The last full day of our pilgrimage took us to Ars, a small town just northwest of Lyon. This town would have gone virtually unnoticed had it not been for the saintly parish priest who lived there in the 18th century. St. Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney (1786-1859) was regarded a saint in his own time. He was known for converting sinners by his powerful preaching and his example of personal holiness. He was also known to read souls in the confessional where he spent long hours each day. Throughout France it was said, "there is a holy man in Ars, go and see him".
As we approach the conclusion to the Year of St. Paul, Pope Benedict XVI has declared the Year for Priests, which will begin on June 19, 2009 (Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).With the announcement of the Year for Priests, Pope Benedict has declared St. Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney the universal patron for priests (this is the 150th anniversary of death of the "Cure de Ars", as St. Jean Vianney was known). The Year for Priests is a call to foster the priest's yearning for spiritual perfection, upon which the effectiveness of their ministry principally depends. Pope Benedict offers St. Jean Vianney as a model for such a priestly life.