God's Humourous Saints
1902 Bd Contardo Ferrini; Oh dear”, interrupted Ferrini, What a lot of corpses!”}  October 27
Ferrini was concerned with the whole vast field of law, but it was above all in Roman law (and especially its Byzantine aspect) that he made his mark.  When Professor von Ligenthal died in 1894 Ferrini, his favourite pupil, inherited not only his master’s manuscripts but also his acknowledged leadership in these studies. Among those who in one way or another contributed to the success of his work were Don Achille Ratti, afterwards Pope Pius XI, and Dr John Mercati, later cardinal and librarian and archivist of the Holy Roman Church.

Addressing an audience of professors, lecturers and other pilgrims at this time, Pope Pius XII referred to Bd Contardo as a man who “gave an emphatic ‘Yes’ to the possibility of holiness in these days”. “The history and development of law and law-making”, he declared, “were for Ferrini simply an application of the moral and divine law, without which human legislation is useless for if they are separated from God, it is only a matter of time before social organization and its juridical enactments degenerate into tyranny and despotism…It should give us comfort that in Bd Contardo the Lord has given the Church a beatus who was a master in the field of law and at the same time a man of God, one whose exalted spirit and supremely righteous life is a model for us all.”

Giving evidence in the course of the process, the previous pope, Pius XI, had said, “My relations with him were purely scientific or were concerned with the beauties of high mountains. For him these were an inspiration to holiness and almost a natural revelation of God.”

Ferrini’s appreciation of the material creation was indeed a salient characteristic, and it was not confined to nature in her gentler aspects. “God also speaks to man in the clouds on the mountain tops”, he wrote, “in the roaring of the torrents, in the stark awfulness of the cliffs, in the dazzling splendour of the unmelting snow, in the sun that splashes the west with blood, in the wind that strips the trees bare. Nature lives by the breath of His omnipotence, smiles in its joy of Him, hides from His wrath—yet greets Him, eternally young, with the smile of its own youth. For the spirit of God by which nature lives is a spirit for ever young, incessantly renewing itself, happy in its snow and rain and mist, for out of these come birth and life, spring ever renewed and undaunted hope, and all the blessed prerogatives of youth a thousand times reborn.”
Bd Contardo Ferrini was in the true line of St Francis of Assisi.
St Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney Feast Day August 04  Here:
His last chance to become a priest:
M. Courbon, a simple and unsophisticated man, was content to ask: 'Is the Abbé Vianney pious? Has he a devotion to our Lady? Does he know how to say his rosary?'
“Oh yes! he is a model of piety.” [His devoted Priest M. Balley]
“A model of piety! Very well, I summon him to come up for ordination. The grace of God will do the rest.”1 { 1Abbé Toccanier, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p.115.}    Never in all his life was M. Courbon better inspired.

On Wednesday, July 9, the Abbé Vianney presented himself at the office of M. Courbon, who delivered to him his letters testimonial. These letters were to the effect that the Bishop of Grenoble was empowered to ordain him for the diocese of Lyons. One reservation only was made: that the young priest would not receive his faculties for hearing confessions until later, and then at the discretion of his ordinary. Verily, the thoughts of men are not the thoughts of God, 2{2 Is. lv, 8.} for the timid deacon who that day set out for Grenoble was destined to spend three-fourths of his life in the confessional.

Mgr. Simon arrived in a very humble conveyance. He was a prelate of deep piety, and his manner was gentle and affable. Excuses were offered to the Bishop for his having been put to so much trouble for so little—only one candidate, and he a stranger! The venerable prelate contemplated for a moment the ascetic-looking deacon, who was unaccompanied by relatives or friends:
“It is not too much trouble to ordain a good priest,” he replied with a grave smile.
1 {1“The servant of God overheard this remark and he himself related it to me”
(Abbé Raymond, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 283).}

    No doubt because he felt them to be ineffable, M. Vianney made no attempt to reveal the emotions of that heavenly morning. Later on, in his catechetical instructions, when he spoke of the sublime dignity of the priesthood—and he often did so—he must have lived all over again the unforgettable hours of that day in August, 1815. “Oh! how great is the priest. The priest will only be understood in heaven. Were he understood on earth, people would die, not of fear, but of love.”2{2 Esprit du Curé d’Ars, p. 153.}
    Thus at the age of twenty-nine years and three months, after so many uncertainties, failures and tears, Jean-Marie was at last a priest, and about to draw nigh unto the altar of God. From the moment of his ordination he looked upon himself—soul and body—as a sacred vessel destined exclusively for the service of God. In the days of his youth, when his saintly mother was still with him, he used to sigh:
 “If I were a priest I should wish to win many souls to God.” Souls were even now waiting for him.

A pleasing surprise was in store for the new priest. After he had fallen on his knees and received his blessing, M. Balley imparted to him the welcome news that the Vicar-General had granted a vicaire to the parish of Ecully, and the priest appointed to the post was none other than M. Vianney. In this way the adopted child would remain with his father, assist him in his work, and eventually close his eyes.

“M. Balley said to my brother: ‘You are going to see Mme. So-and-So, at Lyons. You must put on the trousers that have just been given to you.’ When he came home at night he was wearing a very threadbare pair of breeches. When asked what had become of the others, he confessed that he had fallen in with a poor fellow who was half dead with cold. He took pity on him and exchanged his new trousers for the beggar’s old ones.”
“How is Jean-Marie ?” M. Balley was sometimes asked by André Provin, a former comrade of Vianney’s at Dardilly. “M. Vianney is always the same,” the answer would be; “he gives away all he possesses.”

M. Balley was much addicted to the practice of penance. Between him and his assistant there soon arose a rather terrifying emulation in austerity. In the opinion of Canon Pelletier, arch-priest of Treffort, it was the case of a holy rivalry between two saints. Later on M. Vianney himself made the following avowal: “I should have ended by acquiring a small measure of goodness, had I had the happiness of living always with M. Balley.1 {1“ J’aurais fini par être un peu sage, si j’avais eu le bonheur d’être toujours avec M. Bailey.”} No one has shown me more plainly to what extent the soul may rise above the senses and become akin to the angels. To make one wish to love God it was enough to hear him say: ‘My God, I love thee with my whole heart.’” 2 {2 Abbe Monnin, Le Curé d’Ars, I, pp. 144, 145}


M. Bailey wore a hair-shirt. M. Vianney secretly requested Claudine Bibost and her daughter Colombe to make one for him also, and he began to wear it next to the skin. If there were no visitors to interfere with the little habits of curé and vicaire, meals were liable to be very haphazard affairs— atirape-qu'attrape, as M. Vianney was wont to say. There was no wine with the few potatoes and the brown bread. By reason of its repeated appearance on the table, the piece of boiled beef ended by becoming perfectly black. Things came to such a pass that some of the parishioners deemed it their duty to inform M. Courbon. “You people of Ecully are fortunate to have such priests to do penance for you,” was the Vicar-General’s reply.
Better still, the curé denounced his vicaire to the authorities for “exceeding all bounds,” whilst the latter reported that the rector practised excessive mortifications. M. Courbon laughingly sent both of them back to their presbytery.’ 1{1‘ Comtesse des Garets, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 766.}
All this austerity, however, was not without an occasional respite, and there were times when the curé’s table presented a less forbidding aspect. On days when guests were expected — the Vicar-General and M. Gobroz were sometimes of their number — the menu was a little more varied.


    In pursuance of the statutes of the diocese of Lyons, the two priests lived in common, their days being days of unclouded peace. Together they performed their exercises of piety; together they made an occasional pilgrimage to our Lady of Fourvière. But so poor were they that on these journeys the one and only umbrella of the presbytery had to shelter the two of them. 1 {1 Abbé Claude Rougement Procès apostolique continuatif p. 742. All his life M. Vianney jealously kept this umbrella as a precious relic. It is still to be seen among the collection of souvenirs which is preserved at the old presbytery of Ars.} Together they wrote out prayers to our Lady for distribution in the parish. Between them they composed the chaplet of the Immaculate Conception which is recited to this day in the church of Ars, before the usual night prayers.

The new curé experienced some difficulty in finding his parish. [considered a backwater--even a "Siberia"]. A mist had obliterated the landscape, so that it was impossible to make out distant objects. After passing the village of Toussieux, where no one seemed able to offer further guidance, the travellers lost their way completely. Eventually they espied through the haze some children tending their flocks. M. Vianney approached them, but as the little shepherds only spoke the local patois, they were unable to understand him. He asked them to show him the way to the château of Ars, under an impression that it was situate within the village itself. He repeated his question and at last the most intelligent of the children, a boy of the name of Antoine Givre, put the stranger on the right road. “My young friend,” said the priest, by way of thanking the lad, “you have shown me the way to Ars; I shall show you the way to heaven.”1 {1 Catherine Lassagne, Procès apostolique ne pereant. p. 104. The simple soul of Antoine Givre probably thought but little of this prophecy. But he was the first among the inhabitants of Ars to follow M. Vianney in death.}

Soon, the humble group of travellers descended the declivity which leads to the Fontblin [a stream]. From thence M. Vianney could descry a few scattered huts in the midst of which stood a very small and poor church. On beholding those low, thatched cottages, which looked very depressing in the gathering gloom, he said to himself: “How small it all is”; but, moved by a divine instinct, he added: “Yet this parish will not be able to contain the multitude of those who shall journey hither.” 2{2 Frère Athanase, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 667. “I asked him,” says Frère Athanase later, “how he came to conceive this idea. The Servant of God eluded the question, as was his habit whenever his humility was at stake. ‘Bast,’ he replied with a smile, ‘so many strange ideas cross my mind; il me passe taut d’iddes baroque: par la tête.’”}

One Sunday a ball was about to open in the village square. More than that, a rustic pageant was being organized, which was ever popular in that district. It was called “Mener l’âne,” and took place when a wife had beaten her husband.3 {3 In certain districts of the Rhône and the Ain, whenever a married man had been publicly beaten by his wife, a grotesque procession was organized. The central figure of the pageant was a lay figure representing the husband riding on a donkey. The wife walked behind belabouring the dummy with a broomstick. Appropriate songs accompanied the proceedings. Such a custom was hardly calculated to restore harmony in a household. It has now completely disappeared.} Suddenly M. Vianney was seen leaving his house. He bad scarcely crossed the space separating the presbytery from the church when fear seized the people and scattered them in every direction. “They fled like a flock of pigeons,” M. Vianney used to say laughingly whenever he related the incident. It was the end of that feast.4 {4 Frère Athanase, Procès apostolique in genere, p. 202.}

M. Vianney took no interest whatever in the furnishing of his presbytery in this matter he left himself unreservedly in the hands of the widow Bibost, who was supposed to understand these domestic details far better than himself. “He had brought her with him in the capacity of housekeeper, but her position was a precarious one, because M. le Curé was only too ready to dispense with the services of a cook.”2 {2 Catherine Lassagne, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 512.}

To prayer the Curé d’Ars joined penance. The desire he had to spend his life alone in his presbytery was doubtless to the end that his terrifying austerities might remain his own secret. Surely God would forgive sinners more readily if someone paid the ransom of their sins! To save souls the price must be paid. 1 {1 “ Il taut qu’il en coute pour sauver les âmes.” Letter of Bossuet to the Maréchal de Bellefonds, August 5, 1674.}
Shortly after his arrival at Ars, M. Vianney gave his own mattress to some destitute person. Two others, which he had not as yet given away, remained on the chairs in the spare room. What need was there even of a bed? For several weeks he was content to stretch himself upon a few faggots on the floor of one of the lower rooms. Both the pavement and the walls were damp. He very soon contracted that facial neuralgia which was to be his torment for fifteen years. But instead of returning to his bedroom he went to sleep in the attic. One of the villagers who came to fetch him in the middle of the night to the bedside of a dying man heard him come down from this uncomfortable loft. As long as he slept in the attic he lay down on the bare boards, a log of wood doing duty as a pillow. The widow Renard and her daughter who lived hard by the presbytery heard him move this strange pillow when he had occasion to leave the house by night.

Not funny here but very important:  Jean was doing penance for those who would not!
More often than not, before retiring to this rude resting-place, he subjected his body to a yet more severe punishment. Armed with a discipline, the effectiveness of which had been increased by sharp iron points, he mercilessly struck his “corpse,” “this old Adam,” as he used to call his poor body.

More often than not, before retiring to this rude resting-place, he subjected his body to a yet more severe punishment. Armed with a discipline, the effectiveness of which had been increased by sharp iron points, he mercilessly struck his “corpse,” “this old Adam,” as he used to call his poor body.
On certain nights a woman of Lyons, who lodged with Mere Renard, heard him thus punishing himself for the space of an hour or more; now and again he would pause for a moment, only to resume with renewed energy. “When is he going to stop?” the compassionate neighbours would say. He made his own instruments of penance, or, at least, he repaired and improved them. The person who did his room in the morning used to find under the furniture fragments of chains, small keys, and bits of iron or lead which had come off his disciplines. A discipline lasted him only fifteen days. “It was pitiful to see the left sleeve of his shirt all cut up and dyed with blood,” says Catherine Lassagne.
He apparently fainted more than once, when he would lie, covered with blood, against the wall. In a corner of his room, hidden by the curtain that hangs from the tester of the bed, the yellow plastering is bespattered with drops of blood which are still discernible. Three large stains give fairly distinct impressions of a shoulder, and from these dark patches thin streaks have trickled down to the pavement. Other stains show impressions of fingers and the palm of a hand. The saint left these marks upon the wall when leaning against it for support, or in an endeavour to rise from the floor when he had swooned.

