On Nov. 15, a drama production about St. Faustina’s life and her devotion to Divine Mercy will be held at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Syracuse. The play, Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy, will bring the message of God’s Divine Mercy to those who attend.
“We want to offer the community an opportunity to learn more about Divine Mercy and God’s mercy to all,” said Paul Mullin, a Basilica parishioner and coordinator of the event. He said the Basilica’s parish council, as they planned their Year of Faith events, felt the drama production was compatible with the parish’s devotion to Divine Mercy, St. Faustina and Pope John Paul II’s devotion to Divine Mercy. “This message is so important and is supported by the pope’s comments on God’s mercy for all of us,” added Mullin.
Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy, which is produced by St. Luke Productions and directed by Leonardo Defilippis, premiered in St. Benedict, Ore. on Oct. 5, St. Faustina’s feast day. The stage presentation is touring throughout the U.S.
Actress Maria Vargo portrays Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, a 20th-century Polish mystic whose personal encounters with Jesus have fostered a worldwide devotion to Christ’s Divine Mercy.
Vargo is a native of St. Louis, Mo. and has appeared in numerous roles in film, television and theater. She has also served as artistic director and producer at the faith-based G.K. Chesterton Theatre Company in Los Angeles, Calif.
Sister Faustina was a young, uneducated nun living in a convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Cracow, Poland at the time of World War I. When she was working in the convent’s kitchen and garden, she received revelations or messages from Jesus. At Jesus’ request, Sister Faustina recorded those experiences in notebooks, which are now known as the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska.
Pope John Paul II canonized Sister Faustina in 2000. Recognizing the importance of the message in her Diary, the pope called her “the great apostle of Divine Mercy in our time.”
To prepare for her role as Sister Faustina, Vargo spent five days in community with the saint’s order, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, at their motherhouse in Dorchester, Mass. in August. “The sisters were wonderful,” commented Vargo. “They inspired me very much as I took part in the daily routine of prayer and work in the convent. It was a time for me to see the beauty of their life as it offered me time to reflect on Divine Mercy, on trust and on Jesus Himself. I will always treasure those special days.”
In addition to the story of Saint Faustina and her mystical encounters with Christ, the play also includes the stories of a present-day woman who looks back on the sins she has committed and of a man who is facing death without faith. The play demonstrates that no matter what a person has done in his life, God offers mercy.
The characters in Faustina interact with each other in two dimensions. Vargo plays Sister Faustina onstage, while the other actors (pre-filmed) appear on an overhead screen. According to a review in the National Catholic Register by Joseph Pronechen, director Defilipis designed it that way to open the story to another plane to enable spectators to enter into the person of Sister Faustina and the living person of Jesus.
Actor Jonathan Roumie plays Jesus in the drama. He said that he’s always wanted to play Jesus and feels that the opportunity was preordained.
Vargo also believes she was destined to play her part in the drama. After her personal spiritual conversion during her pilgrimages to Fatima and Lourdes, Vargo continually asked God what he wanted her to do with her talents.
According to the National Catholic Register, someone suggested that she audition for Faustina. After Vargo prayed for discernment, she said she received a sign from God in the form of a red rose on Divine Mercy Sunday.
“I chose to do this role because of the message,” said Vargo. “Sister Faustina knew of the depths of God’s mercy and she was chosen to be a messenger of mercy. I have experienced God’s mercy in a profound way, and like Sister Faustina, I want the privilege to be a messenger of mercy too.”
Vargo said she received God’s mercy through the grace of the sacraments. “Once I finally chose to walk in Christ’s light and not by my own will,” she said, “I found God’s forgiveness and mercy. I really feel that through God’s grace, I have been healed of a lot of wounds that came from my own mistakes and hurtful relationships. Without God’s mercy, I would not be where I am today.”
Portraying Sister Faustina has been a joyful experience for Vargo. “When I see the impact it is having on audiences and how it is deeply touching souls, I am sincerely humbled that I am able to use my talents in such a way,” explained Vargo. “This has offered me a wonderful and very rare experience as an actress. Just imagine, every time I perform this drama, I feel connected in a deeper way to Christ and this beloved saint, and it allows the emotion to really come through in my acting. I also feel that this has touched my heart in a new way — I want to love our Lord as much as Sister Faustina did.”
Faustina is suitable for patrons ages 12 and older. Admission is $10 and $5 for patrons ages 16 and under. For tickets and more information, call the Sacred Heart Basilica office at (315) 422-2343 or visit divinemercydrama.com.