For First Communicants

With Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1919

by a Sister of Notre Dame, author of First Communion Days

  Page 6

-------St. John Vianney--------

[St. Jean Baptiste Vianney]

The above image is not part of the book, which has black and white illustrations.

About a hundred and fifty years ago there was born into this world a little boy who afterwards became a holy priest, and is now famous as Saint John Vianney, the Cur
of Ars. Ars is a tiny village in the south of France, and curé is the French for "parish priest". The little boy was not born at Ars, but at another village called Dardilly. His father lived in a farmhouse right in the midst of the most beautiful country. On one side of the farm were shady woods and deep valleys, and stretching far away in front of it were pleasant green fields and orchards. Jean Baptiste's father and mother were not rich, but they were both very good Catholics, who loved Almighty God and Our Blessed Lady with their whole hearts, and who took great pleasure in being kind to the poor and those in trouble, for the sake of Our Dear Lord, Who said: "Whatsoever you do to the least of these My little ones for My sake, you do it unto Me."
Before Jean Baptiste was born his mother had said that if Almighty God should send her another little boy [for she had already had one son], she would bring him up in a special way for the service of God. Soon after this God sent her a little baby boy, our Jean Baptiste. The same day he was born the child was Baptized, so that from the very first moment he might belong to God, our dear Heavenly Father.

Long before he could walk his mother taught him to join his tiny hands in prayer, and to lisp the sweet names of Jesus and Mary. Each morning this good mother used to awake her children herself to make sure that their first thoughts and actions should be offered to God. She taught them to make a big Sign of the Cross and say
"My God, I offer Thee today All that I think, or do, or say."

During his whole life, and he lived to be quite an old man, Jean Baptiste never once forgot to do this. By the time he was three years old there was nothing he loved better than to be saying his prayers. He would kneel down in any quiet corner he could find, and, taking out his Rosary, contentedly say his "Hail Marys." One of his first troubles was over this Rosary. His little sister took a fancy to it, and wanted Jean Baptiste to give it to her. Naturally he wished to keep it for himself, as he used it so often, yet he did not want to be selfish. In the end he asked his mother what he should do.

"Give it to your little sister," she answered, "for the love of God."

Jean Baptiste shed a few tears over parting with his treasure, but did as his mother had said. This act gave him a new idea: he learnt that he could show his love for Our Lord and His Blessed Mother not only by saying his prayers, but also by giving up to others things that he liked.

Often, while he was still a little boy, Jean Baptiste's mother used to take him with her to church. During Holy Mass he said his prayers so well and kept so still that her friends would notice it, and say: "You must make a priest of that little one," and his mother would smile and pray that it might be so. But, alas! when Jean Baptiste was seven years old there was a Revolution in France-----that is, a number of wicked men got all the power into their hands and wanted to do away with all order and religion.

Soon the churches were closed and priests were hunted from place to place, and put to death whenever they were found. Only very seldom could Jean Baptiste hear Mass during that dreadful time, and then it was in secret, in a barn or hayloft, with someone watching outside to see that no one came to take the poor priest prisoner. But though he could not go to Holy Mass as he used to, Jean Baptiste could still say his prayers. His mother had given him a little wooden statue of Our Blessed Lady, and the boy carried it with him wherever he went When he was eight he was given the care of his father's sheep and cows. He had to take them into the far meadows to feed on the sweet grass there. His little companions would often go with him, and when they reached the fields Jean Baptiste would put his dear statue on a hillock, or in the hollow of a tree, and then he with his companions would kneel in front of it and say their prayers. After this Jean Baptiste used to tell his companions all about Our Blessed Lady and her Divine Son. When the others were tired they would run away and play, but he stayed on to say his Rosary, or moved his little statue to a quieter spot Sometimes he used to spend whole hours in this way.

At last, when Jean Baptiste was eleven years old, some Sisters came to a village near by to teach the children their religion, and Jean Baptiste was sent to live with his grandfather that he might be prepared for the Sacraments. He made his First Confession and then began to prepare for his First Holy Communion. He could not spend long hours praying now, for he was getting to be a big boy, and he had to do a great deal of hard work on the farm; but whenever he had a few spare moments he always spent them in prayer. Jean Baptiste knew that Almighty God was just as pleased with work when it is done for His glory, so he tried to do more and more work to please Him. He used to take his statue of Our Blessed Lady with him into the fields which he had to dig up, place it at a little distance from him, and then see how quickly he could dig his way to it. Then taking it up once more place it farther on, and begin again. Not only did Jean Baptiste offer up his work in preparation for his First Holy Communion, but he gave away to God's poor [and there were many in those days of revolution] his food, and even his clothes, glad to go hungry or cold himself to show his love for God. Now came the last happy days before his First Holy Communion. A priest was hidden in one of the farmhouses, and each night the village boys would quietly slip in, and seated on the floor at the priest's feet, would listen while he taught them all about this wonderful Sacrament Then, when at last they were all instructed and prepared, a barn was chosen in which the priest could say Mass. Jean Baptiste and his young companions helped to load the wagons of hay which were placed outside the window and door so that no enemy might see what was going on inside. Late that night an altar was got ready and everything arranged for Mass. Very, very early in the morning, when everything was yet quite dark, Jean Baptiste and his family, with just a few friends, got up quietly and went into the barn, which was lighted by one or two candles.

All through the Mass Jean Baptiste knelt without moving, never once taking his eyes off the altar and the priest until the great moment when he and his little companions received Our Dear Lord for the first time. Returning to his place, his heart overflowing with love, Jean Baptiste offered his whole life and work for the service of Our Dear Lord, and Jesus accepted his offering and chose him to be a priest and to do a great deal for His Church.

Soon after this the churches in France were opened again-----the Revolution was over. Each morning Mass was said, but now Jean Baptiste had to work from early morning, and often he could not go to Mass, for he was paid for his labor and the work had to be done. So what did he do? He saved up all his money and all his little treasures, and with them he paid anyone who would work for him during the time he went to Mass and Holy Communion. Years after, when he was an old and holy priest, he would say that the happiest days his life were those he spent just before and after First Holy Communion.