“His meals were never at regular intervals.”1{1 Jeanne-Marie Chanay, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 765.} During the first years of his ministry, however, his penances exceeded all bounds. Later on he called these excesses his “youthful follies.” Happy they who need repent of none other! He went so far as to agree, rather vaguely, that then he overstepped the limits of prudence: “When one is young,” he said to a priest, “one is apt to be indiscreet.”2{2 Abbé Toccanier, Procès apostolique in genere, p. 166.} Nevertheless, he only stopped the day before he died -- this day God finally granted him his only day of rest after 40 years of continuous work for his "souls".


About a fortnight after his installation his sister Marguerite came from Dardilly to see him, accompanied by the widow Bibost, the purely “honorary” cook at the presbytery of Ars. Their reception by M. Vianney was extremely cordial, but it stopped at that. “0 my children,” he said to the visitors, “what can I offer you? There is nothing in the house!” After a few moments’ reflection he bethought himself of some potatoes, already musty, which he had boiled for his personal use. “We had not the courage to touch them,” Marguerite related. As for himself, he ate two or three in our presence, remarking: “They are not a bit spoilt; I find them still quite good.” Then he added: “I am expected in the church, I must go; try to manage for yourselves as well as you can.” Luckily for them, on their way through Trévoux, Gothon and Mère Bibost had taken the precaution of buying a loaf of bread. They ended by discovering a small quantity of flour, a few eggs, and a little butter, which a kindly soul had presented to M. Vianney, and which he had quite forgotten. With these materials they made a few matefaims1, {1 A matefaim is a kind of pancake which at one time was very popular among the inhabitants of both banks of the Saône. It is a very thin cake made of wheaten flour, or buckwheat, diluted in Water and baked in a pan. It served as a substitute for bread in the farms of La Dombes.} “because they knew he liked them.” Better still, they caught and killed two young pigeons which were marauding in the small yard of the house, and roasted them on the spit. “Oh! the poor creatures,” he exclaimed as he beheld the unexpected dish, “so you have killed them! I did indeed wish to get rid of them because they annoy the neighbours, but you should not have cooked them.” He refused to touch the meat, and would only eat a pancake.

Before her return to Ecully the widow Bibost secured the services of a substitute in the person of the widow Renard. At first this woman took her role seriously and ordered fresh bread for the presbytery. She soon discovered that, without so much as tasting it, M. Vianney distributed it to the poor. In exchange he accepted at their hands, or even bought from them, the crusts they carried in the recesses of their wallets.

When she noticed that M. le Curé had come in from church, she would knock at his door. For a while there would be no reply. On her insisting, he would say, without opening the door: “I am not in need of anything; I wish for nothing.” Frequently he would say to his housekeeper: “Do not come until such a day “—which meant several days—and if she disregarded her instructions he, on his part, remained inflexible. Several other persons had a like experience. One of them said with a sigh: “Oh! it is very hard to serve a saint!’” 1 {1 Catherine Lassagne, Procès apostolique in genere, p. 456.}

At other times M. Vianney himself cooked, in his famous saucepan, enough potatoes to last him a whole week. When they were boiled he put them in a kind of iron basket, which he suspended from the wall. When he felt the pangs of hunger he took out one or two—to eat three would have been, according to him, “solely for the pleasure of eating.” He ate them cold, even when, towards the end of the week, they were covered with a musty down. At other times he cooked an egg on the hot cinders, or baked a few indigestible matefaims made of flour mixed with salt and water. He lived on this diet until 1827, that is, until the Providence of Ars came to be established, when he went there to take his meals. “How happy I was,” he jokingly remarked, “when I lived all by myself. If I needed food, I baked three matefaims. Whilst eating the first, I made the second, which I ate whilst preparing the third. The last was eaten whilst I saw to my frying pan and the fire. I concluded with a glass of water, and a meal like this served me for several days.”2 {2 A legend has sprung up according to which the Curé, during the whole of his forty-one years at Ars, lived exclusively on potatoes boiled by himself. This is quite incorrect. All the witnesses to his life agree in stating that he occasionally had them cooked for him. Moreover, this régime did not last beyond 1827, that is, a little under six years. From the day when M. Vianney took his meals at the Providence he had perforce to lay aside his potato pot and to eat what was put before him. We shall see that even then his penances were terrifying.}

A woman of the village had obtained leave to take her cow to graze in the presbytery garden which was running wild. One day she surprised the Curé in the act of gathering sorrel. “So you feed on grass,” the woman said. “Yes, my poor Mère Renard,” he replied somewhat annoyed at having been caught, “I have tried to eat nothing else, but I could not go on with it.”

The good woman, no doubt, talked in the village, but even had she remained silent, the emaciated form of the Curé would have been sufficient evidence of the austerities to which he subjected himself on behalf of the people of Ars. His instinct warned him that the evil spirits wield a tyran¬nical power over impure souls, and his keenest anxiety was to set souls free from so dreadful a bondage. “This kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting,” says the Gospel (Matt. xvii, 20). That saying of the Master became the watchword of the Curé d’Ars. Twenty years later, on October 14, 1839, he betrayed the secret of his first con¬quests in a confidential conversation with the Abbé Tailhades, then a young priest of Montpellier, who was spending a few weeks with him in order to complete his training for an apostolic career: “My friend, the devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one’s food, drink and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God. Oh! how often have I experienced it! Whilst I was alone—and I was alone dur¬ing eight or nine years, and therefore quite free to yield to my attraction—it happened at times that I refrained from food for entire days. On those occasions I obtained, both for myself and for others, whatsoever I asked of Almighty God.”
Tears were streaming down his cheeks as he spoke. After a while he continued:
“Now things are not quite the same. I cannot do without food for so long a time—if I attempt it, I lose the power even of speech. But how happy I was whilst I lived alone! I bought from the poor the morsels of bread that were given them; I spent a good part of the night in the church; there were not so many people to confess, and the good God granted me extraordinary graces.” 1{1 Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 15I6.}
In this way the period of his most severe penances was for M. Vianney also the time of his greatest consolations.

M. Vianney burned with an even more fiery zeal for the instruction of the adult population of his parish.
    He installed himself in the sacristy. Opening as it did on the Sanctuary, he would be labouring under the very eye of the divine Master. The vestment press became his writing table. He made a study of the Lives of the Saints, the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Dictionnaire de théologie of Bergier, the spiritual treatises of Rodriguez, and the sermon books of Le Jeune, Joly, and Bonnardel. The only respite from these feverish labours was an occasional glance at the tabernacle. He sought inspiration at the foot of the altar. Kneeling on its step, he pondered what he had read, visualizing at the same time the poor people whom he had to evangelize. Before the Master, who knew how to utter the most sublime truths in such wise that fishermen, field labourers, and shepherds were able to grasp them, he pleaded with tears that he would suggest also to him the thoughts and accents that would convert his parish.
    Returning once more to the sacristy, he began to write, in a standing position, as became one who was prepared to do battle for the truth of which he wished to be the champion. His pen ran rapidly over the paper, so that at times he covered as many as ten large sheets with his fine, sloping handwriting. Occasionally he worked for seven hours on end and far into the night. His manuscripts show hardly any erasures. Unfinished sentences bear witness to his haste and to the ardour of his zeal. Time was precious—he felt he must get on at all costs.                         p. 132
    But the hour came when the manuscript had to be committed to memory. This proved the hardest part of his task. His memory was never retentive, and yet it was necessary that he should assimilate some thirty to forty pages written at one sitting, and showing no apparent division into paragraphs. The night of Saturday to Sunday was spent in reciting his discourse aloud. From the road that skirts the cemetery belated passers-by could hear him reciting his sermon of the following morning. When sleep could be denied no longer, he sat down on the bare floor and, leaning his shoulders against the oaken credence table, he would doze for a few minutes. Surely those terrible hours were among the most meritorious and most heart-stirring of his whole life.
When morning came there was the audience to face. With the exception of the pew reserved for the people of the château, which was occupied by Mlle. d’Ars, the congregation was made up of peasants. These watched him with the eyes of a lynx, prepared to scoff on the slightest pretext. Many of them, especially among the young people, would have preferred to be elsewhere.
M. Vianney’s only thought was of the salvation of these poor souls. He knew that in the pulpit a priest fulfils one of the most important duties of his sacred office. This conviction fired his zeal and gave him courage. Alas! the poor Curé’s head ached sorely from the exertions of the previous night. Eleven o’clock was about to strike; he was still fasting, and he had eaten nothing since Saturday midday. On Sunday he sang Mass and preached, and, to fill up the measure, every one of his sermons lasted an hour.

“Why do you speak so loudly when you preach? Do take some care of yourself.” “Monsieur le Curé,” another asked, “why is it that you speak so softly when you pray and so loudly when you preach ?” “Oh,” was his good-natured reply, “the reason is that when I preach I speak to people who are either deaf or asleep, but when I pray, I speak to the good God who is not deaf.”
THE    CONVERSION OF ARS (continued) III. FIGHT AGAINST THE PROFANATION OF THE SUNDAY, AGAINST TAVERNS AND BLASPHEMIES
“Come, my children...!” 1  {1 Sermons, t. II, p. 120} On the feast of the patron saint of the church [Ars--St Sixtus], even those would not dare to miss Mass, who were about to spend the day and the ensuing night in dancing and drinking—M. Vianney has them in his grasp; they will not escape before they have been subjected to a wholesome castigation. He makes a virulent attack upon those who are preparing to go to the dance: “You will say,” he exclaims, “that it is waste of time to speak about dances and the evils they lead to.” Nothing will stop him:  “In acting as I do I fulfil my duty.” Then he rebukes in turn “the boys and girls who drink from the source of all crimes,” as well as those “purblind and criminal parents who have set them the example.”2 {2 ibid., t. IV, pp. 201 ss.}
    The battle was launched. The Curé d’Ars was determined, if God granted him life, not to lay down his arms until he had won a complete victory.

“The women and girls had adopted a head-dress which was very becoming,” and showed their hair to advantage. M. Vianney forced them to give it up in favour of bonnets that successfully hid the hair.2  {2 Mme. Christine de Cibeins, Procès apostolique continuatif, p. 138.} Marthe Miard, who kept a shop not far from the church, was bidden to rearrange her bonnet because he did not think it was plain enough. “We looked like little old women,” said Claudine Trève, who yet never had a taste for vanity. Here is another incident related by Marthe Miard: “One day M. le Curé met me when I was somewhat better dressed than usual” (she was wearing a muslin dress of a bright colour). “Instead of greeting me with his usual ‘Good-day, my child!’ he made me a deep bow and said: ‘Good-day, mademoiselle!’ I felt very much humiliated.”
    Little Jeanne Lardet was proudly showing off a pretty new collar. “Will you sell me your collar ?“ M. Vianney laughingly asked. “I will give you five sous for it.”
“What for, M. le Curé ?“
“For my cat.”
Low necks and bare arms, to be sure, would never have been tolerated in his church. He allowed them neither to the little ones nor to the great ones of this world. One day, whilst calling at the château, he noticed for the first time the portrait of a lady in evening dress. “One might think she was going to be guillotined,” he observed, pointing his finger at the portrait. Mlle. d’Ars took the hint and removed the picture.


Towards the end of his life he poked fun at the crinoline— even in his catechisms: “The Emperor has done many fine things, but there is something that he has overlooked: he should have had the doors widened to permit of the passage of crinolines.” Notwithstanding his satire, a few women of Ars began to wear that cumbersome garment. M. Vianney did not insist, for be deemed the fashion nothing worse than ridiculous. Besides, these few women of his parish were wholly submerged, on Sundays and holidays, under the mass of strangers who freely conformed to the decrees of the fashion of those days. The fact remains that during thirty years, whether they were met with in church, in the street, or on some country road, such was the modesty and reserve of the women and girls of Ars that they became the rivals of religious Sisters and the edification of the pilgrims who flocked to that favoured village. 

