Saint John Marie Vianney
We have heard the saying before - The saints did not all start out well, but they all ended well. Looking at the life of St. John Marie Baptiste Vianney, we see that he started out well, he continued well through the various seasons of his life, and as his life came to a close, he ended well.
John Marie Vianney was born May 8, 1786 in the small village of Dardilly in France. His parents, Matthieu and Marie Vianney, were poor farmers as well as devout Catholics. They had six children, of whom John Marie was the fourth.
The Vianney family farmed several acres of wheat fields and hayfields and also had a vineyard. When John Marie was seven years old, one of his duties was to watch the donkey, cows and sheep while they grazed in the fields. It was the custom for the children in Dardilly to knit socks while watching their animals in order to make constructive use of their time. During harvest season, the whole family worked together in the fields. At midday, they stretched out and took a siesta in the orchard before continuing their work.
The one and only elementary school in Dardilly was forced to close due to the political upheaval of the French Revolution. Because of that, Christine, John Maries sister, took it upon herself to teach him how to read. At nine years of age, he was finally able to attend public school where he learned history, arithmetic, geography, reading and writing.
As John Marie grew older, his farm duties increased. He ploughed the ground, raked and pitched hay, picked chestnuts, acorns and fruit from the various trees on their land and helped with the reaping and binding of corn. In addition, he cleared ditches, cut wood, cared for the cows in the stable, and worked in the vineyard.
Pierre Vianney, John Maries grandfather, was known for his exceptional kindness to the poor, a quality carried on by Matthieu and Marie, John Maries parents. One time several destitute men called at Pierres farmhouse. Pierre gave them a meal and allowed them to sleep in the bakehouse that night. Several weeks later, Pierre was surprised to receive a beautiful hand-written letter of thanks from Benedict Joseph Labre, one of the men he had given shelter to. Benedict Joseph Labre was revered as a saint and later canonized. He was known for his penitential lifestyle, his love for solitude and his long hours given to prayer.
John Maries father Matthieu remembered the incident well. He was seventeen years old when Benedict Joseph Labre paid a visit to their farmhouse. His father Pierre t