St John Vianney: Catechism on Impurity

CHAPTER 16: Catechism on Impurity

That we may understand how horrible and detestable is this sin, which the demons make us commit, but which they do not commit themselves, we must consider what a Christian is. A Christian, created in the image of God, redeemed by the Blood of a God! a Christian, the child of God, the brother of a God, the heir of a God! a Christian, whose body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; that is what sin dishonors. We are created to reign one day in Heaven, and if we have the misfortune to commit this sin, we become the den of the devils. Our Lord said that nothing impure should enter into His kingdom. Indeed, how could a soul that has rolled itself in this filth go to appear before so pure and so holy a God?

We are all like little mirrors, in which God contemplates Himself. How can you expect that God should recognize His likeness in an impure soul? There are some souls so dead, so rotten, that they lie in their defilement without perceiving it, and can no longer clear themselves from it; everything leads them to evil, everything reminds them of evil, even the most holy things; they always have these abominations before their eyes; like the unclean animal that is accustomed to live in filth, that is happy in it, that rolls itself and goes to sleep in it, that grunts in the mud; these persons are an object of horror in the eyes of God and of the holy angels. See, my children, Our Lord was crowned with thorns to expiate our sins of pride; but for this accursed sin, He was scourged and torn to pieces, since He said Himself that after his flagellation all His bones might be counted.

O my children, if there were not some pure souls here and there, to make amends to the good God, and disarm His justice, you would see how we should be punished! For now, this crime is so common in the world, that it is enough to make one tremble. One may say, my children, that Hell vomits forth its abominations upon the earth, as the chimneys of the steam engine vomit forth smoke. The devil does all he can to defile our soul, and yet our soul is everything… our body is only a heap of corruption: go to the cemetery to see what you love, when you love your body. As I have often told you, there is nothing so vile as the impure soul. There was once a saint, who had asked the good God to show him one; and he saw that poor soul like a dead beast that has been dragged through the streets in the hot sun for a week.

By only looking at a person, we know if he is pure. His eyes have an air of candor and modesty which leads you to the good God. Some people, on the contrary, look quite inflamed with passion… Satan places himself in their eyes to make others fall and to lead them to evil. Those who have lost their purity are like a piece of cloth stained with oil; you may wash it and dry it, and the stain always appears again: so it requires a miracle to cleanse the impure soul.

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11 Responses to St John Vianney: Catechism on Impurity

  1. Jerry says:

    I believe there are 36 chapters in the catechism by John Vianney. Which is to say, 36 posts that could have been of great benefit in the lenten season. St Augustine’s homilies spring to mind. Also lenten reflections by JPII and BXVI. Endlessly posting John Vianney may satisfy an urge to be different from “liberal” or “modernist” blogs, but all in all it represents a wasted opportunity to post finer stuff from a fine tradition. 😦


  2. Jerry says:

    By only looking at a person, we know if he is pure. His eyes have an air of candor and modesty which leads you to the good God.

    No John, that is nonsense, would that it were so simple!!! — He was a good man, but —!! — As I said above.


  3. Jerry says:

    The devil does all he can to defile our soul, and yet our soul is everything… our body is only a heap of corruption: go to the cemetery to see what you love, when you love your body.

    And, as Whippy has noted, his body hating tendencies were not constructive, and pushed the bounds of orthodoxy. The body is far more than a heap of corruption. We’re not gnostics.


  4. bwr47 says:


    This is one of hundreds of Catholic blogs, and there are plenty of other people reading on this site who appreciate the teachings of John Vianney. If his words do not speak to you, you can find the equally wonderful but very different lenten reflections of JPII and of our current Holy Father in any number of other places. You and Toad and WEW are as free as anyone else to read here and to comment, but if you don’t like it, you do have the option to go away quietly and come back after Easter (or just to read the other blog posts).

    You are not necessarily right in saying that the eyes do not reveal what is in the soul. I suspect that a man like John Vianney, who was so evidently pure and good, could indeed recognise goodness when he saw it. Padre Pio also famously had an instinct for what was genuine on the one hand or insincere on the other.

    And it is easy to take a sentence and distort its meaning by quoting it out of context. JV would at one level have recognised the body as part of God’s creation, and as fundamentally good. But in the context of what he was saying, he was right to assert that the body is, even literally, a heap of corruption. The point he was making, of course, was just that our souls last forever whereas our bodies as we know them will corrupt in the ground, and we all have a tendency to forget that.

