Wednesday 1 June 2022

John Vianney - J.B. Midgley - CTS Great Saints

John Vianney
CTS Great Saints
J.B. Midgley
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860824784
CTS Booklet B698

A few years ago, I encountered the works of J.B. Midgley and was very impressed with his writing. I worked at tracking all his books down. And it took me a few years. I now have all the volumes and after this one have 4 left to read and review. I still have a few to read but it has been well worth tracking down all 28 books by J.B. Midgley. Twenty-six of those books were for the Catholic Truth Society.  And 6 of those were from the CTS Great Saints Series. I have also read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series. And have loved most of them. I first read a book by Midgley almost exactly 4 years ago. This volume is a great read, by an excellent author in a wonderful series! 

The description on the back of the book is:

“For over 40 years John Vianney was the parish priest of Ars, near Lyons, France. From modest farming stock and poor at his studies, he overcame many obstacles to become a priest, and to care for his neglected flock. His holiness, preaching and sanctity drew endless numbers of pilgrims. His fame in his own lifetime matched that of a modern day Mother Teresa or Padre Pio. This highly informative booklet reveals the real person behind the famous Cure d’ Ars, and his boundless love for Christ.”

The chapters in this booklet are:

Patron of Parish Priests
Formative Years
Parish Priest of Ars
Dedicated preacher
Pilgrims come to Ars
Good and Faithful Servant
Writings: from his ‘Catechism on the Priesthood’
Writings: from his Sermons

This is one of 10 biographies that Midgley wrote for the Great Saints Series, just over a third of his books were in this series. He does a great job with hagiography. This volume is split in almost three equal sections, the first part is history and set up, the second is his life in ministry and the third is excerpts from his surviving writings and sermons. While reading this booklet I highlighted many passages, they are:

“John Vianney is the patron saint of Parish Priests and the only one to be canonized.  In her human manifestation the Church is passing through an era when, again priests undertake their parish mission single-handed, and when reduced attendance and shortage of vocations threaten parishes with closure or amalgamation.  John Vianney’s story illustrates the essential excellence of the priesthood upon which Christians depend, and it seems an appropriate time to avail ourselves of his eager intercession with confidence.”

“The Vianney family was a splendid example of the farming stock that had provided the backbone of the country.  For generations, they had held their farm that lay on either side of the river Rances at Dardilly, a pleasant, well-wooded village in the Rhone province about eight miles from Lyons, a major city of central France.”

“Pierre was an exemplary Catholic and his wife Marie a model of religious conviction and piety, with a love of prayer that she transmitted to her children.”

“The Revolutionaries had adopted an anticlerical programme that led to the closure of churches unless they were served by priests who swore allegiance to a State Church.”

“The Reign of Terror in Paris touched even Dardilly where intrepid Catholics like the Vianneys went to remote farms visited by loyal priests who risked their lives to celebrate Mass for the faithful and administer the Sacraments.”

“He first received the Blessed Sacrament at a secret Mass celebrated in a house in Ecully behind windows that were shuttered so that no candlelight could be detected from out side.”

“Stripped of wealth and power, the Church in France now concentrated on her fundamental mission to preach the Gospel and serve the people in fidelity to Apostolic teaching.”

“The Sulpicians regarded themselves as educators as well as guardians of souls, and followed a schedule of prayer, spiritual conference and study.  Their Society became identified with the revival of parish life, the reform of seminary education, the nourishment of the spiritual life of the clergy, and inspired saints like John Eudes and John Baptist de La Salle.”

“After ordination and the joyful celebration of his first Mass, John was appointed curate to Father Bellay who had helped him so much on his journey to the priesthood.”

“Almost immediately, he demonstrated remarkable qualities in the confessional where he gave earnest and encouraging advice to those who came to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation in increasing numbers.”

“His unwavering faith in God’s providence gave him a certainty this his flock would return to traditional practice of the Faith if he himself did penance on their behalf.”

“He maintained that if suffering were accepted properly and willingly, it would be rewarded even in this life.”

