August 4th is the feast day of the great St. John Vianney, patron of all parish priests. And what a fitting patronage it is!
By God’s grace, and with unstoppable devotion to his vocation, Vianney transformed the small French town to which he was assigned. His fame as a confessor and counselor became so great, tens of thousands of pilgrims visited him each year.
What’s less known about him, though, is the fact that he endured physical attacks from the devil.
In one story, his sister was spending the night at his home attached to his parish church when she was awakened by a strange rapping sound on her wall and table. Afraid, she went to John, who was hearing confessions late at night. He explained:
“Oh, my child, you should not have been frightened: It is the Grappin [“pitchfork”; his nickname for Satan]. He cannot hurt you. As for me, he torments me in sundry ways. At times he seizes me by the feet and drags me about the room. It is because I convert souls to the good God.”
In another instance, Vianney was in his parish church hearing confessions when someone reported to him that Vianney’s bedroom had caught on fire. His response?
“The Grappin is very angry. He couldn’t catch the bird so he has burned the cage. It is a good sign. We will have many sinners this day.”
What incredible faith!
He was so beloved that, after dying at age 73, a bishop presided over his funeral mass with 300 priests and 6000 people in attendance.
St. John Vianney, please pray for us, especially for our priests!
[See also: The Hidden Symbolism of the Priestly Cassock]
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