Contact: Janice Gonzalez, Media Relations, Saint Luke Productions, 360-487-9979, [email protected]
BATTLEGROUND, Wash., April 22, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- He was an actor first.
That's the thing that first inspired actor and producer Leonardo Defilippis, when he began his dramatic ministry of Saint Luke Productions, where he's spent thirty-three years producing Christian live and film dramas.
Pope John Paul II, who's about to be canonized a saint of the Catholic Church, started out as an actor and never lost his love for the theater.
"I've been connected with him since those early days," explains Defilippis, "and was fortunate enough to actually meet him and receive his blessing on our work."
Since 1980, Saint Luke Productions has been inspired by the actor-pope to produce numerous DVDs and live productions that have been seen by millions of people all over the world.
But the connection to John Paul II really intensified when Defilippis produced the feature film "Thérèse," [Therese: Story of a Soul] which was a grassroots success running in movie theaters more than a year and now widely distributed on DVD.
In 2003, Defilippis brought "Thérèse" to the Vatican for an official screening. While he was there, John Paul II blessed the actual film canisters used in the projection of the film.
But the Pope didn't see "Thérèse" then. A year later, Defilippis received a letter from some close friends of Blessed John Paul II, inviting him to Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence, to meet the Holy Father. The actor and producer jumped at the chance to share his film with his role model as an actor and producer.
He, his wife Patti and cinematographer Lourds Ambrose traveled to the medieval village of Castel Gandolfo where they naively hoped to bring the Holy Father to a movie theater and screen the film for him privately. But they soon discovered that the Pope was just too sick for anything of the sort. Their hosts offered them little hope of his seeing the film at all.
But then the three pilgrims remembered that they had a VHS copy of "Thérèse" -- perhaps these friends could bring it into the Holy Father at his papal residence and show it to him? They agreed. A day later, Defilippis was thrilled to learn that the Holy Father had, in fact, seen the film.
Saint Luke Productions has another reason to feel a close connection with Blessed John Paul II. They have produced dramas on two of the Polish saints he canonized in his pontificate: Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Saint Faustina Kowalska.
Together these three -- John Paul II, Maximilian and Faustina -- are called the modern-day "Apostles of Mercy."
Maximilian Kolbe, who died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, sacrificing his life for another man, is the subject of the live and video drama, "Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz."
Defilippis is convinced that Kolbe's connection to Pope John II runs very deep. "He died at Auschwitz in 1941 and just four months later, the young actor Karol Wojtyla decided to leave his theatrical ambitions behind and become a priest. I can't help thinking that in a mysterious way, Saint Maximilian paved the way for the world-shaking pontificate of John Paul II. Perhaps the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union would not have collapsed without the sacrifice of Saint Maximilian Kolbe."
Defilippis has also recently produced a live multi-media production entitled "Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy," which tells the story of the Polish nun whose mystical visions of Jesus in the 1930's sparked a new worldwide devotion to God's mercy. The drama is currently playing in sold out venues all over the country.
How appropriate that John Paul II should be canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast that he instituted in response to the visions of Saint Faustina. This beautiful feast celebrates God's unbelievable love and generosity.
Actress Maria Vargo will perform the drama this Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27 at the Institute on Religious Life Conference at Mundelein Seminary outside of Chicago and then at numerous other locations throughout North America.
In addition to the saint's life, "Faustina" includes a present-day story of sin, suffering and forgiveness that is having a profound impact on audiences everywhere. Father Jim Parker, pastor of St. Mary's Church in DeKalb, Illinois, testifies to this:
"Since the show on Wednesday I have had an increase in confessions….There have been a number of moral miracles. These are greater than physical miracles."
In his 1999 "Letter to Artists," soon-to-be Saint John Paul II wrote:
"I appeal to you, artists of the written and spoken word, of the theatre and music… use your creative intuition to enter into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnate God and at the same time into the mystery of man….This is your task."
That's what Saint Luke Productions has been doing for 33 years: Carrying on the ambitions of a young Polish actor who left it all to become a priest and finally a pope.
"I am so grateful for his inspiration and now I count on his prayers from heaven to fulfill our mission of evangelizing through theater and the media," says Leonardo Defilippis. It looks like he's getting his wish, as the Saint Luke tour season fills and their shows play to packed audiences everywhere.
For more information and a calendar of performances for "Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz," "Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy" and their other inspiring dramas and films, visit www.stlukeproductions.com or call 360-687-8029.
Interview availability includes:
- Leonardo Defilippis, Actor, Producer and Founder of Saint Luke Productions
- Patti Defilippis, Director and Writer of Saint Luke Productions
- Maria Vargo, Lead Actress, "Faustina: Messenger of Divine Mercy"
Interview contact: Janice Gonzalez, Media Relations for Saint Luke Productions, 360-487-9979; [email protected]