A production of a play on the life of St. John Vianney will begin its U.S. tour this August, traveling to parishes, theaters, seminaries, universities and Catholic schools to help mark the Year of the Priesthood declared by Pope Benedict XVI.
The play "Vianney" is produced by Leonardo Defilippis, director and star of the film Thérèse. It tells the story of St. John Vianney, who lived from 1786 to 1859. The play will discuss the life of the saint, also known as the Curé of Ars, from his childhood during the French Revolution through his forty years as parish priest in the small village of Ars, France.
Pilgrims from across the globe flocked to the priest for confession and for his preaching. Ars itself changed from a lax community to a thriving Christian center.
Ordinary witnesses reported that the Virgin Mary regularly appeared at the rectory to converse with the saint, while the devil reportedly tried to harass him. Miracles of multiplying bread for the hungry, healing and prophecy also followed the saint.
Pope Benedict declared June 2009 through June 2010 as the Year of the Priesthood, dedicated to St. John Vianney.
Defilippis said in a press release that the focus on the saint is "right on target."
"The Curé of Ars is the saint who will inspire all of us, especially young people, with a deeper understanding of the heroic life of the priest," he added, predicting a "tremendous surge" in vocations because youth are seeking a "radical choice" to make a difference in the world.
"John Vianney points the way through his dramatic life of self-sacrifice and his struggle with evil," he said.
Defilippis remarked that "Vianney" is a good introduction to the life and vision of the saint because the live production "comes right into the local community, right into the parish itself" where it "speaks to individuals in much the same way that John Vianney did."
"It wasn’t through the media that he converted so many souls. It was in parish life, and with the example of his life and his incredible insight in the confessional. That’s what I want to bring to audiences– an intimate encounter with this powerful, yet humble priest, an encounter that will stay with them and draw them into a deeper commitment to prayer, repentance and holiness."
Father John Cihak, pastor, seminary professor and St. John Vianney scholar, said the saint is "pivotal" in "bringing about a renewal of holiness among priests and laity alike."
"We need a drama to help create this spiritual renewal. Writing books and articles about the Curé of Ars is good, but nothing gets a saint into the minds and hearts of people today better than drama and film," he added.
Bishop Ronald Gainer of Lexington, Kentucky said the play has the potential of doing "great good" in encouraging vocations to the priesthood and in encouraging "God’s call to each individual soul."
A feature film will reportedly follow the live production tour, pending funding and greater awareness of the effort.
The Battle Ground, Washington-based Saint Luke Productions is scheduling performances of "Vianney" for the 2009-2010 seasons. The production group provides the elements of professional theater such as lights, sets, costumes and an original musical score.
The website for "Vianney" is located at http://www.vianneydrama.com/