‘Vianney’ Drama brings to light life of saint, vocation of priest

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VIANNEY DRAMA FOR THE YEAR FOR PRIESTS

LEWISTON — The live theatrical one-man drama “Vianney,”  performed by Leonardo Defilippis, will be presented at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 10, at the Franco American Heritage Center in Lewiston. This event is sponsored by the Diocese of Portland.

 The production is touring the U.S. as a part of the worldwide celebration of the Year for Priests, declared by Pope Benedict XVI.

 In addition to making this the year for priests, the Pope chose chose Saint John Vianney as the patron of this year, and as the patron of all the priests of the world. According to the event publicity, “Vianney”  gives a new and encouraging answer to the question, “What is a priest?”

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John Vianney, commonly known as the Curé of Ars, lived in the era following the French Revolution, which had decimated the Catholic faith in France. A poor peasant, incompetent in his studies of Latin and theology, he was ordained anyway because of the shortage of priests.

Vianney was then sent off to the obscure village of Ars, where the people had fallen into decadence, crime and debauchery. In his determination to save every single soul put into his care, he encountered tremendous resistance, and even violent “supernatural attacks.” Many nights, historical accounts attest, the furniture was thrown around the rectory supernaturally, and the next morning the Curé emerged bruised and exhausted.

Vianney overcame these attacks, and succeeded not only in reforming the lives of his parishioners, but also in drawing, by his holiness and his ability to read souls, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to the tiny parish. Sixteen hours a day were spent in the cramped confessional, and people were willing to wait in line for days for a few minutes of his counsel.

Vianney himself found the onslaught difficult to bear, and even tried to escape to a monastery to live and pray in peace. In the end, however, he returned to his flock, recognizing his role as “the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.”

“I find the character of John Vianney extremely endearing,” said Defilippis. “He was a truly eccentric character, wearing a ragged cassock, living on a diet of nothing but one potato a day, yet sparing no expense for the church or his children.

“His love and concern for the salvation of every single person he encountered came through in his every word and action. There is an urgency in him that is extraordinarily compelling and convicting,” Defilippis said.

Leonardo Defilippis is best known for his direction and starring role in the feature film Therese,” which played in mainstream movie theaters for an unprecedented 70 weeks and is now in DVD release.

His nonprofit company, Saint Luke Productions, has for 30 years, produced live, film and television dramas on the scriptures and the lives of the saints. Their live productions have toured the U.S., Canada, and Europe, with audiences totaling more than one million people. Their film productions have received numerous prestigious awards, and have been seen by audiences all over the world.

“Vianney” is suitable for ages 9 and up. Admission will be a free-will offering. For more information contact the Box Office at 689-2000 or visit www.francoamericanheritage.org.

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