One morning, in 2006, as I was working on the script and the score for my new musical, “The Curé of Ars”, I had concerns and angst about the style and scope of the play. After morning Mass, I visited an Adoration Chapel. I prayed for guidance and for a sign that my work was acceptable and pleasing to God — and pleasing to St. John Vianney, as well. After my Holy Hour, I left the Chapel and returned to my apartment. In the past, whenever I had asked for God’s intervention, He came through in marvelous ways. On that day, God overwhelmed me!
Back home, I turned on my computer to check my email. My home page had several news stories on it; but, buried in the lower right hand corner was a link: “Heart of Saint comes to U.S.” My own heart skipped a beat! I knew that John Vianney’s body never decomposed, and somehow I just knew it was the heart of St. John Vianney!! My hand trembled as I clicked on the link. Suddenly, on my computer screen, there it was, the actual heart of St. John Vianney in a beautiful reliquary! Of all the signs I could have EVER hoped for, THAT was the perfect sign!
It seems that a priest, Fr. Charles Mangano, from Merrick NY, had been to Ars a few years earlier. His parish was the first one in America to be named after The Curéof Ars. This was shortly after his canonization, in 1926. Father Mangano saw the relic in the Basilica of Ars, and thought it would be wonderful if the relic could be sent to his parish for its 80th Anniversary celebration. St. John Vianney’s heart arrived in the U.S. on the same day I asked for a sign!
With the belief that I was on the right track, I pursued the project with confidence. I had already written “A Mass for Peace in the Third Millennium”, and had CDs made. So, I took my CDs and went to the Catholic Marketing Network Event, in Cleveland.
On the last day of the event, about 30 minutes before it was time to break down our booths and go home, a beautiful woman was scurrying down the aisle and, for some reason, she stopped at my booth. There was nothing special about my tiny booth. All I had was the CD of A Mass for Peace. She said, “What do you have? I’m in a hurry to catch my plane.” I showed her my CD and she said, “Great. I have CDs too. Let’s trade CDs.” So, we did. On her CD was a picture of her and her brother, who was a handsome, young priest. Whimsically, I said, “When you see your brother, tell him you met the man who is writing a musical about St. John Vianney. He’s the Patron Saint of Priests, you know.” She one upped me. She said, “Really? My brother had the heart of St. John Vianney come to his parish.” WHAT!!!! That young woman was Laurie Mangano, the sister of Father Charles Mangano! Of course, I was blown away! And, when I told Laurie about “The Sign” I received, we both looked at each other, incredulously.
From that day forward, everything seemed right. I completed the entire work and went to the studio to record the CD of “The Curé of Ars Musical”. Thanks to John Lucasey, the owner and Engineer at Studio 880, I was blessed to have the perfect singers come together for the sessions. Since then, the play has since been performed many times by St. Genesius Theater Group, in Pennsylvania — 30 minutes from the town where I was born, Belle Vernon, PA.
Here comes another “miracle”! The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, marked the start of the “Year of the Priest”. It was inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Vianney, the aforementioned patron saint of priests. It was decided that the heart relic of St. John Vianney would, once again, come to the USA. Somehow, my parish was one of the few that was blessed to display this sacred relic! On the very same day that the cases of my CDs were delivered, the heart of St. John Vianney was also “delivered” to my parish church, St. John Vianney, in Walnut Creek, CA.
That night, I took the script and one CD to the church, and prayed in front of the heart of The Curéof Ars. As I prayed, something happened that I did not see coming. I heard a voice say, “The ending is wrong.” Was that the voice of a saint? I knew at once that I needed to change it, so I rewrote the ending. The revision has Vianney giving a brief, but powerful, discourse on the Eucharist, in his inimitable simplistic way. He also speaks of the wonders of the Priesthood. Then, from his death bed, he sees a vision of Christ! For that scene, I added a song that Vianney sings to Jesus … YOU DID IT ALL FOR ME.
Obviously, since the Curéof Ars CDs were already pressed, the new song is not on the CD. Also, I had to sing it myself because the cast had moved on. Nonetheless, I complied with the Cure’s wishes and fixed the ending!
Meanwhile, I stayed in the church until midnight, when it was time for the Pastor, Father Jim McGee, to come out and repose the sacred relic. When Fr. Jim saw me there, he told those present that I had written a musical based on the life of St. John Vianney. Fr. Jim asked them to pray for me and the success of the project. Then, he gave me a special blessing.
After Fr. Jim’s blessing, I approached him and gave him the CD, while we stood in front of the heart. Father set the CD down, placed the heart reliquary in a special case, and set the case with the relic on top of the CD, and carried everything out of the sanctuary.
The next day, I followed the heart to Holy Family church, in Fremont. I met Father Vincent Siret, the priest who brought the relic from Ars to America. He blessed my St. John Vianney medal that I wear every day.
The day after that, the relic was displayed at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, in Oakland. In the Cathedral, Fr. Vincent came up to me and asked me to cover for him, and to protect the relic while he took a short break. What an honor that was!!!
Just a quick note about my St. John Vianney medal. On September 11, 2004, at the dress rehearsal for the World Premier of my composition, “A Mass for Peace in the Third Millennium”, one of the singers, Alberta Sorensen, approached me and said, “John, I know you have a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I have a painting of The Sacred Heart that was done by a cloistered nun who was in my family in the 1800s. I would like you to have it.” I was touched by her generosity and her insight. I had dedicated A Mass for Peace to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In fact, the prayer after Communion, in the Mass for Peace, is SACRED HEART OF JESUS.
Alberta wanted to have the painting framed, and she told me she would deliver it to me at my dental office. True to her word, one day she showed up with the beautiful painting. She said, “What will you be doing next?”. I told her that I was going to be writing a musical about St. John Vianney. Without missing a beat, she reached inside her purse, and pulled out a medal of St. John Vianney! She gave it to me. I felt that her 2 gifts to me were providential.
When Alberta left my office, I returned to work. My patient, Paul, who has many spiritual and mystical insights, was in the next room. He overheard my conversation with Alberta. When I entered the room, Paul asked me, “Do you know what just happened?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Jesus, just gave you His Sacred Heart!”