Curator’s Choice

St. John Vianney
Artist unknown
19th century
Oil on canvas
On Loan courtesy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, popularly known as the Curé d’Ars (priest of Ars), is the patron saint of parish priests. He was born May 8, 1786 in Dardilly, near Lyons, France. While at school he was conscripted into the Army, though ultimately his brother would take his place after the young draftee, while traveling to join his assigned regiment, was led to a separate town and persuaded to serve as their schoolmaster. He returned to studies later, enrolling in the seminary at Verrieres in 1812.

He was ordained a priest in 1815 and assigned to the parish church in of the village of Ars in 1818. His catechetical instruction became well known, attracting tens of thousands throughout France and beyond to seek his counsel. Father Vianney reportedly spent as many as 18 hours a day hearing confessions. He died August 4, 1859 at age 73, and more than 6,000 people attended his funeral. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and his feast is August 4.

The portrait of St. John Vianney comes from the collection of the American College of the Immaculate Conception in Louvain, also known as the American College at Louvain, a seminary in Belgium that operated from 1857 to 2011. The location is now home to the St. Damien Project, a collaborative effort between two universities (KU Leuven and Université Catholique de Louvain) as well as the American and Belgian Catholic Episcopal Conferences to provide housing to theology, philosophy, or canon law students.