Unravel me this: the miraculous saint St. John Vianney of Ars, France, died 1859.

Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney was born 1786 near Lyon, France. Here’s a biography.

He was a simple man, extremely humble, who often acted like the village idiot ammong his peers. As a young man, he had the hardest time to learn even the most elementary Latin. After attaining priesthood, he was assigned curé (priest) of a little godforsaken village of sixty houses near Lyon, called Ars. Why Ars was assigned to Jean-Marie? Probably because there wasn’t much to ruin about Ars, religiously speaking.

Ten years later, over twentythousand people came to Ars, every year to be heard in confession by this very same priest. He had an uncanny, totally inexplicable way to hear a confession and to give, instantly, the only advice possible, good and wise. Even more miraculously, he had the gift of second sight. For instance, he would address a woman who had arrived by train that very same morning, and who would have waited patiently in line for four days untill her confession could be heard, and would tell her: “You can go back home, and tell your children that their father, your husband, has been saved; he still had time for remorse between falling and hitting the water”. Another example: to another woman he had never seen before: “I thought about what you told me yesterday. If those two kids really love each other, you shouldn’t oppose their marriage any longer”.
There have been reported literally hundreds of cases like these, along with dozens of miraculous healings.

I’m awed at this mystery. How can a phenomenon like “the vicar of Ars” be explained away? What scientific explanation is possible?

Selective memory, for starters.

How could you explain “Crossing Over” with John Edward? Pretty much the same way – with a healthy dose of skepticism. Consider that a woman who has been waiting in line for four days has probably had plenty of chances to tell her sad story. So even without the need for shenanigans, all it would take is one petitioner to say something like, “Well, at least it’s not as bad as that poor woman whose husband fell in the water…”

His talent could even be nothing more than exceptional acoustics in the church.

This was my first thought as well. There’s ‘cold reading’ and you can go to www.randi.org and read all about it, and then, simpler still, is having accomplices poll those waiting in the queue and report back.

It’s common technique among modern miracle workers, and even without RF communication, it’s easy to imagine it could have been done by oracles and seers of the past.

Finagle, the point was the woman had not yet waited four days; she had arrived at the church less then an hour before being adressed by the Vicar. Besides, I wonder if a church packed with the humdrum of people offers much chance to filter out individual stories. So your explanation doesn’t hold up, but thanks for trying. Actually, I would be more then a bit disconcerted if the vicar of Ars truly WAS miraculous. Miracles aren’t good for my own reassuringly scientific view on the world.

Colibri, I understand how a selective memory could work, and I know about Cold reading, but I fail to se how those two could explain hundreds of such examples.

John Edward has hundreds of people who will provide examples of his genuine psychic powers, because they are selectively remembering what he said. I don’t see how it was different for Vianney.

Well, if you’re going to ignore the very probable and rational explanations you’re being given, we might as well say a wizard did it.

And how do you explain “hundreds” of examples? If 20,000 people a year came to see him, multiplied by however many years he did this, the accounts of a few hundred people don’t seem all that remarkable. If something phenomenal was truly going on here wouldn’t everybody have an amazing story to tell about him?

Hmnn… I’ve googled John Edward on Skeptic.com. I hadn’t heard from him before, but I’ve read ianzin’s book on how cold reading works.

It might be a plausible explanation. Vianny wasn’t in it for any financial gain, but he was deeply religious and I suppose he could have been motivated to doing a bit of cold reading for the greater glory of his God.

Cisco, the hundreds of examples are about the “second sight”, knowing a person sins and troubles even before havng spoken to them.
From what I’ve read, almost every visitor had the experience of the “good advice”. So phenomenal? Maybe. It would give Vianney a rather high succes rate, although, possibly, no higher then those of a modern TV-psychic.

Still, today’s TV-psychics rely heavily on assistants with little electronic communication devices, TV-editing, etc. It is noteworthy that Vianny did not have assistants, and would, typically, not see the person in the confession booth. Most “cold readers” rely to a lessr or bigger extent on the appearance of the person they’re “reading” age, dress, demeanor give lots of clues. They would also need to see facial expressions when he tells them something etc. Hard to do that when you are sitting in a darkened confession-booth.

