When Jean Vianney was a little child in France, France underwent the French Revolution. In its wake, in what was once the thoroughly Catholic culture of France, the Catholic faith was outlawed. His early memories of the Mass were of secret meetings in people's houses. Napoleon returned Catholicism to legality when he was a teenager, and the young man began to study for the priesthood until he was drafted into Napoleon's army. He refused to join, and so traveled around with a community of deserters for a while. He almost wasn't ordained because of it, but a seminary teacher spoke up for him and argued that despite the gaps in his education, he was indeed fit to be a priest. He was assigned to the little village of Ars.
There he discovered just how devastating the Revolution had been. An entire generation had grown up knowing nothing of Catholicism beyond the name and a few distorted ideas. It would be the work of the rest of his life to try to remedy that problem.
Today, of course, is the feast of the Curé d'Ars, St. Jean Vianney.
The human heart will tire, and human force can fail.
In this alone an ever-giving love resides:
to force not gift, but let love give, and not impede
the endless flow of love itself, which never dies.
No human strength or will can give as love must give;
one cannot force that grace by one's own might.
To give yourself, first know how weak you are,
that you can never give that gift by will alone!
But Love Himself can give beyond all human gift:
so let yourself be gift, let Love the giver be;
the source of endless love is God's own charity.