On Independence Day in 2021, Michigan-based composer Tony Manfredonia felt anything but free.

The 30-year-old, who has scored everything from Mass settings to videogame soundtracks, was “at the bottom of the barrel” in his young marriage, he told OSV News.

“I was at the lowest point in my life,” said Manfredonia. “I asked, ‘Do I even want to live anymore?’ I got to that point where I considered leaving. … I personally felt as if I were at my wits’ end, and I said, ‘I just can’t do this anymore.'”

More than two years later, Manfredonia and his wife, Maria, have renewed their commitment to each other — a turnaround he chronicles in his new album “Anchored,” which the composer describes on his website as “a true story of spiritual warfare and how complete surrender to God saved my marriage.”

The project’s tracks, which are “cinematic, symphonic rock” pieces, form a tale of both “Satan’s attempt to destroy marriages and families” and “the miraculous gift of faith and … God’s faithfulness,” Manfredonia wrote on his website.

The album is divided into two parts — “The Temptation” and “The Salvation” — and even features excerpts from talks by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, whose popular radio and television presentations often centered on issues of marriage and family life.

The crisis of what Manfredonia described to OSV News as “anger, hatred and frustration” in his marriage had been sparked by discussions of having children amid several medical conditions his wife was battling.

While “there was always a little bit of tension because of her illnesses,” the marriage entered a dark season of “about four or five months,” starting in the spring of 2021, he said.

Discord between the couple, who married in 2016, emerged “on numerous fronts emotionally (and) financially,” and the prospect of parenthood was frightening, said Manfredonia.

“When we started seeing improvement (in Maria’s condition), we said, ‘Maybe let’s start talking about kids,'” he said. “Through those conversations, questions suddenly arose: ‘Did we make the right choices with this marriage?'”

Manfredonia added he even wondered if the marriage was stifling his artistic gifts.

“I feel so ashamed to think that I asked myself, ‘Is she holding me back from a better career,  fame and fortune?'” he said. “At the time, I thought those were things I wanted, things that would make me happy.”

Yet amid the turmoil, Manfredonia and his wife were able to recall what had bonded them so powerfully — the “mutual suffering” that had brought them together, and their deeply held Catholic faith.

A Philadelphia-area native, Manfredonia was diagnosed in 2012 with anorexia, prior to undertaking his music composition studies at Temple University. He chronicled his recovery through a blog he created, and Maria, who also had struggled with the disorder, sent a message of support that led to Manfredonia’s traveling to her hometown in Michigan for a visit. Following a long-distance relationship, the two married after Manfredonia graduated in 2016, and now reside in northern Michigan.

Their pastor, Father Peter Wigton of St. Mary Parish in Charlevoix, Michigan — along with that parish’s prayer team — helped them navigate one of the darkest moments of their marriage, said Manfredonia.

During an anguished, sleepless July 4 weekend in 2021, Manfredonia called Father Wigton, who advised the couple to spend time in prayer and seek God’s guidance — which they did, first in separate churches, and then together with the pastor and the parish prayer team.

“We came here to St. Mary’s and they started praying with us,” said Manfredonia. “I was crying. The tears were so unrestricted. Our prayer was for discernment in our marriage, and when Father Peter asked if I was sensing anything, I saw in my mind a picture book of children, and an image of Maria giving birth, and us out at a park with our children. … This is what God wanted for me, this openness to kids.”

Manfredonia said he felt “a visceral change” during the prayer session that imparted “a sense of bravery” in his spirit.

“In an instant, I went from questioning my entire marriage and having kids, to ‘Wow, I can’t wait to have kids,'” he said. “And it hasn’t stopped. It’s a change of heart, a change of who I am. I still believe we witnessed a miracle.”

With the restoration of his marriage now set to music, Manfredonia is seeking to give other struggling couples hope in Christ.

“When I think about the great stories, Jesus’ own story of resurrection is so powerful because he died,” said Manfredonia. “You can’t have the resurrection without the death. You have to know the story of the suffering, the trials, to really appreciate the transformation and the redemption.”

—Gina Christian