St. John Vianney is widely known for his holiness as a simple parish priest. However, during his lifetime, many parishioners and clergy wanted him “canceled.”
They didn’t like the way he preached and the hours he spent in the confessional.
A 19th-century biography by Abbé Alfred Monnin explains the opposition he faced.
[A] meeting was held of some of the most influential clergy of the neighborhood, which came to the resolution of making a formal complaint to the new Bishop of Belley of the imprudent zeal and mischievous enthusiasm of this ignorant and foolish cure. This their intention was made known to M. Vianney, in a letter written by one of the party in the bitterest and most cutting terms.
The letter included a petition to remove St. John Vianney from his office of pastor.
When St. John Vianney saw it, he went ahead and signed it!
[B]elieving himself fully to deserve it, he looked for nothing less than an ignominious dismissal from his cure. “I was daily expecting,” said he, “to be driven with blows out of my parish; to be silenced; and condemned to end my days in prison, as a just punishment for having dared to stay so long in a place where I could only be a hindrance to any good.” One of these letters of accusation happening to fall into his hands, he endorsed it with his own name, and sent it to his superiors. “This time,” said he,” they are sure to succeed, for they have my own signature.”
St. John Vianney wasn’t afraid of being “canceled,” because he did not want to get in the way of God’s work. He was a mere instrument, and if God didn’t need him anymore, he was content with such a destiny.
Furthermore, he believed that pride was a deadly sin, and detailed what a proud man would look like in this homily.
The proud man is always disparaging himself, that people may praise him the more. The more the proud man lowers himself, the more he seeks to raise his miserable nothingness. He relates what he has done, and what he has not done; he feeds his imagination with what has been said in praise of him, and seeks by all possible means for more; he is never satisfied with praise. See, my children, if you only show some little displeasure against a man given up to self-love, he gets angry, and accuses you of ignorance or injustice towards him.
Instead, he believed that the key to humility was seeing yourself as you are before God.
My children, we are in reality only what we are in the eyes of God, and nothing more. Is it not quite clear and evident that we are nothing, that we can do nothing, that we are very miserable? Can we lose sight of our sins, and cease to humble ourselves?
If we were to consider well what we are, humility would be easy to us, and the demon of pride would no longer have any room in our heart.
Above all, St. John Vianney accepted every cross in his life as coming from the hand of God.
He didn’t try to defend himself, and on multiple occasions was willing to be removed as pastor.
St. John Vianney simply wanted God’s message to be relayed, and not his own.