Saint John Mary Vianney (also known as Cure of Ars; Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney; Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney; Jean-Baptiste Vianney; John Baptist Vianney; John Vianney) was born on May 8, 1786 A.D. at Dardilly, Lyons, France, and he was baptized the same day.
His parents, Matthieu Vianney and Marie Beluze, had six children, of whom John was the fourth. John's parents were devout Catholics who helped the poor and gave hospitality to St. Benedict Joseph Labre, the patron saint of tramps, who passed through Dardilly on his pilgrimage to Rome.
John was a farm hand, and as a youngster, he taught other children their prayers and catechism. He was 20 when his father allowed him to leave the farm in 1806 to be taught at a "presbytery-school" in the neighboring village of Écully. The school taught arithmetic, history, geography, and Latin.
John was ordained a priest in 1815 after several years of study. He had a difficult time with his studies as he had little education, was not a very good student, and his Latin was terrible. In 1818, he was assigned to the parish of Ars, a tiny village near Lyons, which suffered from very lax attendance. He began visiting his parishioners, especially the sick and poor, and he spent days in prayer, doing penance for his parishioners.
John was gifted with discernment of spirits, prophecy, hidden knowledge, and working miracles. Crowds came to hear him preach, and to make their reconciliation because of his reputation with penitents. By 1855, there were 20,000 pilgrims a year to Ars. John spent 40 years at Ars as the parish priest. He was a prolific writer, and much of his writing has been preserved.
Saint John Mary Vianney died of natural causes on August 4, 1859 at Ars, France. His body is incorrupt.
In 1959, on the 100th anniversary of his death, Pope Saint John XXIII issued Sacerdotii Nostri Primordia, an encyclical on Vianney. Pope Saint John Paul II himself visited Ars in 1986 at the 200th anniversary of Vianney’s birth and referred to the saint as a “rare example of a pastor acutely aware of his responsibilities”.
In honor of the 150th anniversary of Vianney's death, Pope Benedict XVI declared a year for priests, running from the Feast of the Sacred Heart 2009-2010.