What likelihood was there that the Lord’s day should be kept holy so long as the tavern competed with the house of God? The Curé d’Ars felt that if he succeeded in emptying the one he would fill the other. In the eighteenth century a tavern was deemed “an evil resort.”2 {2 Among evil resorts must be numbered, in a special manner, all taverns, for they are a source of great danger to country people” (Joseph Lambert, La manière de bien instruire les pauvres et en particulier les gens de la campagne, Paris, Morin, 1739, p. 133).} This was likewise M. Vianney’s opinion. Was it not in those houses, that dancers congregated and men forgot their duty? He tackled this enemy from the outset, nor did a holy indignation allow him to mince his words. He made his own the phraseology of St John Climacus, in order to strike the harder: “The tavern,” he exclaimed, “is the devil’s own shop, the school where hell retails its dogmas, the market where souls are bartered, the place where families are broken up, where health is undermined, where quarrels are started and murders committed.”3{3 Sermons, t. 111, pp. 337, 334, 335, 334.}
No doubt such strong language made, a deeper impression on the faithful who heard it than upon the innkeepers them¬selves, for, doubtless, these were not often seen in church. All the same, the preacher won his point, for the number of those who patronized the local inns became increasingly smaller. One innkeeper complained to the Curé that this meant his ruin. M. Vianney gave the man money and prevailed on him to close his establishment. Eventually the man became a most excellent Christian. For a time his partner continued to brave the anathemas of the parish priest, but in the end he, too, yielded, closed the tavern, and took up another occupation. In this way did M. Vianney bring about the removal of both taverns from the neighbourhood of the church.2 {2 Frère Athanase, Procès apostolique ne pereant, p. 832.}
    Two others, which stood in remoter parts of the village, were eventually compelled to close their doors also. The good curé of Fareins, M. Dubouis, was wont to say that this constituted one of the most signal victories of M. Vianney. But when money is at stake men are obstinate. Seven taverns were opened in succession; their owners were obliged, one after another, to retire from the business. A saint’s curse lay upon them. “You shall see,” he had prophesied, “you shall see; those who open an inn in this parish shall be ruined.”1 {1 Frère Athanase, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 832.}
p. 141

This ruthless struggle yielded some unexpected results. The plague of pauperism abated. “There were very few destitute persons at Ars itself,” says M. Pertinand, the schoolmaster; “by suppressing the taverns M. le Curé had eliminated the main cause of poverty.”2 {2 Procès apostolique ne pereant, p. 858.}

Had the taverns been nothing more than places where people met for innocent amusement, M. Vianney would have left them in peace. But God was blasphemed there! For a soul penetrated with such profound reverence for the holy Name the mere thought of such a thing was unbearable. And yet he experienced the sorrow “of hearing blasphemies issuing from the mouths of the village children who scarcely knew the Lord’s Prayer.”3 {3  Sermons, t. II, p. 217.} He never alluded to this painful subject without shedding copious tears, and in his sermons and catechisms he returned to it again and again. Blasphemers were threatened with heavy punishment, both in this world and in the world to come. “Is it not an astounding miracle that the house of a blasphemer is not struck by lightning or by some other misfortune? If the sin of blas¬phemy is rampant in your home, it will surely perish.”4{4  ibid.}
For this cause he sought to repress the sin with boldness and severity, leaving no means untried by which he might instil a horror of it into the minds of youths and children.
“We recollect,” Mgr. Convert writes, “a venerable priest who related to us how, as a young priest, he went to Ars, accompanied by a child of twelve or fourteen years. Both priest and child made their confession to M. Vianney.
“‘You will go to Holy Communion at my Mass,’ the priest said to the child.
“‘No, I cannot.’
“‘Why not?’
“‘M. le Curé has refused to give me absolution for this once, because I have blasphemed the holy Name of God.’” 1 {1 A l’école du Bienheureux Curé d’Ars, p. 268.}
    So successful was M. Vianney’s campaign against cursing and swearing that even expressions that were merely coarse— he did not shrink from mentioning them in the pulpit— gradually vanished from the vocabulary of the people of Ars. In their place they would recite the Lord’s Prayer, the “Hail Mary,” or formulas such as “How good God is! Blessed be God!”
    The struggle against the profanation of the Sunday exacted eight years of ceaseless efforts, and even so the Curé’s success was not complete.2 {2“Il parvint a faire cesser, presque complètement, le travail du Dimanche” (J. B. Mandy, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 597). It is said that the first time he spoke of this subject in the pulpit he did it with so many tears, such an accent of indignation and a shaking of his whole being, that after the lapse of half a century old men still spoke of it with emotion. In fact, all through life he ever spoke with a holy indignation whenever he mentioned the subject of the profanation of the Lord’s day. “You labour, but what you earn proves the ruin of your soul and your body. If we ask those who work on Sunday, ‘What have you been doing?’ they might answer: ‘I have been selling my soul to the devil and crucifying our Lord…I am doomed to hell...’ When I behold people driving carts on Sunday, it seems to me I see them carting their souls to hell.
    “Sunday is the property of the good God; it is his own day, the Lord’s day. He made all the days of the week; he might have kept them all; he has given you six and has reserved only the seventh for himself. What right have you to meddle with what does not belong to you? You know very well that stolen goods never yield any profit. Neither will the day that you steal from the Lord procure for you any advantage. I know two infallible ways to become poor, and they are: Sunday work and taking other people’s property.” 1 {1 Esprit du Curé d’Ars (English translation by Fr. Bowden. Burns and Oates, pp. 58, 59.)}
    His objurgations, his maledictions, were the talk of every household, and were duly related to the transgressors of, the divine law. M. Vianney himself took good care to refresh their memories. On certain Sundays, contrary to his usual practice, he could be seen to leave the church and to take one of the roads close by. In this way, one Sunday in July, he suddenly came upon a man who was taking in his crop.
Ashamed at being caught, the peasant tried to hide himself behind his cart. With an accent of intense grief the curé said to the man, whom he had recognized: “0 my friend, you seem very much surprised to find me here...but the good God sees you at all times; he it is whom you must fear.” That evening, instead of the usual homily, he forcibly inveighed against Sunday work. “Go,” he cried with biting sarcasm, “go through the fields of those who work to-day; they always have land to sell!
He often spoke in this strain and with such vehemence that “he lost his voice.”2 {2 Procès apostolique ne pereant, p. 917.}
THE CONVERSION OF ARS (continued): IV. CAMPAIGN AGAINST DANCING

THE means by which M. Vianney brought about the suppression of dances in his parish have become famous. His victory, in this matter, was decisive, but the struggle was long and obstinate. So inveterate was the passion for dancing that it cost the holy priest twenty-five years’ efforts before he succeeded in extirpating it. It has been said that with some people dancing had become a kind of mania or intoxication. Like heathens who are unable to realize their wretched condition, the patrons of the dance were loud in asserting the innocence, and consequently the lawfulness, of this form of recreation. M. Vianney felt it incumbent on him to enlighten their consciences.

“My God, is it possible, is it possible to be purblind to the extent of believing that there is no harm in the dance, whereas it is the rope by which the devil drags the greatest number of souls into the abyss of hell?” 3 {3 Sermons, t. III, p. 206.}
    Here again the Curé d’Ars was not content with words: he took direct action. One day he set out to meet the fiddler who was to play for the dancing. He who does away with the fiddle, he thought, will perhaps do away with the dance as well. The man was just entering the village, carrying his instrument under his arm. “How much do you get for play¬ing at a dance?” M. Vianney asked. “I do not remember,” says Frère Athanase, who relates the story, “whether the fiddler said five francs or ten. Anyhow, M. Vianney gave him double the sum asked, so that the man went away satisfied, and the dance did not take place.” 1 {1 Procès apostolique in genere, p. 202.}

In the course of the year 1823, with a view to rendering public homage to the great saint whom he had chosen for his patron at Confirmation, M. Vianney, at his own expense, erected yet another chapel and dedicated it to St John the Baptist. It was blessed and inaugurated on the feast of the saint, June 24, by the Abbé Mathias Loras, a fellow-student of M. Vianney at Ecully, and at that time Superior of the Petit Séminaire of Meximieux. The occasion was devoutly and joyfully celebrated by the bulk of the population, for already those who practised their religion formed the majority. However, the lovers of worldly amusements, who on that day mixed with the congregation, could not read without a feeling of resentment an inscription which, for their special benefit, the parish priest had caused to be painted over the arch of the new chapel: Sa tête jut le prix d’une danse (“ His head was the price of a dance”).

It so happened that one Sunday afternoon, at the end of Vespers, a small band of young women stayed in church to go to confession. They were good souls, no doubt, but they did not as yet realize that they were members of one family. M. Vianney felt inspired to address them all together in order to unite them in a common act of worship. “My children,” he suggested, “if you will agree to it, we might say the rosary together to the end that the Blessed Virgin may obtain for you the grace to perform well that which you are about to do.” Among the girls there was one who was more mischievous than frivolous. “She was proud of the fact that she could answer the rosary.” Before M. Vianney’s time the rosary was publicly recited in church once a year only, on the feast of the Annunciation.2 {2 Guillaume Villier, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 620.}                             p. 148

The words of the priest made a deep impression upon the pure soul of this girl. “I really believe,” she admitted later on, “that was the day on which M. le Curé changed my heart.” She who would have been passionately addicted to pleasure now became a pattern of every virtue. The apostle had discovered the good leaven which would cause the whole paste to ferment. “This took place during his first years at Ars,” says Catherine Lassagne, herself one of the souls he delighted in training. “One Sunday, during a vogue, he invited the young maidens to come into his garden to eat the fruit that grew there. He himself did not enter it. I plucked up courage and went with them, though I was still very young [Catherine was only twelve years old]. M. le Curé joined us for a few moments. I remember his saying to us: ‘Do you not feel happier than those who are now dancing on the village green?’ Later on he made us go into the kitchen of the presbytery, where he read to us the Life of my patron saint and spoke to us of the things of God.” 1 {1 These details are borrowed from the Petit mémoire of Catherine Lassagne.} These girls, with others who were, in turn, drawn by their example, were the nucleus of the first pious association established in the parish under the title of “The Guild of the Holy Rosary.”

All his life M. Vianney remained steadfast in his attitude towards dancing. He spared no effort in order to implant in the minds of parents sound ideas on a subject that he deemed of the utmost gravity. He strove to make them realize what were their duties to their children—namely, tender love mixed with firmness, good example, watchfulness, and correction. The escapades of sons and daughters were imputed to their parents. “You must answer for their souls as you will answer for your own. I wonder whether you are doing all that lies in your power...but what I do know is that if your children lose their souls whilst they are as yet under your care, it is to be feared that your lack of watchful¬ness may be the cause of your own damnation...I know you will not take another step in order to do your duty by your children; these things do not greatly trouble you, and I should almost say you are right, for you will have plenty of time to worry during an endless eternity.”2  {2 Sermons, t. III, p. 316.}

By some means or other his ecclesiastical superiors had come to know of the precarious state of M. Vianney’s health; hence their decision to send him to Salles, a pretty village nestling on the slope of verdant hills. There he would breathe a purer air. The population amounted to about three hundred souls; they enjoyed a reputation for courtesy and a certain amount of religion.
M.    Vianney was greatly attached to his lowly village of Ars. However, it never occurred to him to remonstrate; he just made ready to leave for his new post. His books and furniture were soon packed and put on a cart. When the news of his departure became known there was no small stir among the more fervent section of the population. The mothers of families seem to have had a presentiment of the event.
“How happy we should be,” they said, “if our children made their first Communion under the guidance of this priest! He is a saint...But there, they will not let him stay with us.” Great was the emotion of Mlle. d’Ars, nor could the authorities wholly override her opinion. In a letter to an intimate friend, in which the venerable châtelaine gave full vent to her mood, she spoke of nothing less than strangling the Vicar-General 2{2 The Abbé Monnin (Le Curé d’Ars) speaks of “a holy anger.” On the other hand, Mlle. d’Ars wrote a letter to M. Courbon, for whom she entertained a high esteem. The latter replied: “I am leaving nothing undone to induce M. Vianney to alter his manner of life; but I make no impression on him. His friends are not more successful. He listens and then goes on as before. Let him go to Salles. I want him to enjoy better health, though I dare not hope for an improvement in this respect” (Letter of April 17, 1820).}

Whilst the erection of the altar of St John the Baptist gladdened the heart of the Curé d’Ars, it caused him also grave anxiety. He had made himself responsible for the full cost, and he owed 500 francs to the carpenter when he was without a sou. His slender income as succursaliste, as well as the annuity paid to him by his brother Francois as his share of the paternal inheritance—all had gone into the hands of the master mason. The carpenter, on his part, pressed for payment. One day, feeling very worried, poor M. Vianney left his house in order to get some relief from his anxiety. Whilst he was thus walking along one of the roads near the church, he met a woman, unknown to him, who asked him: ‘Are you M. le Curé d’Ars?’ On his replying in the affirmative, the woman handed him 6oo francs for his charities.1 {1 Procès de l’Ordinaire p. 345.}
    Though he deemed the incident an extraordinary inter¬vention on the part of God, he did not dare to draw the conclusion that henceforth divine Providence would be his banker. On the contrary, cautious both by nature and grace, he declared that he had had a lesson and that he would never again incur such risks. He made it a rule to pay in advance, except in extraordinary circumstances.

Barely three years had elapsed since our saint’s arrival at Ars, and already the old church had undergone those external and internal alterations which made it, at least in part, the building that the visitor beholds to-day. The lowly Abbé Vianney had done good work. All was now ready for the famous pilgrimage to Ars, for that endless procession of strangers of every nation, of saints and sinners, who came to seek health, light, and change of heart from one whom long before the infallible decrees of the Apostolic See, they delighted in calling the saint.

GREAT TRIALS OF THE FIRST YEARS: CALUMNIES AND TEMPTATIONS
No good work ever succeeds unless it be accompanied by suffering. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” 1  {1 Heb. ix, 22.} Sacrifice is the groundwork of every achievement of God’s saints. The pastor of Ars knew this secret of the saints, hence the cruel scourgings and severe fasts which he undertook in order to obtain the conversion of his beloved flock. God was now about to permit sufferings that were to cut even deeper into the quick of his soul, wounds that were to be inflicted by the malice, more or less conscious, of men.
    When a man attacks inveterate disorders and popular vices, he challenges opposition. M. Vianney was not unprepared—he knew the enemy would raise his head. “If a priest is determined not to lose his soul,” he exclaimed, “so soon as any disorder arises in the parish he must trample under foot all human considerations as well as the fear of the contempt and hatred of his people. He must not allow anything to bar his way in the discharge of duty, even were he certain of being murdered on coming down from the pulpit. A pastor who wants to do his duty must keep his sword in hand at all times.” 2  {2 Sermon: Sur la colère, t. III, p. 352.}
    Did not St Paul himself write to the faithful of Corinth: “I most gladly will spend and be spent myself for your souls, although loving you more, I be loved less.”3 {3 2 Cor. xii, 15.}

    M. Vianney had no wish to be the cause of his own damnation. At an early date his people saw proofs of this determination. During several months those of their number who attended church had poured over them from the pulpit an almost uninterrupted stream of reproaches, adjurations, and threats. It was in vain that the preacher, seeing their weariness and their yawns, kept repeating: “When I am with you I do not feel weary”; they only called him “ingrat,” a word which in their language meant a disagreeable and tiresome person. 1 {1 “The first historian of the Curé d’Ars (M. Monnin) makes him say that he has never addressed reproaches to his people. Such a statement can only be described as a naïvety against which protest all the pages of the sermons of the servant of God. The saint’s contemporaries were astonished at so erroneous an affirmation, and they themselves pointed it out with a laugh...What a fine thing it would have been, to be sure, if the disorders that were rampant at Ars had collapsed of their own accord, like the walls of Jericho! The truth is that nothing of the kind happened, but the Curé of d’Ars grappled with abuses ‘with a face like an adamant and like flint’ (Ezechiel, iii, 9), with the ‘generous boldness’ spoken of by Tertullian, ‘that unmasks everything and is afraid of no one’” (Mgr. Convert, Le Curé d’Ars et let dons du Saint-Esprit, p. 329).}
    “Did M. le Curé preach long sermons?” Mgr. Convert one day asked Père Drémieux. “Yes, long ones, and always on hell...He would strike his hands together, saying: ‘My children, you are lost!’  Or he struck his breast. What a constitution he had!...There are people who say there is no hell. Ah, well he believed in it.” At a later period, when a marked improvement had taken place in the parish, he chose rather to show the beauty of virtue than the heinousness of sin.

