Skip to main content

Saint John Vianney and His Ability to Read Souls

St. John Vianney is the patron saint of all Catholic priests.

St. John Vianney is the patron saint of all Catholic priests.

He knew when someone wasn't telling the truth

Saint John Vianney was a holy priest born in France. He came of age during the French Revolution, when it was difficult to openly practice the Catholic faith.

Masses were usually held underground in private homes, as the parishes were occupied by revolutionaries.

This intense religious persecution caused weakness of faith throughout France.

Saint John Vianney studied for the priesthood, and was ordained in 1815. Because his religious superiors didn't consider him intellectually gifted, he was sent to a little backwater named Ars. This village had a population of only 230 people.

The residents of Ars, for the most part, had fallen away from the Church.

Eventually, Saint John Vianney's good example and rousing sermons inspired people. The villagers returned to the practice of attending Mass and going to confession.

Saint John Vianney's reputation as a confessor grew. People from far and wide now traveled to Ars for a chance to confess their sins to this priest, who is now widely known as the Cure of Ars.

One reason people flocked to this village was because of the Cure's ability to read souls and foretell past and future events.

He knew of secret sins and hidden events

A distraught widow came to Saint John Vianney's confessional filled with grief. Her husband had just committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. She was assured that her husband was saved, because he repented before hitting the water.

Long lines formed outside the Cure's confessional. Occasionally, he would step out of the confession box to allow someone to move to the front of the line if that person had pressing obligations that didn't allow for a long wait.

He'd also leave the confessional to look for people who had come to stand in line, but had a change of heart before making their confession.

Saint John Vianney was gentle with souls who were truly repentant. He knew if someone wasn't revealing all their sins. He was direct with the unrepentant, kindly telling them they were "damned" if they persisted in their ways.

Sometimes he spent up to 18 hours a day in the confessional.

The Cure didn't get much sleep. Many nights he was engaged in a battle with the devil, who made every possible attempt to prevent his body from getting the rest it needed.

Loud Noises Like Chains Dragging


The devil was relentless in his attacks

Just about every night the devil put on a show, with the intention of keeping Saint John Vianney awake.

At first, the frightful noises made the Cure anxious because he worried an intruder was breaking into the church or the rectory.

Men from the parish offered to stand guard. Although all these brave men heard the same noises, no one was ever seen and no footprints were ever found. Sometimes the mysterious knocks and crashes were loud enough to cause furniture to shake.

Finally, the Cure realized these noises were demonic in origin, and he resigned himself to living with the disturbances. Although the racket interrupted his sleep, he offered this inconvenience up for the conversion of sinners.

Saint John Vianney sacrificed all creature comforts, including food. He subsisted largely on potatoes, and sometimes ate rotting potatoes.

The demon hurled verbal insults at him as well, calling him a "potato eater."

The devil called him "potato eater."


Great penances for conversions

Saint John Vianney's entire life was one of sacrifice for the sanctification of sinners and the welfare of their souls. He had the gift of being able to look beyond this earthly existence to the glory of what's to come for God's faithful servants.

Everything he did was for the greater good of others.

Once, in a verbal exchange with the devil, he was told if the world had just two other priests like him, the power of evil would be destroyed.

No storms were seen in France during the time the Cure was in Ars.

Saint John Vianney was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1925. He is now the patron saint of all priests.

His incorrupt body is displayed at the Basilica in Ars. Incorruptibility is a phenomenon recognized by the Catholic Church. Occasionally, someone who's led a life of sanctity is spared the process of bodily decomposition after death. There are numerous other canonized saints also known as "incorruptibles."

To learn more about this saint, consider reading The Cure of Ars: The Priest Who Out-Talked the Devil by Milton Lomask.

Short video on Saint John Vianney

Where is Ars, France?