Ten years ago, I saw The Hollow Crown when it was touring in Melbourne.
The Hollow Crown basically consists of four stage actors sitting on stools and reciting historical speeches, proclamations and diary entries about the Kings and Queens of England. It sounds boring, but it’s not. It’s captivating theatre which makes history come alive.
Several years later, I saw the idea adapted to the lives of the saints in a stage production called Saints Alive. Three actors sat on stage and recited extracts from hagiographies, testimonies and spiritual diaries relating to dozens of saints. Saints Alive was every bit as as captivating as The Hollow Crown, and true to its name, it brought the saints to life.
I was reminded of these simple but compelling productions when I came across a one-man play about one of my favourite saints:
Leonardo Defilippis’s latest one-man stage production, Vianney, opens amidst the chaos of the French Revolution, a time which mirrors the secularization, materialism and anti-religious sentiment of our own day. Against this dramatic backdrop, a simple ignorant peasant priest enters the backwater town of Ars, a place where no one cares much about their faith, or sees the Church as particularly relevant. They don’t expect much out of Fr Vianney. But then the impossible begins to happen through this unlikely shepherd – his example, his love, and his sacrifice stir the townspeople to change: they start to listen, and they start to pray.
Today is St Jean-Marie Vianney’s feast day. “The Holy Curé of Ars” is patron saint of parish priests, and his spirituality and example have always nourished my own priestly vocation.
The Youtube trailer provides a good introduction to anyone who is unfamiliar with St Jean-Marie, but apart from that it has convinced me to order the screen adaption of the play! I’ll let you know what it’s like.
Bloggers clerical and lay can attract pedantic and unwanted attention. It’s not all that different to the sort of attention priests encounter in the parish from aggrieved faithful.
Even the saintly Curé of Ars was frequently confronted by parishioners demanding he reform his ways. His typical response included a gracious apology and a plea for prayers for his conversion. But bystanders who knew Vianney well noticed that at such times, he often wrung his hands until his knuckles were white – a sign, they said, that his patience was tested, and he was making every effort not to reply with a reasoned explanation and a curt dismissal.
Fr James Martin has supplied us with the digital equivalent! He does a good job satirizing the provocative and often willful misinterpretations some commenters attach to blog posts. Here’s a sample:
Me: I love Jesus.
Father Martin, with all due respect, I don’t mean to be critical, particularly to a priest, but I am compelled to point out that in your most recent post, you didn’t say “Jesus Christ.” As you know, Christ, from the Greek word Christos, meaning the Anointed One (years ago, all Jesuits understood Greek, but perhaps no longer), is the nomenclature that Holy Mother Church uses to signify Our Lord’s divinity. Father, do you somehow not believe in the divinity of Our Blessed Lord?
And on it goes, to hilarious effect.
(I hasten to add that my personal experience is quite different. I’ve received the odd comment which misrepresents me, or personally attacks me, but I have found in every case that if I send a personal email with a conciliatory tone, differences are quickly resolved.)