His methods, to be sure, were not quite those of his pre¬decessors: murmurs arose in many a household. M. le Curé was too strict. When a child had been judged unworthy of absolution, and consequently its first Communion was put off for a whole year, if not longer, its mother, wounded in her self-love, would groan: “It is because it is my child.” Moreover, was not the new parish priest far too hard on those who profaned the Sunday, on the patrons of the tavern, on those who haunted the dance hall? It goes without saying that the fearless reformer had the innkeepers arrayed against him. If the priest chose to live unlike other people, well, it was his own lookout, but let him leave others alone! Such were, between their potations, the mutterings of the village, philosophers.
    Will it be believed that there were a few persons of solid piety who did not readily “take to” M. Vianney? For nearly ten years—“ten years of distress”—the excellent Catherine Lassagne, who ended by becoming one of his most ardent admirers, experienced towards his person feelings in which fear had as large a share as reverence. She went even so far as to beseech God to remove from Ars a priest whose direction she deemed utterly unbearable. The fact was that M. Vianney wanted her to become perfect; for that reason he would not condone the slightest fault in her conduct. He followed the same line of action in regard to all those who were his most fervent disciples. “He led over exceedingly rough roads that devoted demoiselle Pignault, who, having until then lived in ease and comfort, gave up her rooms at Lyons in order to live with poor Mère Renard. “He let slip no opportunity to mortify her and to exercise her in the practice of renouncement. In this respect he went so far as to forbid her to assist at his catechism classes.” 1 {1 M. Monnin, Le Curé d’Ars}. He did not reject the devotion of those women who sought to help him in his various undertakings, but he wished their devotion to be disinterested and supernatural.
 

    So he abandoned himself yet more completely into the hands of God, and whilst his heart sickened at the ignominy—for his honour as a priest was at stake—he forgave the guilty ones; nay, he went so far as to bestow on them marks of friendship. “Had he been in a position to shower benefits upon them he would have done so. Thus, for instance, he relieved a certain family that had grievously wronged him, when misfortune befell them. One member of that household died in a mental hospital. Though he knew the persons concerned, he never uttered their names; on the contrary, he seized every opportunity of doing them a good turn. “We must pray for them,” he kept repeating to Mayor Mandy, who was full of indignation at the conduct of those wretches. To a priest who complained of being the butt of evil tongues he gave the following advice: “Do as I did; I let them say all they wished, and in this way they ended by holding their tongues.”1 {1 Procès apostolique in genere, p. 432.}
    A holy soul “turns all bitterness into sweetness,” says St Thérèse of Lisieux. Here is the testimony of an eyewitness: “I know that M. Vianney not only endured these indignities with patience, but that his heart felt a wholly supernatural joy in the midst of his sufferings. Later on he called this period the happiest time of his life. He would have wished that the Bishop, believing him guilty, would remove him from his parish, so that he might have time to weep over his “poor life” in quiet retirement.2 {2 Frère Athanase, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 662.}
In February, 1843, he made the following amazing statement in the hearing of several persons: “I thought a time would come when people would rout me out of Ars with sticks, when the Bishop would suspend me, and I should end my days in prison. I see, however, that I am not worthy of such a grace.”3 {3 Catherine Lassagne, Petit mémoire, premiere redaction, p. 16.}
    When, after the inquiry by the curé of Trévoux, he saw that Mgr. Devie, far from removing him, was only too happy to leave him in his parish, he gave utterance to his lamentations: “They leave me here like a little dog on the leash and yet they ought to know me well enough!” 4 {4 Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 174.}                                                                                            p. 175
    Such words betray the saint. The Curé d’Ars had reached the highest degree of heroic humility. He was not merely detached from worldly honours, he despised honour and reputation. So far from crushing his spirit, moral suffering only proved an incentive, and in this way God moulded his soul even as the sculptor carves a statue by means of chisel and mallet.
However great may have been his trust in God, the sight of what he called his profound wretchedness and the duties of his ministry, filled him with an exceeding fear of the judgements of God. He experienced something that was closely akin to despair. “My God,” he groaned, “make me suffer whatsoever you wish to inflict on me, but grant that I may not fall into hell.” From fear he passed to hope, and from hope he relapsed into fear.2 {2 Catherine Lassagne, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 486; J. Pertinand, ibid., p. 361.}
    He had to go through those awful crises, when the soul receives no comfort from the world to which it no longer belongs, nor from heaven from which it is as yet banished; those hours of searching torture when it deems itself forsaken by God wholly and for all time. It was at times such as these that he longed to hide himself in some lonely corner there to weep over his “poor life.”
    Truly the cross that weighed on him was proportioned to his destiny. But when once he began to love it, how much lighter it felt! “To suffer lovingly,” he exclaimed, “is to suffer no longer. To flee from the cross is to be crushed beneath its weight. We should pray for a love of the cross— then it will become sweet. I experienced it myself during four or five years. I was grievously calumniated and contradicted. Oh! I did have crosses, almost more than I could bear. Then, I started praying for a love of crosses and I felt happy. I said to myself: ‘Verily, there is no happiness but in the cross.’” 1 {1 Baronne de Belvey, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 206; Abbe Monnin, ibid p. 1098}
Thus though the tempest raged round his soul, it did not disturb that highest point where hope and peace reside. “One day,” writes the Abbé Monnin, then a young missionary, “I asked him whether his trials had caused him at any time to lose his interior peace.” “What?” he exclaimed, with a heavenly expression on his countenance, “the cross make us lose our inward peace? Surely it is the cross that bestows it on our hearts. All our miseries come from our not loving it. 2 {2 Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 1124.}

During the great mission at Trévoux, which opened at the beginning of 1823, he achieved a notable success. The chapel in which he confessed was never empty. He lodged with a former fellow-student of Verrières, M. Morel, who now kept a boarding-house. At night that worthy used to wait in vain for M. Vianney’s return for dinner. On successive occasions he went to look for him in the church—often after midnight— where he found him still in the confessional. On the night preceding the conclusion of the mission there was such a crush round the Curé d’Ars that the surging crowd very nearly pushed over both confessor and confessional. This was the only incident of the mission that M. Vianney delighted in relating subsequently, and he always laughed heartily when telling it. He deliberately sought to throw a veil over the fact of the enormous affluence of people who sought his direction and the conversions wrought by his zeal. “The gentlemen of the sous-préfecture and of the law courts came to him” about matters of conscience.1 {1 Frère Athanase, Procès apostolique in genere, p. 203.} He did his duty without respect of persons and with truly apostolic freedom. “Ever afterwards the sous-préfet spoke of him in terms of admiration. But though he prized his wisdom and the gentle firmness of his direction, he realized with a feeling of resignation and submission that the Curé d’Ars had been relentless where the soirées and balls of the sous-préfecture were concerned.” But what happy times those were when the sous-préfets took counsel with a saint! 2 {2 Abbé Monnin, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 1082.}

During the mission at Saint-Trivier, M. Vianney absented himself for a fortnight. Suddenly a dreadful piece of intelligence alarmed his people of Ars. It was said that their parish priest had died of exhaustion in his confessional. The rumour, which was not wholly groundless, was promptly contradicted. It had originated in the fact that the holy man, having set out, fasting, for Saint-Trivier, lost his way in the snow and was picked up unconscious.
    People came from the neighbouring parishes in order to go to confession to him. He sat in the confessional from an early hour until noon. The atmosphere of the church was icy. When they brought him a foot-warmer, he accepted it so as not to give offence, but pushed it out of his way as being of no use to him.3 {3 Denise Lanvis, housekeeper, at the time, to the curé of Saint-Trivier, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 1361.}  p. 190
During the jubilee at Montmerle in 1826, there being no room for him at the presbytery, M. Vianney lodged with a Mlle. Mondésert, in close proximity to the church. He had hardly installed himself in the house of the venerable sexagenarian, who was also the honorary sacristan of the church, than he secretly asked the servant to boil a saucepan of potatoes for him and to put them in his room. At the conclusion of the jubilee the parish priest went to thank the obliging old lady and to compensate her for the expenses she must have incurred in entertaining her guest. “Oh, M. le Curé,” she said, “it is not worth while troubling about a pair of sheets.” “But you gave him his meals. We never saw him at the presbytery at meal-time.” “Neither did he have anything here,” said Mlle. Mondésert; “he used to come into the house for five minutes, at about noon.” Whilst this conversation was in progress the servant appeared on the scene and told the story of the saucepan of potatoes. So they all went upstairs together. There was the saucepan, sure enough, hidden behind the mantelpiece and quite empty. During the six days that he spent at Montmerle when he, so to speak, never left the church, M. Vianney had had no food except those potatoes. The curé of Montmerle made further inquiries in the village: his holy collaborator had never eaten at the house of any of the parishioners.1 {1 These details were related to Mgr. Convert on July 1, 1910, by Mme. Serve, of Lyons, a great-grand-niece of Mlle. Mondésert. The heirs of the latter (she died in 1846, aged 86) still possess the bed in which M. Vianney slept during the jubilee of 1826.}

At the jubilee of Saint-Bernard none but M. Vianney came forward to help the pastor of that parish. Everybody wished to go to confession to the Curé d’Ars. The other did not mind being forsaken; to some colleagues who came to see him he laughingly declared: “I have a splendid missioner; he works well and eats nothing.” The whole population flocked to M. Vianney’s sermons.
The vine-dressers and farm labourers left their work and ran to the church, fearful lest they should miss even one word that fell from his lips. ‘‘If we must pay for lost time,” they declared to their astonished employers, “we will pay, but we, too, want to hear the Curé d’Ars.” Much and lasting good was wrought by him at Saint-Bernard.

About the same time he was invited by the curé of Limas to preach on the occasion of the forty hours’ prayer. “They played me a trick there,” {1 “On me fit une farce.”} he used to say afterwards. “I at first excused myself, because I did not deem myself capable of speaking before so distinguished an audience. M. le Curé stated that there was only question of a country parish.. So I went. On entering the church, I beheld the chancel full of clergy and the body of the church packed with people of every condition. At first I felt unnerved by the spectacle. However I began to speak of the love of God, and apparently everything went well: everybody wept.”2  {2 Frère Athanase, Procès apostolique in genere, p. 204.}

M. Beau, curé of Jassans and for thirteen years the ordinary confessor of the saint, writes as follows: “In 1852 I fell seriously ill. My colleague of Ars came to see me; it was the afternoon of Corpus Christi, June 11. He had made the whole of the journey on foot, the day being exceedingly hot, and he had already officiated at the procession of the Blessed Sacrament.” 1 {1 Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 1204.}
How many other facts of a like nature have remained unrecorded! Such deeds exceed the normal strength of man and presuppose extraordinary heroism in him who performed them. “It was thus,” says Catherine Lassagne, “that our holy Curé sacrificed himself for souls.”
THE “PROVIDENCE” OF ARS p. 195
ARS possessed no school worthy of the name. There were neither masters nor mistresses. In the winter months some stranger would be summoned to the village, when the boys and girls would go to school all together—very much to M. Vianney’s displeasure. He was not slow in coming to a decision. He would begin by establishing a girls’ school, and whilst waiting for better times the boys would have to attend by themselves the more or less regular classes of the schoolmaster.1 {1 A teacher came to settle in the village, but during the summer month he seems to have been engaged in agricultural labours, for we are told that at that time the school of Ars opened its doors only in winter. In the parish registers of 1827 we find, under date of July 4, among the witnesses to a marriage, one Gaillard, schoolmaster at Ars.}
In the beginning of 1823 M. Vianney sent them to the convent of the Sisters of St Joseph at Fareins. He made himself entirely responsible for their board. There the girls resumed their interrupted studies and prepared themselves for their future task by teaching the youngest of the Sisters’ pupils.
    In March of that same year M. le Curé acquired a newly erected house, standing at the east end of the church and styled “maison Givre” in the legal documents. To raise the purchase money he appealed to charity, besides making the sacrifice of all his personal property.2 {2Matthieu Vianney, his father, who died at Dardilly on July 8, 1818, at the age of sixty-five, had left the Curé d’Ars a small legacy.}      p. 196
His intention was to run it as a college, so we are informed by an item in the registers of the commune entered by the excellent mayor, Antoine Mandy.1 {1 “M. Vianney a acheté une maison au mois de mars 1824 pour tenir un college. Elle lui a couté 2,400 francs” (Registre de la commune d’Ars).  The house was neither luxurious nor spacious. On the ground-floor there was one large room, destined to be a class-room, and two small rooms formed the first storey. It was, however, thought adequate to receive twenty pupils and to lodge their teachers. The school build¬ings of the surrounding villages were hardly more com¬modious. M. Vianney liked the house because it stood in the middle of Ars and near the church. But in purchasing it he completely drained his resources so that he had no money left to pay the notary who drew up the deeds.
Thus it came about that at Martinmas, 1824, Catherine and Benoîte, having got together a few indispensable pieces of furniture, installed themselves in their school. Extreme poverty prevailed in the house. M. Vianney had guaranteed to feed and lodge them, but when the hour struck for the first meal there was nothing to eat. After cleaning the premises they bethought themselves of returning to their respective homes in order to get something to eat. “Well, no, let us stay on!” they said, “some dinner will surely be sent to us.” Whilst they were yet speaking, the mothers of both girls arrived with provisions. Thus the house deserved from the first hour of its existence the beautiful name under which it was destined to become famous: La Providence.

