Jean-Marie Vianney was a French parish priest born May 8, 1786 in the village of Dardilly to a family of farmers. He was the fourth of six children whose parents were known for both their generosity and their piety. Vianney’s youth was marked by the French Revolution, which began in 1790 and made the practice of the Catholic faith illegal. Priests offered the sacrifice of the Mass in secret risking their lives to do so. Vianney was inspired by and came to regard these men as heroes. Throughout his preparation for Communion and Confirmation, this secrecy continued until in 1802 it once again became legal to practice the Catholic faith.
Vianney was twenty years old before his father allowed him to leave the farm to pursue his desire to become a priest. He studied at a small school taught by Father Balley in the village of Ecully. Since he had received no formal education until then, all subjects were difficult for him, and in particular, Latin. It was apparent to Father Balley that Vianney’s piety and zeal far surpassed his academic prowess and he worked especially hard with him to help him prepare for the vocation to which he knew Vianney was called.
In 1809, he was drafted into Napoleon’s army, which further hindered Vianney’s studies. A series of events prevented him from joining his unit and Vianney spent at least one year in hiding before amnesty was granted in 1810 to all deserters in 1810. At that point he resumed his studies and after many academic trials and humiliations, Vianney was ordained on August 12, 1815. He was twenty-nine years of age.
Within a short time, Father Vianney was appointed the cure of Ars, a town of 230 people. Their behavior was indicative of the long years of the French Revolution which resulted in and in a lack of religious instruction and devotion to God. The townspeople observed no religious practices. They did not attend Mass or observe the Sabbath. Their language, drinking and dancing were offensive to their pastor and Vianney was inspired to spend himself reforming their lives and caring for them.
There are seven artifacts belonging to or associated with St. Jean Vianney.
1. The Vial of Blood
This 1st class relic, a vial of St. Jean Vianney’s blood is in a glass reliquary. It contains a substantial amount of his (coagulated) blood, making it an unusual relic of this great saint.
The word, relic, comes from the Latin reliquiae, meaning remains. Relics are the actual remains or an object associated with a saint or martyr. These remains or objects are esteemed and venerated in many religious traditions because of their association with the person.
Relics are in classes. 1st class relics are the actual remains of the person being venerated. 2nd class relics are objects, for example, clothing, that have touched the person being venerated. The reliquary is the container or shrine in which sacred relics are kept.
3. St. Jean Vianney Signature, Holy Card & Information Regarding this Relic:
It is always an interesting story of how these artifacts got from their original “home” to the Papal Artifacts’ Collection. What follows is an abbreviated version of this particular item. St. Jean Vianney is deeply loved by the Curator of Papal Artifacts. Jean Vianney is the patron saint of parish priests. That alone deems this artifact of great spiritual value to this Collection.
The following information about this Holy Card signed by the Cure of Ars is the translation of Dr. Jennifer Walski, Bordeaux, France:
Signature du curé d’Ars dans ? un vieux livre de Mlle Adèle
Galotte qui en a détaché le présent feuillet pour le donner à
Madame Edmond Jourdhouille née Bavelière, le 1er décembre 1883.
The signature of the Curé d’Ars from an old book belonging to
Miss Adèle Galotte who removed this page to give it to
Madame Edmond Jourhouille, née Bavelière, 1st December 1883.
Father Kunst purchased this breviary at auction in France. The person owning it lived close to Ars, Jean Vianney’s home. Her great grandmother had recently died and this breviary was found among her belongings.
A note came with it from a mortician who said he had had it in his possession since 1918. No one knows its origin before that time.
When a priest or deacon is ordained they vow to pray faithfully the liturgy of the hours. It is one of the main signs of priesthood. At the time of Jean Vianney the liturgy of the hours consisted of eight volumes. Currently it is four volumes.
Both during his lifetime and after his death it is known that people would steal his breviaries as relics, so we can appreciate that items belonging to him were taken. This breviary may have been one of those taken.
This volume is signed, Jean Marie Vianney, Cure d’Ars. It is one of three items in the collection that are Father Kunst’s favorites.
5. St. Jean Vianney Relics in Frame
Photography during the time of the Cure of Ars was a relatively new development. It took several minutes to complete each subject.
Jean Vianney was unwilling to give up that space of time for something he deemed a waste of time that he could be devoting to the care of souls.
As a result, any pictures you see of him were taken right after his death. He was dressed in his liturgical garments and in this way, the only photographs of him were taken.
That in itself makes this artifact a rare and unique item, but it also contains first and second class relics of the saint. On the left bottom corner is a piece of the shirt he was wearing when he died. The right corner is a piece of cloth covered in his blood.
These facts make this a valuable and treasured addition to this Collection.
Saint Jean Vianney, pray for us! –Father Richard Kunst
6. A Reliquary Containing First & Second Class Relics of St. Jean Vianney:
The reliquary presented here contains the following relics of the Cure d’Ars:
A handkerchief, cassock, confessional chair (wing chair), quilts, mattress, blood, muscles, hair, table napkin (or towel), a medal, and a bandage or dressing for a wound.
