July 24, 2003
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Performer brings her story of St. Faustina to the Basilica
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Syracuse will host nationally renowned Catholic performer/singer Nancy Scimone on Sun., Aug. 10. Scimone is a performing artist whose mission is to spread the word of God’s mercy. In her one-woman show, Scimone will enlighten the audience through song and script about St. Faustina Kowalska –– Messenger of Mercy. Her goal is to create the presence of St. Faustina for her audience. Her program also gives some background to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Sister Faustina Kowalska was a humble Polish nun whose life was lived in obscurity and was marked by great suffering. Sister Faustina received a number of visitations by Jesus throughout her life and experienced a number of religious occurences. After mentioning these experiences to her spiritual advisors, Sister Faustina was instructed to keep a diary of the events. Sister Faustine noted in her diary that it was the “express command of the Lord Jesus, that this diary be written.”
On Feb. 22, 1931, the Lord appeared to Sister Faustina and commissioned her to paint His image as He appeared to her. Christ was clothed in a white garment, and His right hand was raised in blessing while His left hand pointed to His heart. Two rays emanated from the heart, one red, representing His blood and the other, a pale ray, signifying that which makes souls righteous. This sacred image is known as the Image of Divine Mercy, and Sister Faustina became the apostle of Divine Mercy. Christ chose Sister Faustina to relay His message to the world –– that even the worst of sinners can obtain His mercy and forgiveness through devotion and prayer. The church celebrates the first Sunday after Easter as “The Feast of Mercy.” “Many people may be wondering, ‘What is this all about?’” Scimone said. “Part of what I include in my performance is the background and the significance of this feast day, in the context of how God revealed it to St. Faustina.”
Scimone has been performing this program for less than a year and has traveled to parishes in Baltimore, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Scimone has chosen to be a messenger of God’s mercy in response to Pope John Paul’s 1999 Letter to Artists entitled “The Way of Beauty,” in which he wrote, “In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art has the unique capacity to take one or another facet of the message and translate it into colors, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen.” Scimone believes that God has given her the tools to work with –– her voice and her personality. When asked why she chose St. Faustina, Scimone replied, “She chose me. I have had a devotion to her for about seven years. Reading her diary is very pertinent in my life. It is both beautiful and practical. Sister Faustina’s formal education probably did not extend much past the eighth grade. Realizing this helps us understand the grace involved in her diary entries –– God truly used her as a vessel to proclaim His mercy,” stated Scimone.
Father Peter Gleba, pastor of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is very excited to be hosting this program. “We have a devotion to the Mercy of God every Thursday at 7 p.m. with about 35 to 40 people in attendance. We want to get the word out to the people of Syracuse to come and take advantage of the sacraments offered and join us in prayer. We are hoping that if people see the enactment of St. Faustina’s life, it will increase the attendance at the devotion,” Father Gelba said. The devotion of the Mercy of God includes communion, benediction and novenas. Also, selections from her diary are incorporated into the sermon.
St. Faustina is especially important to the Polish Catholic population because she was Polish. Father Gleba shared how important she is to Pope John Paul II because of his Polish heritage. “The pope has very strong feelings for St. Faustina and has prayed to her for many years. When he was a young man, before joining the clergy, he used to walk by the convent on his way to work in the salt mines. Sister Faustina was in residence at the time. He predicted that someday there would be a basilica built on that sight in her honor.” The pope’s prophecy came true. She was canonized in April 2000 by Pope John Paul II and he consecrated the Divine Mercy Basilica during his trip to Poland in August 2002. The basilica is in Lagiewniki, on the outskirts of Krakow where Sister Faustina lived. During the consecration the pontiff said, “This proclamation, this confession of trust in the all-powerful love of God, is especially needed in our own time, when mankind is experiencing bewilderment in the face of many manifestations of evil. How greatly today’s world needs God’s mercy! In every continent, from the depth of human suffering, a cry for mercy seems to rise up,” Pope John Paul said. “Like Sister Faustina, we wish to proclaim that apart from the mercy of God, there is no other source of hope for mankind.”
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has a first-class relic of St. Faustina that can be venerated after Thursday night devotions or Scimone’s upcoming performance. The seven scenes that Scimone will present are a series of short, dramatic segments. After each dramatic segment, Scimone will perform a song that relates to the scene. The music is drawn from both original and traditional sacred songs. The program lasts about 50 minutes. “In my program, I want to bring out this human element which we can each identify with, and that St. Faustina is a model and source of inspiration and solace in the hectic, frenzied difficulties of our present times,” said Scimone. “I am grateful to Father Gleba for inviting me to the Basilica and I am looking forward to this performance.”