As soon as M. Vianney saw his school filled he conceived a new idea. On his pastoral rounds he had often discovered both in the village and in the surrounding country places, little homeless orphans, the offspring of unnatural or destitute parents. These poor little creatures were sent out to beg or were placed at that early age as domestic servants with employers wholly bereft of religion. Of God they knew nothing; vice was frequently the only thing that they were taught. Such a state of things was more than the compassionate heart of the Curé d’Ars could bear. He decided to establish, under the same roof as the school, a shelter or home that should bear the significant name of Providence. The house was to have no endowment other than the goodness of our Father in heaven. And yet he was afraid to tempt God by a rash undertaking.  One Sunday in January, 1827, he besought his beloved people to join him in a novena to the Blessed Virgin in order that he might know what was the will of God. His determination gained in strength and he set about its execution.

On the completion of the work he made it a condition that the establishment was to accept as boarders none but desti¬tute children. Henceforth the girls of Ars would be received only as day scholars. From 1827 the well-to-do children of the neighbourhood were no longer admitted. “We began by picking up two or three wretched little children,” says Catherine Lassagne; “but by degrees their numbers increased to such an extent that the house could not hold them all. The orphans—the word was used to designate all the boarders at the Providence without discrimination—were not, as a rule, admitted before they had reached their eighth year and were only discharged after their first Communion. When some poor girls of fifteen, eighteen and even twenty, sought admission, M. le Curé received them readily. More than any others, perhaps, these Magdalens needed a home and a mother. “They often came only half clad and covered with vermin,” says Jeanne-Marie Chanay. “Nothing could equal the tender compassion of our holy Curé towards those poor, forsaken creatures.”
    Some of them had been picked up on the road by M. Vianney. There were also a few utterly destitute creatures who had repulsive sores on their heads. So long as there was a vacant corner no one was ever turned away.
One day the saint brought in a girl whom he had found wandering about.
“Receive this child whom the good God sends to you,” he said to Catherine Lassagne.
“But, M. le Curé, there is no vacant bed !“
“There is always yours.”
The young directress had only momentarily doubted Providence. With touching contrition she opened her arms and pressed the poor girl to her heart.
   The compassion of M. Vianney towards destitute children was not barren and content with lamentations; it was active and fruitful in results.
   “Once I happened to find at the church door a new-born child,” Jeanne-Marie Chanay relates. “M. le Curé ordered us to take it in and to find it a nurse after we had got together a little trousseau for the poor waif. Another time, on hearing that a very unfortunate woman was dying in an adjoining parish, he sent me to her with one of my companions to fetch her baby whom we brought up.” 1 {1 Procès de l'Ordinaire, pp. 692-693.}

From 1830, that is, during well nigh twenty years, the house was always full. At times it sheltered as many as sixty children and more. As a matter of fact, the directresses did not trouble to establish statistics, imitating in this the mother-hen that does not amuse herself by counting her chickens. One day a person worthy of respect and one who was well disposed towards the work, asked them how many children they had under their charge. In all simplicity and innocence the mistresses admitted that they did not know.
    “What! you do not know?

    “No, we do not—God knows, and that is enough for us.”
    “But if one of them were to run away?”
    “Oh! as for that, we know them too well, and we are always busy with them, so that if such a thing were to happen we should notice it at once.”

“One day,” Catherine Lassagne relates with her wonted simplicity, “we felt some dissatisfaction at his having burdened us with so many children; we deemed the task beyond our strength, and for the first time a few murmurs escaped our lips. At that very moment Jeanne-Marie Chanay was on her way to the presbytery to take something to M. le Curé. He looked annoyed. He told Jeanne-Marie that we were no longer in the same dispositions as at the beginning; we were not sufficiently submissive to the will of God. Jeanne-Marie replied: ‘As for me, M. le Curé, that is true enough, but the others do not murmur.’
    ‘You are all alike, the three of you,’ said M. le Curé. On her return Jeanne-Marie related to us this conversation. Now it was precisely during her absence that Benoîte and myself had indulged in a grumble or two. We resolved never again to complain.” 1 {1 Petit mémoire, troisième redaction, pp. 101.102.}
    But surely, notwithstanding his silent resignation, he himself must have shared their anxiety? He prayed unceasingly wherever he happened to be, in the church, in the solitude of his presbytery, in the street, and when the answer was slow in coming, according to his picturesque expression, “he just went on wearying the good saints.” 2 {2 It is impossible to render the original French: “Il cassait la tête à ses boos saints” (Comtesse des Garets, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 916).

It was in extremities such as these that God intervened directly and miraculously. Here we have the testimony of eye-witnesses, whose trustworthiness is beyond cavil.
    It must have been in the course of 1829 that the supply of corn, which at that period was stored in the attic of the presbytery, was reduced to a few handfuls of grain lying scattered about the floor. It was useless to hope for anything from the villagers; in all likelihood the harvest had been a bad one. True, there remained the kindly châtelaine, but her revenues were affected by the universal distress. And he had so often begged from Mlle. d’Ars! In short, he thought of sending away a certain number of orphans. But how heart-breaking a resolution for one who dearly loved those children! Poor mites! they would be compelled to go back to their former wretchedness, and their souls and their bodies would be exposed to countless perils. Having nothing to expect from men, he would make a supreme effort with God: he would ask for a real miracle through the intercession of “the good saint,” who had helped him of yore, in his student days. Sweeping together into one heap all the grains that littered the floor of the attic, he hid in it a small relic of St Francis Regis, the wonder-worker of La Louvesc. Then, after asking the orphans to unite with him in fervent prayer for their daily bread, he, too, set himself to pray, and, with a mind already at ease, he waited for a while. Presently Jeanne-Marie Chanay appeared on the scene.
“Go and gather what corn there may be in the attic,” he told her. Jeanne-Marie was the baker of the Providence and had probably come to tell him that the pantry was empty. What a surprise now awaited her! She experienced the greatest difficulty in opening the door of the attic, and as soon as she forced it ajar a stream of wheat escaped through the narrow opening. She ran downstairs in all haste: “You wanted to test my faith,” she exclaimed, “your attic is full.’’
    ‘‘What, the attic is full?”
    “Yes, it is overflowing; come and see for yourself.”
So they went up together—and they noticed that the colour of the new corn differed from that of the old. 1 {1 Abbé Raymond, Procès de L’Ordinaire, p. 335.}
    Never before had the attic been so full. People were amazed that the main beam, which was somewhat worm-eaten, and the whole floor had not given way under so great a weight.2 {2 M. Vianney’s attic was divided into three sections. The corn was stored in the part that was farthest from his room, above an unfurnished and unused room. Long after the saint’s death it was still possible to find grains of corn on that spot in the crevices of the floor.} The corn heap was of pyramidal shape, and completely covered the floor of the attic. When Mgr. Devie asked him point-blank: “The corn reached up to here, did it not?
pointing with his finger to a fairly high mark on the wall, “No, my Lord, higher still—up to that spot,”3  was the reply.
{3 Baronne de Belvey, Procès de L’Ordinaire, p. 254. The following is the account of the miracle given by M. Vianney to M. Toccanier; “I had many orphans to feed, and there was but a handful of corn left in the attic. I thought that St Francis Regis, who during his life miraculously fed the destitute, would do likewise after his death. I had a relic of the saint; I put it in the handful of grains that remained; the little ones prayed, and the attic was found to be full” (Procès apostolique ne pereant. 291).  p. 204

A little later on another prodigy took place which rendered famous the kneading trough of the Providence. A drought was spreading consternation over the entire country-side. Flour was scarce and dear: there only remained enough to bake three loaves. “We felt very anxious,” says Jeanne-Marie Chanay, “because of our children. Catherine and I thought that if M. le Curé would pray to the good God, he could obtain that the handful of flour that was left should yield an ovenful of loaves. We went to inform him of our predicament. “You must make the dough,” he said. So I set to work, not without a certain apprehension. I began by putting a very small quantity of water and flour in the kneading trough, but I saw that the flour remained too thick. I added some water and more flour, without my small stock being: exhausted.
    The trough was full of dough, as on a day when a whole sack of flour was emptied into it. We baked ten big loaves, each weighing from twenty to twenty-two pounds, and the oven was filled as usual, to the great astonishment of all present.
    We told M. le Curé what had happened; his reply was:
    “The good God is very good! He takes care of his poor.”

The Saint’s prestige in the orphanage was amazing, and he could obtain from the children whatever he wanted. The following pretty incident will, suffice to prove our assertion. One of the little ones simply adored her ugly and badly made doll; so tenaciously did the child cling to her toy that she took it about with her wherever she went, even to church. One day M. Vianney asked her to give it up, nay, to throw it into the fire. (The incident took place in the kitchen of the Providence.) At first the child seemed greatly discon¬certed, when all of a sudden her decision was made, and she consigned the beloved idol to the flames. Surely the act was simply heroic.
    Several of the girls died amid circumstances so wonderful that they might be fitly recounted in some new Golden Legend. Some expressed their joy in dying because they were going to heaven; others sang or asked their companions to intone a hymn of thanksgiving. One who had always felt a great fear of death, exclaimed shortly before she expired: “Oh! how happy I am! What happiness one finds in religion!” And she strove to the utmost to unite her voice with the voices of her companions who were singing a favourite hymn of hers.                               p. 206
    Benoîte Lardet—one of the mistresses, buried on October 5, 1850—also died a most edifying death. To her sister, who shed tears at seeing her in pain, she said: “How kind of you to weep like this! but would you, then, keep me on this earth? It has never satisfied me.” “What happiness!” she exclaimed, on the physician informing her that her illness was mortal, “what joy! I am going to behold the good God!”
At an early stage of the undertaking and with the sanction of Mgr. Devie, the Curé d’Ars decided to add a chapel to the orphanage.2 {2 It was in fact on the advice of his bishop that M. Vianney erected the humble sanctuary “M. le Curé,” Mme. des Garets wrote on September 20. 1843, “is very busy with an idea suggested to him by the bishop— namely, to erect a chapel at the Providence, where he intends to retire some day.”}  Some people might have questioned the usefulness of an oratory situated barely a few metres from the church, but the saint knew his own mind. Fortunately all his plans in connection with it were not carried out, for such was his longing for solitude that he wished to give up the cure of souls. Already he saw himself living in retirement at the Providence when, if such were God’s good pleasure, he would establish there the “perpetual adoration.”
The commune gave the requisite site and the chapel of his dreams was erected, but then also the will of God was made manifest. The building was not yet completed when the Providence ceased to exist in the form which its founder had given to it. So he stayed at his presbytery, and to the end remained the Curé d’Ars.

Of the new cemetery which he had laid out in 1855, some three hundred feet from the church, and which he had himself blessed, the Curé d’Ars loved to say: “It is a reliquary!” He had stood by the deathbed of all those who reposed there, even of certain sinners of whom, according to the old folk of the village, none escaped him before they set out on the dreadful passage from hence. The saint believed that all were saved.
Even the devil, in his own characteristic fashion, bore witness to the change. The supernatural fragrance that emanated from the village drove him to fury. “What a filthy place this is!” he exclaimed one day, in the square, through the mouth of a possessed woman, whom he ill-treated most horribly. “How ill the place smells! At Ars everybody smells bad...Ah! talk to me of the Rotonde (a pleasure resort of evil repute at Lyons); it is the Rotonde that smells nice!”
CHAPTER XI
THE CURÉ D’ARS AND THE DEVIL
p.  234
THAT hell exists and that there are fallen angels condemned to hell, is a dogma of the Catholic faith. The devil is a personal, living being, not a figment of the imagination. True, his activity in the world remains for the most part hidden; none the less, by divine permission, at times the evil one comes out into the open. The reason is, no doubt, that he has felt that on some spot or other of the earth his influence is in jeopardy, and since he cannot come to grips immediately with God, he endeavours, evildoer that he is, to render fruitless the labours of his servants. For the space of some thirty-five years—from 1824 to 1858— the Curé d’Ars was subjected, even outwardly, to the molestations of the evil one. What if, by preventing him from taking both food and sleep, Satan had succeeded in inspiring him with a distaste for prayer, penance, and the exertions of the apostolic life, and in obliging him to give up the cure of souls! But the enemy of our salvation was disappointed and defeated. “The struggles of M. Vianney with the devil,” says Catherine Lassagne, “helped to render his charity more ardent and more disinterested.” The evil one had not bargained for such a result.
    The vexations of hell “began at the time when the holy curé was planning his Providence, for which he had just bought a house”—that is, during the winter of 1824 to 1825.1 {1 Catherine Lassagne, Procès apostolique ne pereant, p. 424.} As a matter of fact, they were but the sequel of previous internal temptations of great violence. In the course of a grave illness, due, perhaps, to what he called his “youthful follies,” he was attacked by despairing thoughts at the very moment when he felt death near. It seemed to him that he heard a voice within himself saying: “Now is the time when you shall go down to hell.” However, he recovered his interior peace by protesting his trust in God.

