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Seminarian in France- Day 6

Today we arrived in the small village of Ars in the mid south of France, as many would know it was the home of St John Vianney, or the Cure of Ars. To get to Ars we had to take the train out of Paris a two hour ride on the 'fast train' this one went up to 300 km per hour to Lyon. We changed to a local train that went 20 minutes out of Lyon and then caught a bus, to take us 20 min further until we finally arrived in Ars.

St John Vianney struggled at seminary academically, due to an interrupted schooling during the French revolution, but eventually got ordained as a priest. He was sent to the small town of Ars where he become parish priest and stayed until he died at the age of 73. In the time just after the French revolution it was a challenge for him to re-evangelize the local population back to faith, his strong preaching and commitment to the sacrament of confession brought many back to the faith and within 30 years he had up to 20,000 people travelling to Ars to have their confessions heard by him each year, in which some days he would spend up to 16 hours a day in confession.

He was canonized a saint in 1925, and was made the patron saint of priests and seminarians.

Life of the Holy Priest - Shrine Of Ars (

St John Vianney, in his crypt. (He has a wax mold over his face)

Ars is quite little town in the countryside, and just a short walk out from the basilica was our accommodation. The basilica is the building to the left with the octagonal design and the green roof.

We stayed in a seminary for the night which offers theological studies to students that wishes to attend from any diocese in the world as long as you can speak French and your bishop agrees you can attend. Their chapel is to the right above, the classrooms are below to the left.

Approaching the basilica from the main road into town.

Inside the basilica and the main altar.

A small chapel to the side of the basilica is where St John Vianney's heart is kept on display in a reliquary, but unfortunately it was not there this week.

Next to the basilica is the old presbytery where St John Vianney lived, the room where he lived is set up with his hat, scarf and shoes.

In the evening Fr Bijoy had mass booked on the altar of St John Vianney's tomb, and as a priest in his first year he was able to celebrate using the challis that St John Vianney used, it was a special occasion for all of us.

The challis.

While in Ars Deacon Richard knew of community that helps out men with addictions to overcome them and regain control of there lives. The community is known as Cenacolo, the were started by an Italian nun Mother Elvira Petrozzi, in 1983, and now has over 2000 men and women in the program with locations all over Europe. We contacted them and paid them a visit to see how they ran their community in Ars.

Who We Are (

Cenacolo base their rehabilitation on work, long hours manual labor 6 days a week, prayer including rosary three times a day adoration and weekly mass attendance at the basilica, and shared community life. The wood heap that is all hand chopped for heating and cooking.

The chickens.

Their green house, where they grow all sorts of vegetables year round.

We came back at night for their Holy hour of adoration and shared prayer and praise. It was a heart warming experience to see the faith being used in a very practical and meaningful way to bring about change in these men's lives. They we all very glad to have met us and allowed us to share in their community life for the day.

There is currently no community in Australia but this is something that I'm sure would be well utilized if it were available. Raphael has been in Cenacolo for three years originally from Spain, he entered with addiction and is now one of the leaders of the community helping others on their journey to freedom.

Just across the paddock from Cenacolo is a statue of St John Vianney with a child that is said to be of a meeting that took place of when St John first entered Ars. it was said that he asked the boy "show me the way to Ars, and I will show you the way to heaven".

The next morning, after Sunday mass it was time to head for the bus stop to catch the bus, to catch the train, to catch the plane back to Rome. That brought and end to a packed Easter break, and many more memories and experiences to get me through to the end of term. It will probably be the last of my trips till the summer break.

I couldn't leave France with out a picture from the local bakery in Ars, straight after mass there was a line up down the street for some fresh product, which we had to join and you can why.

Au revoir and bon voyage from France.

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