Man With No Arms Plays Guitar With Feet at Catholic Service - NBC Southern California

Man With No Arms Plays Guitar With Feet at Catholic Service



    As Catholics around the world prepare to canonize two former Popes, Los Angeles prepares to share in the celebration as Tony Melendez, who has no arms and plays the guitar with his feet, is blessed by the Pope. John Cádiz Klemack reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 25, 2014. (Published Friday, April 25, 2014)

    As Catholics around the world prepare to canonize two former Popes, Los Angeles prepares to share in the celebration.

    The Cathedral of the Angels in downtown LA will hold a special vigil service from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.

    Part of that service will include testimonials from people who met Pope John Paul II as well one man whose life was forever changed by him.

    "I still get that knot in my throat when I think about it," says Chino native Tony Melendez. "It still moves me even to this day."

    Melendez was born without any arms.

    And yet he mastered the guitar, playing with is feet. And in 1987, as a gift from the youth of Los Angeles to Pope John Paul II on his visit to LA, Melendez performed a simple song about a life forever changed.

    "It's a memory that has not just been embedded in my heart, it's part of my heart now. I will never forget that day."

    The song was called "Never Be the Same," a wedding song written by Ron Griffin, with words that never help more meaning than they did that day.

    When Melendez played his last note on the guitar inside on the stage at Universal Studios, the crowd - and the Pope - rose to their feet in applause.

    It was at that moment that Pope John Paul II leaped from the stage to greet Melendez. As Melendez fell to his knees to be embraced by the Pope, the Pope leaned in and kissed his forehead, to yet another roarous applause from the crowd.

    For Melendez what came next would forever stay with him. The Pope said aloud, "Tony, Tony, Tony, you are a courageous young man, a courageous young man."

    As Melendez listened, his eyes glistened with tears and the Pope continued, "You are giving hope to all of us. My wish to you is to continue to give this hope to all, all the people."

    Looking back 27 years, Melendez says he never forgot those words.

    "I didn't understand those words at first," he says. "The Pope was speaking to me? I was shocked. But hope has somehow been instilled by a kiss from that Pope."

    Since then Melendez has traveled the world, taking that hope to 40 countries as he's been invited to perform for youth events around the globe.

    "Through the music, I've been able to somehow share a little bit of hope, a little light," he says.

    Saturday Melendez will perform the same song again, this time to an audience at the Cathedral of the Angels, leading up to the moment the Pope who blessed him becomes a Saint.

    "Knowing that he's going to be a full blown Saint by the Catholic Church," he says. "I'm excited for him and I'm very blessed to be back in Los Angeles again where it all happened and to be invited to the Cathedral for a vigil dedicated to him. I feel honored."

    Melendez' song, "Never Be the Same," has become an inspiration for his life.

    "It's a song that says life will never be the same," he says, "and now I can say my life will never be the same because of a Pope that kissed me."

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