The Church’s Jubilee of Mercy began Dec. 8. That has Catholics more interested in the concept of mercy, whether it’s the image of Divine Mercy from God the Father — the idea that God loves everyone regardless of sin — a merciful father like Catholics encounter in the confessional or mercy as it relates to spiritual or corporal works.
So far, five parishes throughout the Diocese of Phoenix’s metro area are hosting “Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy” come January 2016. It’s reached 23 states and 64 dioceses since its debut on the feast of St. Faustina two years ago. The live drama shares the saint’s life and message.
It’s produced and directed by Leonardo Defilippis, whose company Saint Luke Productions brought the lives of three other saints to local Catholics in recent years. The Catholic Sun asked Defilippis, president and founder of Saint Luke Productions, to shed further light on the drama.
The Catholic Sun: What inspired you to adapt this story for the stage?
Leonardo Defilippis: Years ago, I was inspired to undertake this challenge by a lot of young people on our staff and our actresses who were very devoted to the Divine Mercy Chaplet. In the years following the making of our movie on St. Thérèse of Lisieux, I became more drawn to the Divine Mercy movement and to St. Faustina.
Little did we know that the Year of Mercy would be announced, and that this show would become such a timely tool of evangelization.
Sun: Without giving away too much, what is the story about?
Leonardo Defilippis: The “Faustina” drama is based on the life and message of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) a Polish visionary whose personal encounters with Jesus have inspired a world-wide devotion to Christ’s Divine Mercy. A parallel modern story within the drama offers audiences a compelling personal connection to the current moral issues of our times. Audiences witness a very dynamic and dramatic battle for souls in this multimedia production.
Sun: During research, what did you uncover or re-discover about the life of St. Faustina that really resonated with you?
Leonardo Defilippis: There were two things that struck me. One was her parallel with St. Thérèse: both led lives so hidden on earth, and yet had an immense spiritual outreach to the world once they passed into Heaven.
Second, in reading the entire diary of St. Faustina, I was very moved by her intimate relationship with Jesus, whose Divine Mercy is manifest in His suffering and glorious representations to her, and by her incredible honesty with Christ to save the worst of sinners.
See ‘Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy’
Admission is free-will offering unless otherwise noted.
2 and 7 p.m., Jan. 9 at Valley Vista Performing Arts Center, 15550 N. Parkview Place, Surprise. Hosted by St. Clare of Assisi Parish. Tickets: $7.50 at DivineMercyTickets.info
Sun: Can you describe a scene that still captivates you?
Leonardo Defilippis: There is a very moving scene in the play where St. Faustina is weeping for souls that seem like they will not be saved. This happens in the real presence of Christ, as she is sitting and He is standing near. Finally, Jesus tries to comfort her with such loving kindness, and He actually kneels down beside her. His compassion is so real and accessible, which is hard for most souls to truly believe and trust. I usually tear up at this scene.
Sun: What is [the production’s] message?
Leonardo Defilippis: The message of “Faustina” is that Christ, who is Divine Mercy Himself, is reaching out to all souls — especially those who are trapped in sin or at the hour of their death. He is a compassionate and loving God in this violent and self-centered world. All things can be healed. There is no barrier that can stop Christ’s love for souls. In addition, one sees that we are all called to be like St. Faustina in thinking of others. It is a compelling message.
Sun: What are you excited to see or hear about from everyday Catholics or from the Church in general during the Year of Mercy?
Leonardo Defilippis: That people will reach out to others and forgive, and that they will not be afraid to have mercy for the poor and forgotten souls in our society. Also, that there will be a renewed focus on healing in all families and in the Church itself.
Sun: Two of our parishes are hosting the drama at public venues. What kind of feedback have you heard from non-Catholics or fallen away Catholics who have seen the drama?
Leonardo Defilippis: Protestants have been very moved by this presentation, and so touched by the new insights into Christ’s Passion and Mercy. Non-Catholics are struck by its dramatic power. A Jewish man saw the drama and was fascinated by its professionalism and powerful story. He was a producer in Los Angeles.
In regard to fallen away Catholics, there was one story that I remember that caught my attention. A young woman did not want to come to the play, but was persuaded at the last minute by a friend to come. She had a boyfriend who was always pressuring her to have sex with him and she was on the verge of great danger. As she sat in the audience, she slowly became immersed in the story and was deeply touched. She could really relate to the modern woman in the story. After the show, she made the decision to dump the boyfriend. I thought, wow, bad boyfriends beware!
Sun: What is your hope for future audiences?
Leonardo Defilippis: My hope is that they come to know the riches of God’s mercy — that He is always ready to forgive, even the greatest sin, if one opens that door to His Mercy. We offer this performance up as a gift of Mercy to the world. May there be a wave of healing in our culture and in our Church.
We pray for a great conversion of our country and world, and a new, vibrant civilization of love and respect for all human beings. May God use us as His instruments!