Once resolved upon upsetting M. Vianney’s outward tran¬quillity, the devil began with some rather trivial vexations. Every night the poor Curé heard the curtains of his bedstead being rent. In the beginning he imagined that he had to do only with common rodents. He placed a pitchfork near the head of his bed. Useless precaution: the more he shook the curtains in order to frighten off the rats, the louder became the sounds of rending, and in the morning, when he expected to find them in shreds, the curtains were undamaged. This game lasted for quite a while.1 {1 Catherine Lassagne, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 481. In order that the reader may be able to appraise these strange phenomena, we subjoin the following theological principles we must range under the heading of extraordinary preternatural facts the prolonged vexations of which, by God’s permission, the Curé d’Ars was for so long a victim. M. Saudreau, who is an authority on this matter, writes as follows: “There are two kinds of diabolical operations: those that are ordinary and others of an extraordinary nature.
“The devil acts on all men by tempting them; no one can escape those attacks; these are his ordinary operations.
“In other very much rarer cases, the devils reveal their presence by troublesome vexations, which are more terrifying than painful; they cause a great noise, they move, transport, knock over and at times smash certain objects; this is what is called infestation.”
Infestation is the first among extraordinary diabolical operations. It is the one from which the holy Curé d’Ars suffered almost exclusively. Only on a few very rare occasions was he the victim of external obsession, during which the devil attacks, beats, and hurts the person obsessed. He never complained of having experienced internal obsession, in which the fallen spirit, by influencing the imagination in particular, seems to force upon a poor soul something of his own sentiments; nor of possession properly so-called, in which Satan “seizes upon the human organism and makes use of its members, its tongue, in fact, of the whole body, which he moves according as he pleases.” (Cf. A. Saudreau, The Mystical State.)
The Cure d’Ars, in the course of his ministry, encountered many such cases, and in many instances he set free the soul, and even the body, of those who were undergoing the persecution of the evil spirits.}
    It is evident that at first the Curé d’Ars did not realize that he had to deal with the spirit of darkness

    Soon, in the silence of the night, blows were struck against doors, shouts were heard in the yard in front of the presby¬tery. Perhaps they were the act of thieves, who were after the rich offerings of the Vicomte d’Ars, which were kept in the large cupboard in the attic! M. Vianney boldly came downstairs, but saw nothing. None the less, on subsequent nights he was afraid to remain alone.
p.   237
    The following is the deposition of André Verchère, the wheelwright of the village, a hefty fellow, then twenty-eight years old: 1 {1 He died at Ars in 1879, at the age of eighty-one.}  “For several days M. Vianney had heard strange noises in his presbytery. One evening he came to look for me, and said: ‘I wonder whether or no it is a case of thieves will you come and sleep at the presbytery?’ ‘Most willingly, M. le Curé, and I will load my gun, too.’ At nightfall I went to the presbytery. Until ten o’clock I sat by the fire warming myself and talking to M. le Curé: ‘Let us go to bed,’ he said at last. He gave up his room to me and went into the one adjoining it. I was unable to sleep. At about one o’clock I heard a violent shaking of the handle and lock of the front door. At the same time heavy blows were struck, as if with a club, against the same door, whilst within the presbytery there was a terrific din, like the rumbling of several carts.
“I seized my gun and rushed to the window, which I threw open. I looked out but saw nothing. For nearly a quarter of an hour the house shook—so did my legs. I felt the effects of that night for a fortnight. As soon as the noise had started, M. le Curé lit a lamp.
He accompanied me.
“’Have you heard?’ he asked.
“‘You can see that I have heard, since I am up and have my gun.’ And all the time the presbytery was shaking as in an earthquake.
    “‘So you are afraid?’ he asked.
‘No,’ I replied, ‘I am not afraid, but I feel my legs giving way under me. The presbytery is going to crash to the ground.’
    “‘What do you think it is?’
    “‘I think it is the devil.’
“When the uproar ceased we returned to bed. The following evening M. le Curé came again to ask me to keep him company. I replied: ‘M. le Curé, I have had quite enough.’”
    Subsequently, at the Providence, M. Vianney, mimicking the perplexity of his first protector, “laughed heartily at his terror.” “My poor Verchère,” he told the directresses, “was shaking with fear, though he was holding his gun in his hand. He no longer knew he had a gun.”1{1Jeanne-Marie Chanay, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 685.}                                            
The wheelwright having refused, M. Vianney appealed to the Mayor, who sent to the presbytery his son Antoine, a big lad of twenty-six, and an additional companion-in-arms in the person of Jean Cotton, gardener at the château of Ars, and two years younger than Antoine. These two defenders went to the presbytery after night prayers and remained on duty for about twelve nights. “We heard nothing what¬ever,” was Jean Cotton’s report. “Not so M. le Curé, who slept in an adjoining room. More than once his rest was disturbed, and he called out to us: ‘Children, do you not hear anything?’ We answered that not a sound had reached us. At one moment, however, I heard a sound resembling that which would be made if a water jug were rapidly struck with the blade of a knife...We had hung up our watches near the looking-glass in his room. ‘I am greatly sur¬prised,’ M. le Curé told us, ‘that your watches are not smashed.’”2{2 Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 1332.}
Several other young men, among whom was Edme Scipiot, steward at the château, posted themselves as sentries in the church tower. They, too, heard nothing, except that one night, according to Magdeleine Scipiot, Edme’s daughter, they saw a tongue of fire, which precipitated itself upon the presbytery.
    Whence exactly proceeded these noises? M. Vianney, anxious but cautious, did not as yet dare to form a definite opinion. One night, when the ground was covered with snow, shouts were heard in the yard. “It was like an army of Austrians or Cossacks who were talking all together in a language he was unable to understand.”3 {3 Catherine Lassagne, Petit mémoire, troisième redaction, p. 93.} He opened his door. On the white surface where objects can be distinguished even during moonless nights, he could detect no footprints. His mind was now made up. These were not human voices; nor could there be question of anything angelic or divine, but rather of something horrible, with the horror of hell itself. Moreover, those shudders of terror which he experi¬enced gave him an adequate cue as to the identity of the mysterious personage. “I came to the conclusion that it was the devil because I was afraid,” he admitted later on to Mgr. Devie; “the good God does not frighten us.” Knowing that neither gun nor pitchfork availed in such a contest, “he dismissed his bodyguard and remained alone on the field of battle.”

It was indeed a battle, and in order to fight it the holy man had no other resource than patience and prayer. “I sometimes asked him,” his confessor relates, “how he repelled those attacks. He replied: ‘I turn to God; I make the sign of the cross; I address a few contemptuous words to the devil. I have noticed, moreover, that the tumult is greater and the assaults more numerous if, on the following day, some big sinner is due to come.’”1{1 Abbé Beau, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 1191.}
This knowledge was his comfort during sleepless nights. “At the beginning I felt afraid,” he confessed to Mgr. Mermod, one of his friends and faithful penitents; “I did not then know what it was, but now I am quite happy. It is a good sign: there is always a good haul of fish the next day.” “The devil gave me a good shaking last night,” he would say at times; “we shall have a great number of people to-morrow. The grappin is very stupid: he himself tells me of the arrival of big sinners. He is angry. So much the better!”

It was now the time of superhuman toil when M. Vianney spent the greater part of his day in the confessional. Although utterly exhausted when evening came, he would not go to bed without first reading a few pages from the Lives of the Saints. It was likewise the hour when at close intervals he inflicted on himself bloody disciplines. When that was over he stretched himself on his thin straw mattress and sought repose. Just as he was about to fall asleep he would start up, awakened by shouts, mournful cries, and formidable blows. It seemed as if the front door were being battered in with a sledge-hammer. Suddenly, without a latch having been moved, the Curé d’Ars perceived with horror that the devil was close to him. “I do not ask him to enter,” he used to say, half laughing, half annoyed, “but he comes in all the same.”
    The uproar now began. The evil spirit remained invisible, but his presence could be plainly felt. He threw over the chairs and shook the heavy furniture of the room.1 {1 He one day told the Abbé Tailhades, who repeated it to me: Look at this piece of furniture; I do not know how it is that it was not smashed” (Comtesse des Garets, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 783).  With a fearful voice he shouted: “Vianney, Vianney! potato eater!2 {2“Mangeur de truffes!” In the country districts round Lyons potatoes are called truffes. The Curé d’Ars himself used the word.} Ah! thou art ‘not yet dead! I shall get thee all right.” Or roaring like a beast, growling like a bear or snarling like a dog, he rushed at the curtains of the bed, which he shook violently.3 {3 These details and those that follow are taken chiefly from the depositions of Frère Athanase at the Procès de l’Ordinaire (pp.807-809). These facts were for the most part recorded day by day, from 1841 to 1842, in the first redaction of Catherine Lassagne’s Petit mémoire, pp. 16-20.}

Borrowing from the accounts of Catherine Lassagne and from his own recollections, Frère Athanase relates that the devil “reproduced the sound of a hammer driving nails into the wooden floor, or that of hooping a cask; he drummed on the table, on the chimney-piece, on the water jug; or he sang with a shrill voice, so that M. le Curé used afterwards to tell us derisively: ‘The grappin has a very ugly voice indeed.’
“On more than one occasion M. Vianney experienced a sensation as of a hand passing over his face or of rats scampering over his body.
“One night he heard the buzz of a swarm of bees; he got up, lit his candle, and was about to open the window to let them out—but he saw no bees.
“Another time the grappin endeavoured to throw him out of bed by pulling away his straw mattress. More fright¬ened than usual, M. Vianney crossed himself, and the devil left him in peace.
“One evening he had been in bed for a few moments when all of a sudden it seemed to him that his couch, which was hard enough, to be sure, was becoming exceedingly soft, and that he was sinking into it as into a feather bed. At the same time a mocking voice kept repeating: ‘Ha, ha!…Allons, Allons,’ and other ironical exhortations, by which it sought to lead him to sensual indulgence. In his terror M. Vianney crossed himself and it ceased.”1{1 Abbé Beau, the saint’s confessor, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 1191.}

The spirit of darkness displayed much resourcefulness in inventing ever new tricks; he seemed to multiply his presence and to wander over the whole presbytery. In the sleeping-room a hideous brood of bats flapped their wings under the roof beams or clustered on the curtains of the bed. In the attic, for hours on end, was heard the uninterrupted, exas¬perating tramp of a flock of sheep. Below the bedroom, in the so-called dining-room, a noise went on as of a prancing steed, which, leaping to the ceiling, apparently dropped to the floor on its four iron shoes.
    This hellish farce wearied the poor Curé d’Ars; it never discouraged him. His dreadful sleeplessness notwithstand¬ing, so soon as the clock in the church tower struck the midnight hour, his thoughts went to his penitents who awaited him, and of whom there were always fresh relays. So he rose promptly and went to the church. But at what a cost! “In order to encourage us he came to our singing practices,” a woman of the parish related. “At times he looked ghastly pale. We asked him if he were ill. ‘No,’ he would say, ‘but the grappin bothered me to such a degree that I have not slept a wink all night.’ “2{2 Marthe Miard, Procès apostolique continuatif, p. 843.}
    At times the presence of this sinister visitor led to some alarming encounters. “One day,” relates a missionary of Pont-d’Ain, “whilst making me go up the stairs in front of him, M. le Curé remarked: ‘0 my friend, this is not like yesterday; then the grappin went up before me; he looked as if he had boots on.’” 3{3Abbé Dufour, Procès apostolique in genere, p. 359.}

    One morning in December, 1826, long before dawn, the Curé d’Ars set out on foot for Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans, where he was to preach the exercises of the jubilee. He said his rosary as he walked along. All around him the air seemed full of sinister lights. The atmosphere appeared to be on fire, and the bushes on either side of the road looked as if they were burning. This was Satan’s work: he, foreseeing the success M. Vianney was about to achieve, pursued him step by step, enveloped in the element that devours him, hoping thus to terrify and discourage the servant of God. But M. Vianney quietly pursued his way.1 {1The distance between Ars and Saint-Trivier is twelve kilometres.}

The Cure d’Ars invariably covered with a veil of silence those things that might have procured him honour, but he readily recounted, even in his catechisms in church, the pranks which the evil one played on him. Everyone knew M. Vianney to be incapable of telling a falsehood, and that, notwithstanding his unheard-of labour, he was yet perfectly sound in mind and body. Nevertheless, more than one, even, among his intimates, might have wished for other proofs besides his word, and the testimony of Verchère, the wheelwright. The Abbé Raymond, who was his assistant during eight years, the Abbé Toccanier, who held the same post during six, never heard anything unusual. “Listen to the grappin,” the Curé would sometimes say to the Abbé Raymond; but the latter strained his ears in vain. Why was the Curé d’Ars the only person at that time to hear those hellish noises? Surely because the vexations of Satan were aimed at him alone.
However, others in every way worthy of credence have, under exceptional circumstances, obtained personal proofs of these infernal infestations.
    About the year 1820, M. Vianney removed, from the church to the presbytery, an old canvas representing the Annunciation. The picture was hung on the wall at a place where there is a bend in the staircase. Upon this holy image the devil now vented his rage by covering it with filth. It became necessary to remove the picture. “Many witnessed these odious profanations,” M. Monnin writes, “or at least saw the material traces of them. M. Renard testifies to having seen the picture most foully besmirched so that the figure of our Lady was unrecognizable.”2 {2This picture was taken away from Ars by a painter who made a copy of it, which is now in the chapel of the Providence. The artist, however, did not have the honesty to return the original.}      

