BLOOMFIELD – Some might call the store clerk a great saleswoman, or maybe, perceptive, or maybe, even, inspired.
“She came up to me out of the blue,” Jim Mattingly recalled about the day in 1999 that he visited the Catholic Book Store and was talked into ordering a book that wasn’t even in stock, the Diary of Saint Faustina, a saint he had never heard of.
“The diary changed my life,” added Mr. Mattingly, a videographer who now is immersed in making a feature film depicting the life of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska, the Polish sister whose name is linked to the Church’s observance of Divine Mercy Sunday.
Mr. Mattingly is the founder of the Somersville-based Mercy Films Inc., the production company that is working jointly on the film with the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. The National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., is a ministry of the Marians.
Marian Father Seraphim Michalenko, former vice-postulator for the Cause for the canonization of Saint Faustina, is the spiritual director of the film.
“Father Seraphim’s wish was that we make a film that would depict the mystical life of Sister Faustina because he felt that with today’s technology, we could re-create those spiritual scenes that took place and that would attract a modern audience and, at the same time, we would be able to inform them about the message of Divine Mercy,” Mr. Mattingly said.
The film will re-create the life of Sister Faustina, who grew up poor and had only three years of education. In the 1930s, Jesus appeared to her with a message of mercy that he asked her to spread to the world in an effort to save lost souls. With her spiritual director, Father Michael Sopocko, Sister Faustina, who had both beautiful and terrifying mystical experiences, worked to spread the message of mercy.
Mr. Mattingly said viewers will experience those mystical experiences through the eyes of Sister Faustina, as well as her many internal and external conflicts.
In this respect, he said, his film will differ greatly from the docu-drama “Divine Mercy, No Escape,” a film released in 1987 that was created as an introduction to Saint Faustina and her expressions on Divine Mercy and was narrated by the late Helen Hayes. (It was re-released on DVD by Marian Press in 1994).
A brochure about the film in progress describes it this way: “This film, made for all audiences [not just Catholic], will reveal this powerful message in a way that does not preach, but shows – as a fact-based spiritual thriller – the genuine and extraordinary lives of these two people as they struggled to carry out the work given to them by the Lord, in this most extremely dark period of world history. It is a message of redemption in the highest sense, meant for all.”
Mr. Mattingly said that there is a draft of a script and a director of photography, and that other positions are being filled. No one has yet been selected to play the role of Faustina, according to Charles E. Alfano, the film’s executive producer, but there is “someone in mind.”
Now that there is a script, Mercy Films Inc. is trying to publicize the project in the hope of raising $300,000 to $500,000 to pay for the film.
Mr. Mattingly said that people associated with the film are soliciting direct donations, are available to make presentations at parishes and also are raising money through sales of framed canvas Divine Mercy images under a license with the Marian Fathers, who also receive a royalty. Checks, payable to Mercy Film Fund, may be mailed to Mercy Films Inc., PO Box 187, Somersville, CT 06072.
The men also had a booth in the vendors’ tent at the shrine in Stockbridge on April 11, Divine Mercy Sunday, to explain the film project. Information about Mercy Films Inc. and the images is available at www.mercyfilms.com and www.mercyimages.com.
Mr. Mattingly has created videos for the Marian Fathers as well as for such clients as the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) and Wethersfield-based Advocacy Unlimited Inc.
When he talked about this project, it was clear that he was more than a little familiar with the story of Saint Faustina. He quoted her frequently while recounting episodes of her life and mystical experiences, almost as though he was imagining the scene from the movie.
Mr. Mattingly said that his visit to the Catholic Book Store came during a “kind of crisis of faith” that had kept him away from the Church for a number of years.
“The woman at the book store came up to me and just said to me, ‘Have you ever read the diary of St, Faustina?’ And I said, ‘No.’ I didn’t even know who she was. So she said, kind of forcefully, ‘You really must read the diary.’ So, I said, ‘Okay, I’ll buy it.’ She said, ‘I’ll have to order it for you.’”
That occurred in 1999. A year later, Sister Faustina was canonized on April 30, 2000. By 2001, Mr. Mattingly was in the office of Father Michalenko, who said, “Maybe the Lord’s saying, ‘I want you to make a movie about Saint Faustina.’”
Mr. Mattingly and Mr. Alfano said that Father Michalenko would like the film’s premiere to be in October 2011 in Poland, and that they are working toward that goal.