    These posts do much more than satisfying any urge to be different. In the end, those of us who practise our Catholic faith believe in heaven and hell, in the devil, in angels, in the forces of evil, etc etc. If there is no devil and no hell, then Christ died in vain. If, as St Paul says, it is only for this life that we believe in Christ then we are the most miserable of all people. Given the starting point of those beliefs, we do indeed need priests who remind us of the fundamentals. Some priests today still do that, but all too many shy away from it, and for that reason among many others John Vianney is an excellent role model for the parish priests of whom he is patron saint.


  5. Jerry says:

    bwr47, all good points.


  6. toadspittle says:


    Indeed, that is what horse racing (or, in Bmw47’s case, motor car racing) is all about. Jerry is perfectly entitled to suggest that what the venerable old Saint says is nonsense, and Brm47 is equally free to put his case. And they’re off and running!

    “If there is no devil and no hell, then Christ died in vain.” That may well be true, but it strikes Toad as distinctly pessimistic, and contriariwise.
    Like looking down the wrong end of a telescope. As if Christ died to justify the devil. Surely not?

    But, speaking for himself, Toad enjoys CP&S.


  7. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    BRW says that people are free to comment but contrarily, then says that if certain people don’t like it , then go elsewhere. As has been said above, fair enough.

    However, I believe it is at least one point of the forum that issues are discussed; if BRW means that we must all agree or shut up , then this is a bleak outlook, and of course no-one will post, because they agree in advance. It is always possible that BRW could oppose or demolish those posts with which he/she doesn’t agree?

    It also puts an onus on BRW to let us all know, in advance, the issues on which he/she wants no disagreement. Also fair enough?

    For my part, I have just visited the village de Curé d’Ars, and seen Saint Jean-Marie Vianney in the flesh so to speak. He is interred in a glass box in the new church built around his old church. It says much about me and my inadequate approach to death that I found the display a bit macabre.

    I saw his house, and the burned bed, set alight by the devil.
    I saw on the landing before his bedroom, a picture of the Virgin Mary which he liked very much. It is said that sometimes it was found spattered in mud, also the work of the devil.
    I saw an old photo of St Jean-Marie in death (some time after his death) and where he lies, looking to the right.
    I saw him displayed in his glass relics box, looking to his left.
    I saw that he was wearing a wax mask on his face, and shoes on his feet. It is said that his body is not corrupted by death.
    I saw his hot water bottle(a concession to the body?) used in his lengthy confessional shifts.

    At his death, 100,000 people came to his funeral. When living, he heard thousands and thousands of confessions, up to 17 hours a day, which says something for his work, for people tend not to go to an unsympathetc priest. And yet, he refused peasants absolution because they danced sometimes, and from time to time, worked on Sunday. I think they danced because they were human, and that’s where they found a wife. I’m sure they hated working on Sunday but had to. St JV came from a farming family so maybe he could have understood…

    He opened an orphanage for girls, but to his great sorrow, his Archdiocese closed it because it was objected to by “many good people”.

    He asked for a transfer somewhere else (excuse my senior moments here) but it was refused.

    I was with a friend, German protestant to her DNA, who said that she felt a real energy in the church. Incidentally, a church which I found unusual, in its colour, form, images and decoration.

    I had a brief chat with a very nice white clad nun, who saw I was clutching an info sheet in English, and offered to help. But my French was up to the task.


  8. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    St Jean-Marie Vianney speaks above about “filth”, and we, as sinners, “becoming the den of devils”. He refers to sins of impurity which “the devils make us commit”.

    On reading though his words, I am absolutely certain that St J-MV battled ceaselessly all his life with these issues in himself, and I think of the burned bed and the mud splattered picture.


  9. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    BRW tells us that “our bodies as we know them, will corrupt into the ground, and we all have a tendency to forget that”.

    Well BR, please speak for yourself for I never forget that, and unfortunately, what you remind us of does not apply in St J-M V’s case.


  10. Robert John Bennett says:

    If St. John Vianney could say, in the nineteenth century, that “this crime is so common in the world, that it is enough to make one tremble,” you wonder what he would say today.


  11. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    It is a perennial characteristic to imagine that things were better in the past – “The Good Old Days”.


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