Photo: Mark Fanders
Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, with the actress playing St. Faustina, Maria Vargo.
A Long Drive Leads to Faustina
By Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC (Nov 27, 2013)
Seven hours of driving just to see a play? Heck yes.
In January, I got a voicemail from Leonardo Defilippis in which he shared his desire to create a live-drama production of St. Faustina and Divine Mercy.
Although I'd never met him, I knew exactly who Leonardo Defilippis was.
As a novice in religious life, I had seen his one-man play on The Gospel of John. That performance, which contains the entire text of the Gospel of St. John, had deeply affected my life. In fact, few things have helped me fall more in love with Jesus.
So, in that voicemail, I'm hearing that Leonardo wants to create a live drama based on the saint who, after Mary, has helped me fall in love with Jesus more than any other? I was all in. I called him up, expressed my full support, and he was off and running.
Now, 11 months after that phone conversation, Leonardo and his dedicated team at St. Luke Productions (co-founded by Leonardo's gifted wife, Patti) have pulled off something of a miracle with their 90-minute production Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy. They've made St. Faustina and the message of Divine Mercy come alive for everyone. And I do mean everyone.
The production is now on a nationwide tour. After attending the play a couple weeks ago at a showing in Upstate New York, I went to the back of the church and greeted people as they were exiting. I wanted to see if they were as excited about it as I was. Not surprisingly, they all had smiles on their faces. I asked about a dozen people of various ages what they thought: "Beautiful," "Amazing," "The best yet!"
They all loved it.
Even one of my Marian brothers, who made the long drive with me to see the play and who, like me, isn't much of a "play guy," was full of praise afterward. Both of us were deeply impressed with the quality of the acting, the special effects, and the unique way St. Faustina's story is told. I say "unique," because it's not the typical "birth to tomb" biographical account.
More specifically, the play's plot intertwines St. Faustina's story with the struggles of an elderly man and a young woman. I'll stop there because I don't want to give anything away. Suffice it to say, the play underscores the relevance of Divine Mercy today, yet without being preachy or strained. It hits home, moves hearts, and makes St. Faustina and Divine Mercy real.
Here's my own personal takeaway: I encountered Faustina and the message of Divine Mercy on a new and deeper level. And that's saying something. I mean, I've been reading the Diary of St. Faustina and preaching the message for more than a decade. So I thought I'd been there, done that. Nope. This was something new. I rediscovered my old friend, St. Faustina, and my heart was once again set afire for the beautiful, amazing, consoling message of God's merciful love.
So, heck yes, seeing the play was well worth those seven hours of driving.
Thankfully, you probably won't have to endure seven hours of driving to see Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy. It's likely coming to a town near you. For more information on upcoming shows, visit St. Luke's event calendar. You can also sponsor a showing.
Father Michael Gaitley, MIC, is the director of the Association of Marian Helpers.