(To prepare for the Feast of the Holy Priest of Ars)
The Saints have their style, and I think the character will be found in this letter. The parish priest of Ars carried with him, in all places, the good smell of Jesus Christ. Judging by these lines that a worthy priest addressed to Bishop Langalerie, as a document, shortly after Mr. Vianney's death:
"I have to go back up to forty years to find the time when this venerable man offers himself to my memory for the first time.
It was 1820; I was about ten years old. We were being exercised, in the courtyard of the college where I was studying, to lay flowers for the procession of the Feast of God, when I saw a priest appear from a very simple, very poor and very-humble exterior, and one of my comrades said to us: "He is the priest of Ars; he's a saint... He lives only on 'potatoes cooked in water.' I looked at him with astonishment. As he was given a few polite words, he paused for a moment, and smiling kindly, he said, "My friends, when you throw flowers before the very holy Sacrament, hide your hearts in your baskets, and send them, among the roses, to Jesus Christ." Then, without making any visit, he crossed the courtyard and went to the chapel of the establishment, to greet in his tabernacle the Master of the house. I forgot just about every name of the classmates I had at the time, and almost everything that was going on before my eyes; but the word of this priest, his visit to the Holy Sacrament, the word of my comrade, never came out of my mind. I was mostly struck (because I was very greedy) of the thought of man living only potatoes. I understood, without realizing it, that there was something rare and prodigious down there; and it was probably this memory that prevented the other details from slipping away from me.
Ten years away, through a combination of circumstances whose account would belong to the history of God's mercy on my soul, I found myself in a great seminary. Then the thought of the mortified and devout priest to the divine eucharist came back to me in memory. During this time he had grown up a great deal in the opinion of the peoples, and although his fame was not at the height of which we saw him for the last fifteen years of his life, he was already making a wonderful movement around himself. We were beginning to rush from all sides, the righteous to build themselves, the sinners to discharge into the bosom of God's man their sins and remorse. The miracles of his life, austere beyond what can be said, excited the admiration of all. We didn't even understand how he could live by giving his body so little food. What was not added yet? And these noises, to which our century was no longer accustomed, were later confirmed. »
(Life of J-B. Vianney, by Alfred Monnin)