I guess I’m saying that if Vianney WAS the 19-th century John Edwards, he was a remarkably good one.

And how many of these accounts have been provided by objective, dispassionate, skeptical observers, and how many by credulous believers eager to interpret whatever they hear as a “miracle?”

Colibri, fair point. However, cases like these are scrutinized; Church officials are very critical and inquisitive, albeit in their own way, not to credit a miracle where either the devil (whatever that may be) or just a human fraud could be at work.

I found nothing on Vianney, specifically, on Skeptic.com.

There have also been innumerable reports of other miracles around Vianney. He had Poltergeist-like visits from the Devil (he’s often depicted with a devil on his back). Miraculous appearances of food in a nearby home for orphans, when all food was gone. Vianney himself lived for 73 years on two mouldy potatoes and a good self-flogging a day, and made 16- hour days in the confessionbooth on that diet.

I agree, it sounds like much too much.

But remarkable it still is.

It all happened centuries ago, & was recorded by people who were predisposed to believe in his “miracles”.

Sucesses are remembered, failures are not written down. Heads I win, tails you lose. Ho-hum. :dubious:

Given the choice between:

  1. A given miracle-worker or psychic in the past performed his feats by using fraudulent means, known to charlatans from time immemorial, to bamboozle a credulous public,


  1. A given miracle-worker or psychic in the past performed his feats by contravening the known laws of time and space,

my money is on alternative #1.


Only with the difference that Vianney, as far as I can tell, was not doing his thing to line his pockets but was sincerely seeking to provide valuable spiritual help.

Apparently he WAS very, very good at spiritual counselling, and led a life of very high piety doing many virtuous deeds, quite apart from the alleged Mutant Confessional Powers.

That strange part, though, could in part be something of an exaggeration effect caused by ever-enhanced secondhand accounts and folks too bowled over to adequately analyze what had happened. He probably also could just have been specially gifted, the diametric opposite of an autist, someone with a way-over-the-top capacity for empathy and perception of other people’s emotions and state of mind who could not help but “read” people. In which case, well, that would be in a way a gift from God, like any natural talent, wouldn’t it?

(And, hey, anyone who can tell someone “if only your soul were as beautiful as your dog” can’t be all that bad.)
Anyway Canonization is not dependent on miracles performed in life but on miracles accompanying invocation of the revered person after his/her death. Whether or not he had monkeys (or little devils) on his back is not what mattered to the Church, that he created a multitudinary revival was.

Fair enough. I perhaps shouldn’t have implied that Vianney himself might have had motives other than helping people. It is possible that he himself wasn’t aware of how he did it.

Mmm… maybe Vianney had Williams Syndrome?

Wiilams Syndrome would be consistent with Vianneys’limited intellect and his extreme gift for dealing with people. The poltergeist-like sounds coming from Vianneys room, might have been the priest insufficient motor-control. The hearing of children (I don’t know about adults) with williams is better then average, thus maybe enabling them to filter out conversations from around them. Children with williams syndrome often have difficulty swallowing and eating; Vianney fasted excessively, eating so little it was miraculous he stayed alive at all.

Maybe Vianny was an extremely rare combination; a deeply religious person with Williams Syndrome, who subconsciously honed his interpersonal skills to the level of a 19-th century John Edward. He could also have been that rarest of phenomenons; an expert at cold reading who does so subconsciously, without knowing it.

[QUOTE=Bosda Di’Chi of Tricor]
It all happened centuries ago… /QUOTE]

That’s not true. Vianney lived 1786-1859. That’s too recent, and France at the time was too worldly, to assume that the stories around Vianney are largely legend.


Oh. Riiiight. :rolleyes:

No supersitions in France. Uh-huh.

Just like all religious fanaticism vanished right around then.

BTW–you filled in that phoney “healing spring” at Lourdes, yet?

Why isn’t this in Great Debates? You’re wiynessing, Maas. :dubious:

They weren’t true.

How was it she didn’t wait four day?