“In addition to his own penitential self-denial and preaching, he gave every attention to the importance and dignity of the Liturgy and appropriate ritual.”

“Personal austerity inclined him to speak about death, judgement and hell, and he was so dedicated to saving souls that details of moral teaching were presented without compromise so that the least learned in his congregation would understand.”  

“As far as John was concerned, the important thing to remember is that the truth of Catholic theology remains constant.”

“He spent long hours in the cold sacristy preparing his sermons with meticulous care, pausing only to go and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.  Composition did not come easily to him and required an enormous effort.  What he wrote he learned by heart and, late on Saturday nights he rehearsed his delivery aloud in the graveyard, sometimes to the alarm of passers-by.”

“As the years passed, the severity of tone moved to a gentler reminder of the dogma of Divine Mercy, so that all should be aware of the personal and unconditional love that God has for them.”

A few quotes from his writings:

“The father and mother of a family serve God by living with their children and nurturing them in a Christian way, and a servant does not have a problem in serving both God and his master. Serving God as a way of life does not conflict with our responsibilities; on the contrary, it means that they are much better fulfilled””

““Not to be tempted is the greatest of all evils because then there is reason to believe that the Devil is already regarding us as his property. He concentrates on tempting those souls who are in a state of grace, and those who wish to abandon sin. The rest already belong to him and he has no need to tempt them.””

I had previously read Saint John Vianney by Elizabeth Marie Dedomenic and Ben Hatke from the Encounter the Saints Series Book 11 from Pauline Books and Media. It is geared for a younger audience but has many of the same examples as this volume. This book was an excellent read. It was hard to put down once I started. The Cure of Ars is a fascinating man. He had great faith and devotion. And also worked hard. The examples of his working as engineer, designer and builder for the school and orphanage specifically highlight his willingness to do what needed to be done. His schedule was amazing. 5 Hours sleep on a pallet and work and pray all day evening and night. And this biography is a great introduction to this Great Saint. Another wonderful work from the masterful pen of J.B. Midgley and from the Catholic Truth Society!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by J.B. Midgley:

Advent & Christmastide with the Saints
Antonio Rosmini
Benedict - Patron of Europe
Bernard of Clairvaux – CTS Great Saints
Charles Borromeo  - CTS Great Saints
Companion to St. Joseph
Companion to the Feasts of Mary
Companion to Saint Peter
Companion to Saint Paul
Companion to the Angels
Companion to the Feasts of Our Lord
Companion to the Passion of Our Lord
Dominic - CTS Great Saints
George: Patron of England - CTS Great Saints
Dewi Sant: St David Patron of Wales
Francis de Sales – CTS Great Saints
John Baptist de La Salle – CTS Great Saints
John Vianney – CTS Great Saints
Lent with the Saints
Nurturing the Young
Robert Bellarmine
Saint John the Baptist 
Stations of the Cross and Resurrection with the Saints
The Eucharist with the Saints
The Four Evangelists
Thomas Becket – CTS Saints of the Isles
Vincent de Paul – CTS Great Saints
Witchcraft, Sorcery and Magic

Contributed to:
First Fridays and First Saturdays The Devotions Explained 

Books in the CTS Great Saints Series:
Antonio Rosmini - J.B. Midgley
Bernard of Clairvaux - J.B. Midgley
Benedict Patron of Europe - J.B. Midgley
Charles Borromeo - J.B. Midgley
Dominic - J.B. Midgley
Elizabeth of the Trinity The Great Carmelite Saint - Jennifer Moorcroft
Francis de Sales - J.B. Midgley
Gemma Galgani Gem of Christ John Paul Kirkham
George: Patron of England - J.B. Midgley
John Baptist de La Salle - J.B. Midgley
John of the Cross - Jennifer Moorcroft
John Vianney - J.B. Midgley
Louis Marie de Montfort His Life, Message and Teaching - Paul Allerton SMM
Martin de Porres - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Patrick Missionary to the Irish - Thomas O’Loughlin 

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