The very large blue cloth in the reliquary is itself a relic and is from the curtains of his confessional.
(The medal is pictured in the 4th picture.)
The reliquary is still sealed at the back and is in very good condition.
7. Reliquary of St. Jean Vianney from 1861 with Signature of Abbot Monnin on Back
Abbe Monnin was the first biographer of and friend of Jean Vianney, which makes this of further significance. The reliquary is in a black lacquered molded oval frame with the ink inscription on paper glued to the reverse.
8. St. Jean Vianney: 1842 Documentation for the Celebration of 24 Low Masses
Further Information Regarding This Legal, Notarized Document
This was a legacy (gift) from Jean-Marie Vianney for masses to be said in perpetuity, which would be paid for from the interest accrued from his original gift.
This is a very common occurrence that often in wills, people set aside money for the saying of masses, usually for the soul of the departed, but in this case, for other reasons.
It is like a will. So, this is a legal document, because signed by a notary (here Gayot), most likely a copy asked for after the death of the original notary, Raffin.
The people mentioned would have signed the original document in the presence of Raffin.
When a notary wrote an official document, he also made a copy for himself to be kept in his minutes (records) which are legal documents also.
‘Expedition’ (at the bottom of the second page) means a copy of the document sent by the notary. Since he signs it, it is a legal document.
Translation of the Document
1st April 1842
In the presence of Maître Raffin, notary in Trévaux, department of Ain, and in the presence of the witnesses named below.
The appearing party :
Mr. Jean-Marie Vianney, priest serving the chapel of ease of Ars, distrct and borough of Trévaux, dwelling in Ars has declared making, by the present, a gift between living persons to the church council of the said chapel of ease of Ars, of an annual annuity of sixty francs, at five percent bound rate of interest, registered in the name of the donor in the general ledger of public debt with the number five hundred thirty-five, with dividend rights for the whole semester from the date of the acceptance of the present donation.
This donation has made it the responsibility of the church council of the church of Ars to have twenty-four low masses celebrated annually to thank God for having preserved the Holy Virgin from original sin and to ask for his protection for the children who are not yet born so that they will receive the grace of baptism.
The stipend for each of the masses to be celebrated in perpetuity in the said church of Ars will be of one franc and twenty-five cents, making a total of thirty francs, payable to the serving priest of the church fo Ars.
Which acte :
Written and read to those present, in the town of the commune of Ars in the house of Madame Favier.
The first of April, eighteen hundred forty-two, in the presence of Mr. Jean Pertinaud, teacher, and Jean Picard, blacksmith, both inhabitants pf Ars , who have signed below along with the appearing party and the notary.
Signed : Jean-Marie Vianney, priest, Pertinaud, Picard, Raffin, notaire.
Registered in Trévaux, the fourth of April 1842, Folio 41, R°cse Z & 4. (This needs to be verified with the original document in the register.) Reçu : one franc and ten cents, in coin. Signé d’Auburton
Copy issued by Maître Gayot, notary in Trévaux (Ain) undersigned, in his position as immediate successor to Maitre Raffin, and as such, the holder of his records.
A chapel of ease takes the overflow of congregants.
Papal Artifacts is grateful to Dr. Jennifer Walski of Bordeaux, France, for her gracious help in the translation of this document.
St. Jean Vianney
It was from this remote French village that Jean Vianney came to be known and sought out by people throughout all of France because of his wisdom, piety and great love. Within a few years he had founded an orphanage called The Providence for destitute girls and he himself instructed them in their faith. It was one of the great trials of his life when it closed in 1847.
During the last ten years of his life, Vianney spent between sixteen – eighteen hours a day in the confessional where people from all walks of life, including bishops, priests and lay people sought his advice and absolution. The cure possessed remarkable insight, wisdom, common sense and an extraordinary love for God. Miracles, including healing of the sick, a supernatural knowledge of the past and future and the procurance of money and food for the poor were attributed to him.
But the Catholic Encyclopedia states that his greatest miracle was the quality of his life that was characterized by daily self-denial, limited food and sleep, and unfailing humility, gentleness, patience and cheerfulness,
In the following prayer of St. Jean Vianney the deeply personal and conversational tone in which he approached his beloved God and for which he was known is very apparent.
How Good It Is to Love You
My Jesus, from all eternity you were pleased to give yourself to us in love. And you planted within us a deep spiritual desire that can only be satisfied by yourself. I may go from here to the other end of the world, from one country to another, from riches to greater riches, from pleasure to pleasure, and still I shall not be content. All the world cannot satisfy the immortal soul. It would be like trying to feed a starving man with a single grain of wheat. We can only be satisfied by setting our hearts, imperfect as they are, on you. We are made to love you; you created us as your lovers. It sometimes happens that the more we know a neighbor, the less we love him. But with you it is quite the opposite. The more we know you, the more we love you. Knowledge of you kindles such a fire in our souls that we have no energy left for worldly desires. My Jesus, how good it is to love you. Let me be like your disciples on Mount Tabor, seeing nothing else but you. Let us be like two bosom friends, neither of whom can ever bear to offend the other.