MY NAME is John, and I have been dead since August 4, 1859. How happy I am! For my soul is in Heaven. Yes, for eternity I am privileged to see God. . . For endless eternity I enjoy a happiness that is beyond the power of mere words to describe. And nothing can ever take this happiness from me! Or from my friends—the millions of men and women and boys and girls who are with me in Paradise! For the joy we have is everlasting. It is eternal. God has said so, and of course He cannot lie.
It was not easy to win this joy. When a soul comes into the world, the Devil tries very hard to drag it down to Hell. So it was with nearly everyone who is in Heaven today, the chief exceptions being those who died shortly after Baptism—babies and very small children. But I—well, my life on earth lasted for more than seventy-three years, and many, many times during that period the Devil tried to discourage me in my efforts to please God and to win the place which He had prepared for me in Paradise.
Did he succeed? Of course not. And why? Because of the wonderful courage God gave me whenever I called upon Him. For in my day (even as in any day) whenever there was a temptation to do wrong, to go over to the Devil’s side and give up the struggle to win Heaven, God was always ready with His grace. Since He wills that every soul in the world shall someday enjoy the good things of Heaven, naturally He does not withhold the means to obtain them. But what a pity that so few people understand this, and that when trials and temptations come they never think of asking God for the grace to remain true to Him. Because of such neglect, the struggle against the Devil is generally far harder than it needs to be. Many times, alas, it even ends in defeat—in Hell, with all its terrible darkness and misery and pain.
My struggle to outwit the Devil and to win Heaven (although it was some time before I really understood about such things) began on May 8, 1786, in Dardilly, a village not far from the city of Lyons, in France. My parents, Matthew Vianney and Maria Beluse, already had three children: Catherine, Jane and Francis. But they were delighted to have still another, and on the same day that I was born I was taken to the village church to be baptized. Here I was given two names: John, in honor of Saint John the Baptist, and Marie (the French form of Mary) in honor of the Blessed Virgin.
“I wonder what little John Marie Vianney will be when he grows up?” some of the neighbors asked one another thoughtfully. “He seems to be a fine, strong boy.”