who desires to draw all God’s children to the feet of her son. Vianney often entrusted people to the intercession of our Blessed Mother, going so far as to consecrate everyone in his parish to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The large heart on the statue pictured above has the names of all the members of the parish engraved on the backside of it from the year they were consecrated. Perhaps parents could use this idea for consecrating their children (regardless of how old or young) to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and engraving their names on her heart.


Vianney has a reputation for being an unintelligent man, but the truth is that he was very studious. He continued to read and study theology throughout his life. His rectory has been converted into a small museum, leaving much of the house set up just as it was when he died. In the middle of his bedroom there is a small table with several books stacked on it, next to a small lantern. We were told that most nights Vianney would stay up reading through his old books from seminary. I always feel challenged by Vianney’s example because I know that even after hearing confessions for 12-16 hours each day he still took time daily to pray and study theology. I hope that we would all be encouraged by the dedication of this man to know and share the revelations given to the Church.

During the Year of Faith we have been challenged by the church to renew our study of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, to begin/renew our study of the church’s teaching. Vianney is an example for us today of evangelization in a culture which is hardened to the seed of faith. Though, people crave relationship with their creator; their hearts and minds thirst for God. But if we imitate Vianney in uncompromising devotion to prayer and study of God, then we can have confidence that many souls will be won for Christ.

We pray through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, and this holy priest of Ars, that we too may be devoted to sharing the beauty of our faith in Jesus Christ will everyone we meet.


Author’s Note: If you are interested, Fr. Fred Miller has published a book, “The Grace of Ars,” which makes for a great retreat and is a valuable resource if you ever plan to visit Ars. 

Jonathan Norton

About Jonathan Norton

Jonathan Norton is a seminarian for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and is co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of the Military Services. He is currently studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD and is expected to be ordained a priest in 2015.