Marguerite Vianney, the Gothon of his childish days, was in the habit of paying an occasional visit to her saintly brother. During one of the nights that she thus spent at the presbytery, she heard her brother leave the house to go to the church before one o’clock in the morning. “A few moments later,” she relates, “a tremendous noise was pro¬duced apparently close to my bed, as if five or six men had been striking heavy blows upon the table or the cupboard. I was terrified and got up. I had strength enough to light a lamp, when I discovered that everything was in perfect order. I said to myself: ‘I must have been dreaming.’ So I returned to bed, but no sooner had I lain down than the noise began again. This time I was even more alarmed, so I dressed quickly and ran over to the church. When my brother returned to the presbytery I told him what had happened. ‘0 my child’ he replied, ‘you should not have been frightened: it is the grappin. He cannot hurt you: as for me, he torments me in sundry ways. At times he seizes me by the feet and drags me about the room. It is because I convert souls to the good God.’”1 {1 ibid., p. 1335.}

    Mlle. Marie Ricotier of Gleizé, in the province of Lyons, who had settled at Ars in 1832, used to hear from her house certain noises that apparently originated in the presbytery. Once in particular, when the hubbub seemed to be greater than usual, she went early in the morning to speak to M. Vianney about it: “I, too, have heard it,” he replied; “no doubt at this very moment there are some sinners on the road to Ars.”2 {2 Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 650.}
M. Amid, a plasterer of Montmerle, one day told Francois Pertinand, the famous hotel-keeper: “I cannot understand how anyone can go to bed in a presbytery where such terrifying noises are heard. I stayed there for several nights, at the time when M. Vianney commissioned me to make some statues for him.”
One day in 1838 Denis Chaland, of Bouligneux, then a young student of philosophy, went to confession to the Curé d’Ars. By a special favour he was admitted to the saint’s own room. He himself related what happened: “I knelt on his prie-Dieu. Suddenly, when I was about half through my confession, a general convulsion shook the room; my prie-Dieu trembled like everything else. Full of terror I tried to stand up. M. le Curé kept me down by seizing my arm. ‘It is nothing,’ he said, ‘it is only the devil!’ At the end of this confession M. Vianney decided my future career: ‘You must become a priest.’ My excitement was still very great, and I must admit that I never again went to confession to the Curé d’Ars.”1 {1 Abbé Denis Chaland, curé of Marlieux, Procès apostolique continuatif p. 656.}
    This same Denis Chaland had boarded, ten years earlier, at the house of the schoolmaster of Ars. On certain evenings, curiosity proving stronger than fear, he used to go with some of his fellow-students and glue his ear to the presbytery door in order to listen to the noises which people said were caused by the devil. On more than twenty different occasions, mostly at nightfall, these children heard a guttural voice repeating: Vianney; Vianney! 2 {2 ibid., p. 655.}                                     

In 1842 a gendarme of Messimy, Provost-marshal Napoly, who was undergoing some severe trials, wished to consult the Curé d’Ars. He arrived in the village late at night. Now, at about midnight, as he was waiting at the door of the presbytery, he, too, heard the repeated and terrifying shout. A feeble light appeared in the saint’s room! Shortly afterwards he came out of the house, guiding his steps with the help of his lantern. “Monsieur le Curé, it seems that you are being attacked,” exclaimed the good Napoly...“But I am here to defend you!”
    “Eh! my friend, it is nothing; it is the Grappin.” So saying, M. Vianney took the hand of the gendarme—it was a trembling hand. “Come with me, my friend,” he added, whilst he led the would-be defender into the sacristy, where, to quote Frère Athanase, “without doubt everything was settled satisfactorily. I have since learned that the man became an excellent Christian. M. le Curé used to tell me concerning him that, for a gendarme, he was not very bold.”3 {3 Procès apostolique in genere, pp. 209—210.}

One event which might possibly be explained through natural causes, but in which M. Vianney and the crowds saw a particularly virulent agression of the evil one, caused immense excitement among the pilgrims and strengthened them in their conviction that the devil attacked the Curé d’Ars even outwardly.1 {1 In a book entitled Ars a son pasteur, published at Ars—without the sanction, it should be stated, of M. Vianney—the very year in which the event took place, Michel Givre suggests that a match struck by M. le Curé, for the purpose of lighting his lamp, may have caused the fire which we are about to describe. In that case the fire would have smoldered unnoticed for more than five hours...However this may have been, the hypothesis of crime must be eliminated, since the room was locked and the key was in M. Vianney’s pocket.} It was either on the Monday or Tuesday during the Forty Hours’ Prayer—February 23 or 24, 1857.
That morning the saint had started hearing confessions at an unusually early hour, by reason of the great crowds assembled in the church, where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. A little before seven o’clock some persons were passing by the presbytery when they noticed a fire in M. Vianney’s room. He was promptly informed, just as he was about to leave his confessional to say Mass. “it would seem, father, that your room is on fire!” He just handed the key to those who had brought the information, so that they might put out the flames, and without any excitement he simply said: “The villainous grappin! he could not catch the bird, so he burns the cage.” He left the church, however, and passed into his courtyard, where he met with the men who, at that very moment, were carrying out of the house the smoking remains of his poor bed. He asked no questions, went back to the church, and once more entered into the sacristy. As may be imagined, some commotion had been caused among the women penitents who crowded the nave of the church. Frère Jérôme, the watchful sacristan, thought that perhaps the saint was as yet unaware of the cause of the excitement. “M. le Curé, it is your bed that has been burnt.” “Ah!” was all he said, in a tone of utter indifference, then, calm as he always was, he went to say his Mass.                                          p. 246
    M. Alfred Monnin, a young missionary of Pont d’Ain, was at that time supplying for the Abbé Toccanier, who was engaged in giving a mission at Massigneux, near Belley. This priest rushed into the room at the first signal of alarm and at once noticed the mysterious character of the fire. “The bed, the tester, the curtains of the bed, and everything near—everything had been consumed. The fire had only halted in front of the reliquary of St Philomena, which had been placed on a chest of drawers. From that point it had drawn a line from top to bottom with geometrical accuracy, destroying everything on this side of the holy relic and sparing all on the other. As the fire had started without cause, so it died out in like manner, and it is very remarkable, and in some ways truly miraculous, that the flames had not spread from the heavy serge hangings to the floor of the upper storey, which was very low, old, and very dry, and which would have blazed like straw.
    “At noon, when M. le Curé came to see me at the Providence, we spoke of the event. I told him that it was universally looked upon as a bad joke of the devil, and I asked him whether he really thought that the evil one had had something to do with it. He replied very positively and with the greatest composure: ‘Oh! my friend, that is plain enough. He is angry; that is a good sign; we shall see many sinners.’ As a matter of fact, there followed an extraordinary influx of people into Ars, which lasted for several days.” 1{1 Life of the Curé of Ars, p. 195, English trans.}

Thirty years earlier another occurrence, the accuracy of which it seems impossible to question, had made a deep im¬pression on the clergy of the neighbourhood in particular. In 1826 it was rumoured in the various presbyteries that during a mission at Montmerle the devil had dragged across the room the bed in which the Curé d’Ars slept. The priests laughed, and the story met with unbelief. But the following winter their minds underwent a great change.
    A jubilee was being preached at Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans, and M. Vianney was invited to lend a hand. This he gladly consented to do. The very first night strange noises disturbed the habitual peace of the presbytery. The priests who slept in the house accused M. Vianney of being the cause of the disturbance, for no sooner had he retired than the noise began and it proceeded from his room. “It is the grappin,” M. Vianney said; “he is wroth because of the good that is being done here.” But his colleagues refused to believe him. “You do not eat,” they said, “you do not sleep; it is your head that plays you tricks!..” One night these reproaches were particularly sharp, and this time the servant of God remained silent.
    The following night a noise was heard like the rumbling of a heavy cart, and the presbytery shook. It seemed as if the house were about to crumble. Everybody got up terrified, M. Grangier, curé of Saint-Trivier, M. Benoit, the vicaire, M. Chevalon, an old soldier of the Republic and now a diocesan missionary, not to forget Denise Lanvis, the housekeeper. At that moment such an uproar arose in M. Vianney’s room that M. Benoit exclaimed: “The Curé d’Ars is being murdered!” Everybody rushed in the direction of the Curé’s room, but when the door was opened all that they saw was the holy man lying peacefully in his bed, which invisible hands had dragged into the middle of the room. “It is the grappin who has dragged me thus far,” he said with a smile, “it is he who has caused all this tumult. It is nothing...I am sorry I forgot to warn you beforehand. However, it is a good sign: there will be a big fish tomorrow.”
    “A big fish.” By this familiar expression, which he frequently used, the Cure d’Ars meant to hint at the conversion of some big sinner. The priests still doubted, believing him to be the victim of an hallucination. The next day they caused the approach to a certain confessional to be carefully watched. Nothing out of the way happened all day. It was plain that good M. Vianney had had a night-mare. But what a joyful surprise for the parish priest and the missioners when, after the sermon, they beheld M. des Murs going across the church to ask the Curé d’Ars to hear his confession. That nobleman had long neglected all religious practices, so that the example he thus set made a deep impression upon the people of Saint-Trivier. M. Chevalon, who had perhaps been the first among those who had laughed at M. Vianney, ever after looked on him as a great saint.1 {1 Catherine Lassagne, Petit mémoire, troisième redaction, p. 66.}                         

Thus did Satan’s fury spend itself in futile efforts. Eventually M. Vianney became quite used to his visits. “You must be very much afraid?” the Abbé Toccanier asked him, alluding to those revolting interviews.
    “One gets used to everything, my friend,” was the gentle reply. “The grappin and I are almost comrades.”3 {3 Le grappin et moi, nous sommes quasi camarades “ (Procès apostolique ne pereant. p. 202).}

One night, as the Curé was trying to get some sleep, the hellish disturber of the peace signified his presence by shouts such as: “Vianney, Vianney, I shall get thee, yes, I shall get thee!...” But from the dark corner where his bed stood the meek saint merely answered: “I do not fear thee much.”2 {2 Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 729.}                             p. 249

It is now easy to understand that the mastery which the servant of God had acquired over the devil should have been taken advantage of by people who asked him to deliver possessed persons. Mgr. Devie had authorized him to use his powers as exorcist whenever circumstances required. Here also we have the testimony of many witnesses.
Jean Picard, the village farrier, witnessed some extraordinary scenes. A wretched woman had been brought by her husband from a considerable distance. The woman was raving, and uttered inarticulate shrieks. M. le Curé was summoned, but after examining her he declared that she must be taken back to the Bishop of the diocese. “Good, good,” exclaimed the woman, suddenly recovering her speech, though the sound of her voice froze the listeners with horror, “the creature shall go home! Ah, if I had the power of Jesus Christ It should plunge you all into hell.”
“Tiens, thou knowest Jesus Christ,” M. Vianney replied, “very well, let her be taken to the foot of the high altar.”
    Four men carried her there, notwithstanding her resistance. M. Vianney then placed his reliquary3 {3 “The Curé d’Ars always carried in his pocket a large silver reliquary containing several relics of the Passion, and, I believe, of a few saints” (Abbé Tailhades, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 1508) on the head of the possessed woman, who became rigid like a corpse. After a while, however, she stood up of her own accord and walked rapidly towards the door of the church. She returned in an hour’s time, perfectly calm now, took holy water, and fell on her knees. She was quite cured. During the three days that she spent at Ars, she was the edification of all the pilgrims.4 {4  Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 1312.}
p. 250

“The Emperor has achieved several fine things,” M. Vianney remarked one day at the eleven o’clock catechism, as some ladies, dressed in the hideous fashion of the time, were struggling to get into the church; “he has forgotten, however, to have the church doors enlarged so as to make room for the crinolines!”

    Once, during a heavy shower, the holy Curé was hastening alone, without hat or umbrella, past the house of the Brothers, to visit a sick person. Frère Athanase ran after him, but overtook him only with difficulty. “Where are you going, comrade?” inquired M. Vianney. “Oh! I have brought you an umbrella.” “Bah, bah, I am not made of sugar.” And laughing heartily he took the umbrella and hurried on.1 {1 Mgr. Convert, Notes MSS., n. 45.}   p. 435

  If he is not a saint there never will be one.”8 {8André Verchère, the wheelwright of Ars, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p.3. 1327.}  p. 443

He never succeeded in suppressing the unanimous concert of praise which continually gathered strength: his reputation for sanctity sprang up spontaneously and grew, notwith­standing the persevering efforts of his profound humility. However, he did not look for humiliations for their own sake. There was tact and discretion in his very humility. “When compliments were paid him in the course of conversation, he did not rebut them directly, but passed them off by some apt rejoinder.”2 {2Comtesse des Garets, Procès de l’Ordinaire, p. 917.} The Gascon poet Jasmin, the author of Papillotos, wished to make the acquaintance of the Curé d’Ars. “Monsieur le Curé,” he said on leaving, “I have never seen God so near.” “That is true,” the saint replied, “God is not far away.” And he pointed to the tabernacle.3 {3ibid.}  p. 450

However, he declared that “to these visits of famous personages he preferred that of some poor woman who came to beg for an alms.” In 1850, Bérenger de la Drôme came to consult him about, apparently, inextricable difficulties. The saint solved them at once. The magistrate went away full of admiration. M. Vianney had not even asked his name. After the interview which he had in October, 1855, with the Préfet of the Ain and the officer commanding the troops of the département, who had come to congratulate him on his promotion to the Legion d’honneur: “Oh! Monsieur le Curé,” said Comte Prosper des Garets, see how Ars is being visited by the great ones of the world.” “They are bodies and souls,” was the casual reply of the humble priest.

p. 457

<>According to the Abbé Toccanier, he frequently repeated: “Humility is to the various virtues what the chain is in a rosary: take away the chain and the beads are scattered; remove humility, and all virtues vanish.” A humble soul loves poverty and the poor.

