St. John Vianney on Prayer

From Cure d’Ars by Trochu:

John Vianney was always fond of telling a story of when he asked a humble farmer what he was doing in Church all the time in the morning before work. And the farmer replied: “I look at the good God, and he looks at me” (175).

“My brethren, the good God looks neither at long nor at beautiful prayers, but at those that come from the bottom of the heart… There is nothing easier than to pray to the good God and nothing is more comforting” (177).

He prayed unceasingly wherever he happened to be, in the church, in the solitude of his presbytery, in the street, and when the answer was slow in coming, according to his picturesque expression, “he just went on wearying the good saints” (192).

He preferred public to private prayers. “Private prayer,” he used to say, “resembles straw scattered here and there over a field; if it is set on fire, the flame is not a powerful one; but if you gather those straws into a bundle, the flame is bright, and rises in a lofty column towards the sky: such is public prayer” (295). 

“M. Vianney likewise endeavoured to inculcate upon souls eager to go forward on the road of perfection the habit of daily mental prayer and he taught them how to go about it. To those who felt unable to apply themselves to methodical meditations he simply recommended to think frequently of God” (295). 

“M. Vianney appeared always recollected during his religious exercises. He always seemed to have but one thing to do – the duty of the present moment… He constantly lifted up his heart to God – in the pulpit, in the confessional, in the midst of conversations and the most varied occupations” (318). 

“Prayer was the greatest joy of his soul and his habitual refuge. “Prayer is a fragrant dew,” he used to say; “the more we pray, the more we love to pray” (318). 

“M. Vianney, by the time he became a priest, reached that exalted degree of prayer which is called “the prayer of simplicity.” He was for ever to be seen in church, on his knees, and praying without using a book.” His prayer was affective” says the Baronne de Belvey, “rather than made up of reflections and reasonings.” He gazed at the tabernacle and never ceased from assuring our Lord that he loved him” (319). 

“When the influx of pilgrims put an end to his long hours of prayer, M. le Cure accustomed himself to choosing, in the morning, a subject of meditation to which he referred all the actions of the day” (319). 

From the Office of Readings:

“My little children, reflect on these words: the Christian’s treasure is not on earth but in heaven. Our thoughts, then ought to be directed to where our treasure is.

This is the glorious duty of man: to pray and to love. If you pray and love, that is where a man’s happiness lies.

Prayer is nothing else but union with God. When one has a heart that is pure and united with God, he is given a kind of serenity and sweetness that makes him ecstatic, a light that surrounds him with marvelous brightness. In this intimate union, God and the soul are fused together like two bits of wax that no one can ever pull apart. This union of God with a tiny creature is a lovely thing. It is a happiness beyond understanding.

We had become unworthy to pray, but God in his goodness allowed us to speak with him. Our prayer is incense that gives him the greatest pleasure.

My little children, your hearts are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God.

Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven and something of paradise comes down upon us. Prayer never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey that flows into the soul and makes all things sweet. When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.

Prayer also makes time pass very quickly and with such great delight that one does not notice its length. Listen: Once when I was a purveyor in Bresse and most of my companions were ill, I had to make a long journey. I prayed to the good God, and believe me, the time did not seem long.

Some men immerse themselves as deeply in prayer as fish in water, because they give themselves totally to God.

There is not division in their hearts. O, how I love these noble souls! Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Colette used to see our Lord and talk to him just as we talk to one another.

How unlike them we are! How often we come to church with no idea of what to do or what to ask for. And yet, whenever we go to any human being, we know well enough why we go. And still worse, there are some who seem to speak to the good God like this: “I will only say a couple of things to you, and then I will be rid of you.”

I often think that when we come to adore the Lord, we would receive everything we ask for, if we would ask with living faith and with a pure heart.”


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