Visions of the Cure of Ars
Saint John Vianney, Patron Saint of Parish Priests
In doing research for this book and our television series, we've found Saints who've had a relationship with the souls in Purgatory, or had visions of Hell, also had a great urgency to convert sinners. This Roll Call of Saints which include: Saints Catherine de' Ricci, Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, Margaret Mary Alacoque, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Jean Vianney, and many other Saints were given a special mandate from on High, to do everything in their power to insure there be as few as possible (with the ultimate goal of no souls), going to Purgatory or Hell.
Saint Jean Vianney dedicated a great part of his life, close to eighteen hours a day, to hearing confessions, to head off souls racing toward Hell. When he entered Ars, there were four dance halls in the town, but not enough room or desire for one church. Through his priesthood, swearing turned to praying, people in the fields worked with a rosary in their hands and stopped to pray the Angelus at noon, dance halls emptied, the church filled, conversion came about!
It was believed that he "enjoyed the sight of Our Lord's presence in the Eucharist." One time, after the Consecration of the Mass, he said, "As soon as we pray for sinners, when Our Lord is on the altar during Mass, He casts towards them (sinners) rays of light, in order to make them see their misery, and so to convert them."
A humble priest, in his humility and desire for anonymity, Cure John Vianney never discussed the visions he received. [Most of the knowledge we have, came from other sources who lived during his time and testified at the Cause for Beatification and Canonization of St. Jean Vianney.] It was typical of the Cure when the faithful tried to give him credit for favors and miracles received, to insist that all praise and tribute go to either Jesus, His Mother Mary or the intercession of Saint Philomena. He always kept the spotlight off himself, emphasizing, he, of his own power could do nothing, of himself he was nothing.
It was fitting that he be made Patron Saint of Parish Priests. The priesthood was his life! The Sacraments were his life! We mentioned above that he spent as many as eighteen hours a day in the confessional. When he celebrated Mass, it was said that he looked almost transformed; an aura enveloped him, as if his eyes were seeing beyond, cutting through the curtain which separates Heaven and earth. There were those who reported he looked as if he were in ecstasy. He once said that, after holding the Lord in his hands, he was oblivious to all that happened around him; there was only the Lord Present before him. When asked what he did during these times of ecstasy, he replied very simply, "I look at Him, and He looks at me."
He truly believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. One time, during a moment of great passion, he exclaimed he had seen God! When questioned on whether he had ever really seen God, he modestly replied that it was not through the eyes of the body; instead that it was that he had received great Graces during the Mass when the Lord became present on the Altar. Did he see Jesus? There are many who claimed, although never saying it in so many words, it was he to whom he was referring, when he said:
"There are priests who see Him (God) daily during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass." (from the chapter in Bob and Penny Lord's book: "Saints and Other Powerful Men in the Church")
He admitted to someone close to him that at times, he needed only the Eucharist to sustain him. As he barely took a few minutes a day to eat a boiled potato, we can believe this was so. One day, he told his housekeeper he had been famished during Mass until he received Communion. When he had consecrated the Host, he had cried out to the Lord "My God, feed my body as well as my soul." (The Cure of Ars - Abbe Francis Trochu - Tan Publishers) And then, after receiving His Lord, his former hunger was gone; he was full.
The Cure and his Visions
He avoided responding to the question whether he had ever had visions. There were times, when some one would overhear him talking in his bedroom and a female voice responding. But when they peered inside his bedroom to see with whom he was conversing, they would see a Lady in white, and at other times in blue. Awaiting her exit, they only saw him leave the room. Then anyone who might have doubted, knew it had to have been the Blessed Mother.
There were times of great joy, when his spirit soared like an eagle; and then at other times he suffered the depths of Hell, when the devil would attack him, interrupting his little sleep; and when that did not shake the little Cure, the devil knocked his bed from one side of the room to the other, and then finally set it on fire.
Our little Cure is allowed to see the world to come.
A countess once stated that she was sure that the Cure was communicating with the dead. One of her sons had gone to war and lost his life. A few days after his death, they received word he had given his life for his country; they went to the Cure, and he told them not to despair. He consoled: "...he is in Purgatory, but for a short time." Although she wanted to believe the Cure, the countess could not help grieving over the possibility, her son had not had the opportunity to confess to a priest before he died. Then, six months after receiving the sad news, a second letter came, this time advising the parents that their son had gone to confession shortly after having been wounded and that he had died with the benefit of the Sacraments. When the count came to the Cure and told him the good news, St. John Vianney shared he was happy for their sakes, but he had already known that their son was saved.
Then, there was the wife who confessed that her husband worked on Sunday. The Cure cautioned the wife to tell her spouse to stop working on the Sabbath, and that he would be grateful someday for following his advice. He proceeded, telling her something that only she and her husband knew. Convinced the Lord was speaking through the Cure, the husband ceased working on Sunday. One year later, while returning from church on Trinity Sunday, her husband fell off his horse and died immediately, without the benefit of any of the Sacraments.
Now, in those days, there was a dark screen between the priest and the person confessing. There was no way that the Cure‚ could have seen the grieving widow. But before she could begin her confession, he said: "You are afraid that the person for whom you are praying is doomed to spend all eternity in Hell, but I do not believe he is."
Relieved that her husband was not in Hell, she then asked if the person she was praying for would have to spend a long time in Purgatory. The Cure excused himself and sat back deep into the confessional. She could hear him speaking softly, as if to someone, for about five minutes. The Cure returned to the widow and said that although her husband had not handled his affairs wisely, and had left them penniless, he was asking her to have a few Masses said for him so that he could be released from Purgatory and enter Heaven. The Cure assured her, he would be in Heaven in three years, and she would learn about it from one of her children.
