September 27, 2006

Low Tidings

News Item: Heart On Tour!

Not the band by the same name, the one that had hits with "Barracuda," "Magic Man," and "Crazy On You." We're talking about St. John Vianney, who died in 1859.

That's right, what you're reading is true. St. John is long gone, but like the Titanic theme song, his "heart will go on." Go on tour, that is.

St. Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney cut a wide swath around the village of Ars in France, where he held court for 40 years. He was well known not only because he was one of the few men in the world named "Marie," but also because of his prowess in the confessional booth. In fact, thousands of people would head to Ars hoping the man named Marie would hear his confessional.

St. John Vianney, as he came to be known, invented several catch phrases that have been woven into our culture, including "Say three Hail Marys and two Our Fathers." He was canonized in 1925, which in layman's terms means he was awarded "Sainthood" status, which is kind of like the Hall of Fame for Catholics.

The interesting thing about this is that between 1859 and 1925 Vianney was just another dead Catholic; the question is, then why did they CUT HIS FREAKING HEART OUT?

I'm glad you asked, ye of little faith, because they didn't take it out when he died. His body was exhumed in 1904 when it became apparent he was on heaven's Hot List, and, believe it or not, his body was found to be intact — no maggots or worms or dust or anything. It was then a wise man said, "Yo like, let's cut out his heart!"

They did, and, as you can see by the undoctored photograph, it was apparently placed in a aluminum piecrust pan with some whipped cream squiggles around it. And it's coming to a church near you. They are playing this thing up like it was a rock star on tour:

"Yes, you've never seen a spectacle quite like this one. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to ROCK on when St. John Vianney comes to your town for one night and one night only! Hear all the hits including the unforgettable 'A Boy Named Marie.' Shake your booty to the funkadelic classic 'My Heart keeps Beating and Beating and Beating (and Beating) For You!'"

The Vianney Heart begins its American tour on October 7 in Merrick. According to Newsday, this is only the second time the Heart has been out of France — the first time was to perform at Willie Nelson's Farm Aid concert. Bishop Guy "Barbara-Ann" Bagnard will "accompany" the Heart, Newsday reported (my guess is on bass guitar and electric harp). Bagnard said negotiations are under way and the Heart will hopefully be opening for the Rolling Stones during some of the "Bigger Bang" tour dates.

The Reverend Charles "Betty" Mangano, the pastor of Cure of Ars church in Merrick, where the heart will be appearing, acknowledged some people will misconstrue the upcoming tour. "I know most Americans don't understand the veneration of relics," he told Newsday. "Parishioners may say, `Why would I want to come see a dead person's heart?'" Kind of what I was thinking. Then again, people still go see The Stones, and they are at least as old.

If you think Vianney wasn't just as big as Clapton or the Stones, consider that one year 100,000 pilgrims made their way to see him. "He was given many spiritual gifts [by God] including "the power of healing" and "the ability to read the hearts of penitents" — which figures: it takes one to know one.

Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Center is scheduled to offer mass while the Heart is on display in Merrick. A spokesman assured there will be no little boys molested during the show.

St. John Vianney was a practitioner of "self mortification" which I thought meant "to write a crappy newspaper column every week." No, it means he ate and slept far less than was thought to be the minimum necessary to sustain life.

So if he didn't eat or sleep, what did he do?

Take a good look at his picture, and the mystery is revealed. He used to spend his spare time riding his bike in the moonlight, that's what. Why? Because if you ask me Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney looks suspiciously like E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, America's first and foremost illegal alien.

I'm going to the show, and maybe afterwards I can get him to hear my confession:

"Bless me Father E.T. for I have sinned. It's been 43 years since my last

confession. I had impure thoughts 144,982 times and I said four billion dirty words . . . "

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