  “Of the Curé d’Ars one could truly affirm what St Francis of Assisi was wont to say of himself—viz., that he had espoused the Lady Poverty. M. Vianney’s room was poor, his furniture was poor, his dress was poor, his food was poor.”4 {4Procès apostolique ne pereant, p. 90.} If an artist had wished to paint poverty itself, no more suitable model could have been found.5 {5 Cardinal Luçon, “Panégyrique du Curé d’Ars,” Annales d’Ars, August, 1908, p. 74.}



 






1755  St. Gerard Majella LAY Redemptorists patron of expectant mothers gift of reading consciences bilocation levitation
Played with Christ as a child, recieved loaves of bread.
Surprised that not everybody could see Christ and Saint Mary as he could.
Refused defense of lies against him because of a Redemptorist order rule.
While under obedience to stop perfoeming miracles, the stopped in mid-air the body of a falling carpenter off a scafold; then running to the provincial master asked permission to let the man down gently to the ground.
1595 Saint Philip Neri showed humorous side of holiness May 27 feast day
Patron of Rome Born at Florence, Italy, 22 July, 1515; died 27 May, 1595  If one had to choose one saint who showed the humorous side of holiness that would Philip Neri.
Patron of Rome Born at Florence, Italy, 22 July, 1515; died 27 May, 1595  If one had to choose one saint who showed the humorous side of holiness that would Philip Neri.
Born in 1515 in Florence, he showed the impulsiveness and spontaneity of his character from the time he was a boy. In fact one incident almost cost him his life. Seeing a donkey loaded with fruit for market, the little boy had barely formed the thought of jumping on the donkey's back before he had done it. The donkey, surprised, lost his footing, and donkey, fruit, and boy tumbled into the cellar with the boy winding up on the bottom! Miraculously he was unhurt.
His father was not successful financially and at eighteen Philip was sent to work with an older cousin who was a successful businessman. During this time, Philip found a favorite place to pray up in the fissure of a mountain that had been turned into a chapel. We don't know anything specific about his conversion but during these hours of prayer he decided to leave worldly success behind and dedicate his life to God.
After thanking his cousin, he went to Rome in 1533 where he was the live-in tutor of the sons of a fellow Florentine. He studied philosophy and theology until he thought his studies were interfering with his prayer life. He then stopped his studies, threw away his books, and lived as a kind of hermit.
Night was his special time of prayer. After dark he would go out in the streets, sometimes to churches, but most often into the catacombs of St. Sebastiano to pray. During one of these times of prayer he felt a globe of light enter his mouth and sink into his heart. This experience gave him so much energy to serve God that he went out to work at the hospital of the incurables and starting speaking to others about God, everyone from beggars to bankers.
In 1548 Philip formed a confraternity with other laymen to minister to pilgrims who came to Rome without food or shelter. The spiritual director of the confraternity convinced Philip that he could do even more work as a priest. After receiving instruction from this priest, Philip was ordained in 1551.
At his new home, the church of San Girolamo, he learned to love to hear confessions. Young men especially found in him the wisdom and direction they needed to grow spiritually. But Philip began to realize that these young men needed something more than absolution; they needed guidance during their daily lives. So Philip began to ask the young men to come by in the early afternoon when they would discuss spiritual readings and then stay for prayer in the evening. The numbers of the men who attended these meetings grew rapidly. In order to handle the growth, Philip and a fellow priest Buonsignore Cacciaguerra gave a more formal structure to the meetings and built a room called the Oratory to hold them in.
Philip understood that it wasn't enough to tell young people not to do something -- you had to give them something to do in its place. So at Carnival time, when the worst excesses were encouraged, Philip organized a pilgrimage to the Seven Churches with a picnic accompanied by instrumental music for the mid-day break. After walking twelve miles in one day everyone was too tired to be tempted! 
In order to guide his followers, Philip made himself available to everyone at any hour -- even at night. He said some of the most devout people were those who had come to him at night. When others complained, Philip answered, "They can chop wood on my back so long as they do not sin."


Not everyone was happy about this growing group and Philip and Buonsignore were attacked by the priests they lived with. But eventually Philip and his companions were vindicated and went on with their work.
In 1555, the Pope's Vicar accused Philip of "introducing novelties" and ordered him to stop the meetings of the Oratory. Philip was brokenhearted but obeyed immediately. The Pope only let him start up the Oratory again after the sudden death of his accuser. Despite all the trouble this man had caused, Philip would not let anyone say anything against the man or even imply that his sudden death was a judgment from God.
One church, for Florentines in Rome, had practically forced him to bring the Oratory to their church. But when gossip and accusations started, they began to harass the very people they had begged to have nearby! At that point, Philip decided it would be best for the group to have their own church. They became officially known as the Congregation of the Oratory, made up of secular priests and clerics.
Philip was known to be spontaneous and unpredictable, charming and humorous.
He seemed to sense the different ways to bring people to God. One man came to the Oratory just to make fun of it. Philip wouldn't let the others throw him out or speak against him. He told them to be patient and eventually the man became a Dominican. On the other hand, when he met a condemned man who refused to listen to any pleas for repentance, Philip didn't try gentle words, but grabbed the man by the collar and threw him to the ground. The move shocked the criminal into repentance and he made a full confession.
Humility was the most important virtue he tried to teach others and to learn himself.
Some of his lessons in humility seem cruel, but they were tinged with humor like practical jokes and were related with gratitude by the people they helped. His lessons always seem to be tailored directly to what the person needed. One member who was later to become a cardinal was too serious and so Philip had him sing the Misere at a wedding breakfast. When one priest gave a beautiful sermon, Philip ordered him to give the same sermon six times in a row so people would think he only had one sermon.
Philip preferred spiritual mortification to physical mortification. When one man asked Philip if he could wear a hair shirt, Philip gave him permission -- if he wore the hair shirt outside his clothes! The man obeyed and found humility in the jokes and name-calling he received.
There were unexpected benefits to his lessons in humility. Another member, Baronius, wanted to speak at the meetings about hellfire and eternal punishment. Philip commanded him instead to speak of church history.
For 27 years Baronius spoke to the Oratory about church history. At the end of that time he published his talks as a widely respected and universally praised books on ecclesiastical history!
Philip did not escape this spiritual mortification himself. As with others, his own humbling held humor. There are stories of him wearing ridiculous clothes or walking around with half his beard shaved off. The greater his reputation for holiness the sillier he wanted to seem. When some people came from Poland to see the great saint, they found him listening to another priest read to him from joke books.

Philip was very serious about prayer, spending hours in prayer. He was so easily carried away that he refused to preach in public and could not celebrate Mass with others around. But he when asked how to pray his answer was, "Be humble and obedient and the Holy Spirit will teach you."

Philip died in 1595 after a long illness at the age of eighty years.

In his footsteps:  We often worry more about what others think that about what God thinks. Our fear of people laughing us often stops us from trying new things or serving God. Do something today that you are afraid might make you look a little ridiculous. Then reflect on how it makes you feel. Pray about your experience with God.
Prayer: Saint Philip Neri, we take ourselves far too seriously most of the time. Help us to add humor to our perspective -- remembering always that humor is a gift from God. Amen
1447 BD THOMAS OF FLORENCE; Bd Thomas could not get over that God had refused the proffered sacrifice of his life, by muslims, and in 1447, aged as he was, he set out for Rome to ask permission to go again to the East. But at Rieti he was taken ill, and died there on October 31.  October 25 a Franciscan lay brother; gift of miracles;
Many urged that Bd Thomas should be canonized with St Bernardino of Siena, whose cause was then in process. To prevent the delay that would have resulted, St John of Capistrano, it is said, went to Thomas’s tomb at Rieti and commanded him in the name of holy obedience to cease his miracles until the canonization of Bernardino should be achieved. They stopped for three years.  Bd Thomas has never been canonized. His cultus was approved in 1771.
1585 St Teresa of Avila "May God protect me from gloomy saints;" "life on this earth is but a night in a bad hotel!" Feast day October 15
 “Experience has taught me what a house full of women is like. God preserve us from such a state!”
Sometimes, however, she couldn't avoid complaining to her closest Friend about the hostility and gossip that surrounded her. When Jesus told her, "Teresa, that's how I treat my friends" Teresa responded, "No wonder you have so few friends." But since Christ has so few friends, she felt they should be good ones. And that's why she decided to reform her Carmelite order.
Teresa's father was rigidly honest and pious, but he may have carried his strictness to extremes. Teresa's mother loved romance novels but because her husband objected to these fanciful books, she hid the books from him. This put Teresa in the middle -- especially since she liked the romances too. Her father told her never to lie but her mother told her not to tell her father. Later she said she was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong.
“Experience has taught me what a house full of women is like. God preserve us from such a state!”
When time came for her to choose between marriage and religious life, she had a tough time making the decision. She'd watched a difficult marriage ruin her mother. On the other hand being a nun didn't seem like much fun. When she finally chose religious life, she did so because she though that it was the only safe place for someone as prone to sin as she was.
623 St. Colman of Kilmacduagh Abbot-bishop son of Irish chieftain; October 29 Among other fanciful stories about St Colman is that he was waited on by a cock, a mouse, and a fly: the cock woke him for the night office, the mouse prevented him from going to sleep again, and the fly acted as an indicator and book-marker.

THOMAS BELLACCI "could not get over that God had refused the proffered sacrifice of his life,"
A native of Florence, was a Franciscan lay brother, who as a young man had led a wild and disorderly life. Realization of the futility of it all and the wise words of a friend wrought a change in him and he was accepted—with some trepidation, for his excesses were notorious—by the friars of the Observance at Fiesole. But his penitence equaled his former sinfulness, and in time, for all he was a lay brother, he was made master of novices, whom he trained in the strictest ways of the Observance.
As a result of the “reunion council” at Florence in 1439, Friar Albert of Sarzana was sent as papal legate to the Syrian Jacobites and other dissidents of the East, and he took Thomas with him, although he was in his seventieth year. From Persia Albert commissioned him to go with three other friars into Ethiopia. Three times on their way the Turks, who treated them with great cruelty, seized them. But Bd Thomas insisted on preaching to the Mohammedans, and eventually they had to be ransomed by Pope Eugenius IV, just before their captors were going to put them to death. Bd Thomas could not get over that God had refused the proffered sacrifice of his life, and in 1447, aged as he was, he set out for Rome to ask permission to go again to the East. But at Rieti he was taken ill, and died there on October 31.
Oh dear”, interrupted Ferrini, What a lot of corpses!”}
Ferrini was then twenty-two, and concerned about what was his vocation in life. Marriage? The priesthood? The monastic state?  He heard no call to any of them; and towards the end of 1881 he made a vow of lifelong celibacy.*{ *He spoke to none, even of his intimates, about this vow. This led to occasional embarrassments, from which Ferrini extricated himself by his wit, which could be mordant. On one occasion a woman was recommending a girl to his notice as a suitable wife, emphasizing her expectations: “When her father dies, she will have so much. When her mother dies, so much. And when her uncle dies...Oh dear”, interrupted Ferrini, What a lot of corpses!”}
623 St. Colman of Kilmacduagh Abbot-bishop son of Irish chieftain; Among other fanciful stories about St Colman is that he was waited on by a cock, a mouse, and a fly: the cock woke him for the night office, the mouse prevented him from going to sleep again, and the fly acted as an indicator and book-marker.

He lived as a hermit at Arranmore and Burren, in County Clare, Ireland. Made a bishop against he will, he founded a monastery at Kilmacduagh, on landgiven by King Guaire of Connaught.

THE feast of this Colman is kept throughout Ireland on this day. He was born at Corker in Kiltartan about the middle of the sixth century and lived first on Aranmore and then, for greater solitude, at Burren among the mountains of County Clare. He is said to have hidden himself there because he had been made a bishop against his will; he had one disciple, and they subsisted for many years on wild vegetables and water. He then founded a monastery at the place called after him Kilmacduagh (the cell of the son of Dui), and is venerated as the first bishop there. The land was given him by his near relation, King Guaire of Connacht, who discovered Colman’s retreat, according to legend, through his Easter dinner being whisked away and carried by angels to the cell of the hermit at Burren. Among other fanciful stories about St Colman is that he was waited on by a cock, a mouse, and a fly: the cock woke him for the night office, the mouse prevented him from going to sleep again, and the fly acted as an indicator and book-marker.
  In the Bollandists, October, vol. xii, there is a copious notice of Colman, borrowed for the most part from Colgan’s Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae. See also O’Keeffe in Ériu, vol. i, pp. 43—48 and Whitley Stokes in the Revue Celtique, vol. xxvi, pp. 372—377. “Colman mac Duach” is entered first on February 3 in the Martyrology of Tallaght, in which there are twelve Colmans mentioned during the single month of October.