Three years passed; one of the widow's children was at the home of an aunt when the child suddenly died. The mother (widow) shared, she had previously had a dream of the child going up to Heaven with her father beside her. As the child was in the best of health, the mother paid no attention to the dream, until she later learned of the child's death. Then she remembered the Cure's prophetic words. In spite of the devastating sorrow she felt, she had peace knowing that not only was her child in Heaven, but her husband as well.
How many spouses have had to suffer the pain and fear connected with the fate of a spouse who was an unbeliever? This is about a woman who had prayed for her husband's conversion for years, but to no avail. She would lovingly dress the statue of Mother Mary with fresh flowers each day. Her husband, although he insisted he wanted no part of religion, would pick the flowers for her. In spite of his obstinacy in refusing to attend church, he had always been good to her and had never stopped her from attending Mass or participating in other Church devotions.
The time came when he suffered a heart attack and died without the benefit of the Sacraments. She feared the worst for him. She could not stand the thought of her husband lost in the furnaces of Hell. She became distraught; then she became ill and did not eat; her friends feared she would lose her mind. Finally, she went to the Cure. Before she could speak, the Cure reminded her of her husband's generosity, in helping her to honor Our Lady. He consoled, "Did she think that the Lord did not hear her cries and would not show mercy on her husband who knew no better?" These words of comfort brought color back to the woman's cheeks and hope to her heart.
There is only one case known, where the Cure spoke firmly of the possibility of eternal damnation. When a woman asked him the fate of a dead relative, he simply replied: "He refused the Sacraments and would not see a priest." It was all true and since the Cure did not know the woman nor the person in question, he could not have known this ahead of time. The grieving woman knew what that meant!: Our Lord stands at the threshold of our hearts, ready to forgive us through His priests. It is in our hands to say yes to Him and the hope of everlasting joy, or to the enemy of God and suffer the fires of Hell. It reminds us of the painting of Our Lord standing at the other side of a door. There is only one door knob, and it is on our side. We see Him knocking; it is up to us to let Him in. The Lord had knocked on the dead man's heart through His priest. He had that moment when he would decide for all eternity; sadly, he made a choice he would have to live with ad infinitum. (eternally)
There were times when the Cure would bring the good news that a loved one was in Heaven. A girl came to him, deeply grieving the loss of her dear mother. Her mother had had a hard life, one of sacrifice and suffering. The girl appeared to be inconsolable. The Cure approached her with the words: "Oh, Mademoiselle, so you have lost your mother?...She is in Heaven!" The girl cried: "Oh, I pray for that with all my heart." "Well," he answered, "she is in Heaven!"
Another time, when someone asked for a Mass to be said for a lady who had been most charitable, who led a truly pious life, and yet suffered the worst painful illnesses and afflictions before she died, he answered: "Have them said for some Poor Soul in Purgatory. She has no need for your prayers or for Masses to be said for her; she is in Heaven!"
The Cure had the gift of tears. He could not speak of sinners and sins without bursting into tears. The wounds suffered by God the Father, in company with the Son and the Holy Spirit because of the rejection of man plunged deep into his heart, and he cried so very much, his eyes would almost close shut in sorrow. As he prayed, processing before the fourteen Stations of the Cross, he was truly walking beside His Savior, and he shed the endless tears of the women of Jerusalem, as he relived the Passion with His Lord.
When he spoke of the Eucharist, of the Lord Who had thought of him that Last Supper, as He left Himself under the appearance of a humble Host to be consumed for our salvation, and that this Lord had chosen him, a poor instrument, to be a vessel of that Love, he would be moved to endless tears.
When he offered the Sacrifice of the Mass, the thought of this being the ongoing Sacrifice of the Cross would grieve him so overwhelmingly, he would cry such uncontrollable tears, he could barely continue the Mass.
St. John Vianney had great confidence in the power of the intercession of the Poor Souls in Purgatory. He once said to a fellow priest, "Oh! if it were but known how great is the power of the good Souls in Purgatory with the Heart of God, and if we knew all the Graces we can obtain through their intercession, they would not be so much forgotten. We must, therefore, pray much for them, that they may pray much for us."
The devil knew the great impact he had on the faithful and the powerful comfort he was to the souls in Purgatory.
"The Devil's nightly visits usually occurred when there were sinners, eager to return to the Sacraments of the Church. The Cure, through his hours in the confessional, was calling many to new life, and the Devil was furious!
"Some priests, staying in the rectory, heard strange noises coming from his room, one night. When they inquired, he answered simply, "It's the devil. He is furious about the good that is being accomplished here."
"The priests snapped, "It's all in your head!"
"The next night, there was such a racket outside the rectory, the priests shot up from bed. They all panicked. There was a battle ensuing, coming from the Cure's room; they were positive he was being killed. They charged into the room. The Cure was sound asleep but his bed had been dragged into the center of the room! When they wakened and questioned him, he apologized, `The devil dragged out the bed. I'm sorry. I should have warned you. But it's a good sign: we'll catch a big fish tomorrow.'
"Imagine the fun his fellow priests had with him when tomorrow came and nothing unusual happened! But the day was not over; when evening came, there was a knock at the door. Monsieur des Murs, a nobleman, who like the rest of his class had long ceased receiving the Sacraments, had come to have the Cure hear his confession. There was no more kidding. Now it was, `The Cure is a Saint!'" (excerpt from the chapter in our book, "Saints and Other Powerful Men in the Church")
The Cure was the servant who had received ten thousand talents. He had invested them all wisely in his faithful observance of his vocation. He had served the living and the dead, and the Lord was truly pleased with Him. And to show how very much the Lord loves His priests, He gave them as Patron Saint the most holy of heroes for their very own, one of whom they could be proud and challenged to emulate. Saint John Vianney is how the Lord sees you, our dear priests. How do you see yourselves?