John Vianney was born into a farming family in Dardilly, Lyons, France on May 8, 1786. As a child John spent much of his time teaching the other children their prayers and catechism. Then, as a young man, he served in the French army under Napoleon. When his term in the army was finished, John entered the seminary to begin his studies for the priesthood. John struggled greatly with his studies, especially Latin, having had very little schooling. Many doubted that he would ever become a priest.
However, in 1815, John Vianney was ordained priesthood. The new priest was assigned to the tiny parish of Ars-sur-Formans, France, where the bishop felt this un-talented priest would be out of the way.
Once in Ars, Fr. Vianney zealously performed his duties, visiting parishioners, caring for the poor and sick, hearing confessions, and celebrating Mass. He showed great care for his parishioners, doing penance and spending hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament in prayer for them.
Fr. Vianney came to be known for his work with penitents so that, by the end of his life, hundreds of people would come to him for confession so that he was spending 14 to 18 hours a day in the confessional. He is known to have been blessed with the gifts of discernment of spirits, prophecy, and hidden knowledge in addition to having performed several miracles. Evil spirits tormented St. John throughout his life, especially when he tried to get his 2 to 3 hours of sleep.
John Vianney spent 40 years as a parish priest at Ars before passing away in his parish on May 8, 1786 of natural causes. He was entombed in the Basilica of Ars where his body remains. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 31, 1925. St. John Vianney is the patron saint: of confessors; of the Personal Apostolic Administration of St. John Mary Vianney; of priests, especially parish priests; of the archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa; of the diocese of Kamloops, British Colombia; of the archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas; and of the archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota.