St. Thérèse drama coming to Rogers parish

| April 5, 2017 | 0 Comments

Mary Queen of Peace in Rogers will host “Therese: The Story of a Soul,” a play about the life of St. Therese, 7 p.m. April 22. Image Courtesy St. Luke Productions

Father Michael Kaluza, pastor of Mary Queen of Peace in Rogers, said he likes having a large Divine Mercy celebration, which will include a theatrical component this year with a Texas performer visiting the parish.

When learning of the opportunity to host Dallas-based actress Audrey Ahern in a production about St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Father Kaluza said he thought, “Wow, this might be a great activity to include in our Divine Mercy weekend.”

Mary Queen of Peace will host “Thérèse: The Story of a Soul” 7 p.m. April 22 on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday at the parish’s St. Martin campus. The drama paints a realistic and human picture of the saint’s life.

“One thing that people don’t expect is that she is so funny,” Ahern said. “She has this really witty sense of humor that’s just incredible. Even on her death bed, she had this witty repartee that you wouldn’t really expect.”

Patti Defilippis of St. Luke Productions wrote and directed the drama, which debuted in 1997, the year St. Paul John II recognized St. Thérèse as a doctor of the Church. Based in Washington state, St. Luke Productions produces Catholic dramas, films and media to inspire faith.

The drama’s success led to St. Luke’s 2004 film, “Thérèse: the Story of St. Thérèse.” For those who have seen the film, the drama will provide a different view of the saint as it comes to Minnesota for the first time. Defilippis said the audience can get inside St. Thérèse’s mind, particularly her spirituality of doing “little things with great love.”

“In the film, you see it, but it’s subtle because you see her doing sacrificial things,” Defilippis said. “When she actually speaks about it, she’s speaking to the audience, telling them what’s in her heart. It’s very personal and intimate that way.”

St. Thérèse, the youngest of five daughters, was born Jan. 2, 1873, to Louis and Zelie Martin in France. The couple, too, became saints. After entering the Carmelite convent in Lisieux at age 15, St. Thérèse served there until her death at age 24 in 1897.

In that nine-year span, she developed a spirituality known as the “little way,” doing “little things with great love.” She recorded her reflections at the request of her superior in what became St. Thérèse’s autobiography “The Story of a Soul.”

Defilippis worked with Carmelite Sister Claire Sokol of the Carmel of Reno, Nevada in writing the script in order to create a stronger sense of St. Thérèse’s spirituality. Sister Sokol, an accomplished musician too, composed a hymn about St. Thérèse on the 100th anniversary of her death and music for Defilippis’ production.

“She helped me a lot to be very true to St. Thérèse’s spirituality and to understand her weakness, but not turn her into somebody who was not who she was,” Defilippis said.

St. Thérèse had her weaknesses. Early in life, she had many emotional struggles with her mother’s death and her older sister leaving early for the convent. St. Thérèse recognizes she could only grow in holiness with God’s help, Ahern said.

“She even says that were it not for him holding her up, she would have fallen so many times,” Ahern said. “She would have fallen into deep, deep sin, and so it’s only through his grace that she didn’t.

“Her example shows how that there’s nothing beyond God’s forgiveness,” Ahern added. “Because those souls who have never sinned, have never sinned because of his goodness. And those who have sinned and are struggling, they’re able to be lifted up because of his goodness.”

Though St. Thérèse lived before the Divine Mercy devotion became popular, Father Kaluza finds it fitting to have the drama kick off the celebration. St. Thérèse’s life had many similar messages to that of Divine Mercy, particularly God’s mercy for sinners and doing works of mercy.

“It’s a great way to give people some spirituality,” Father Kaluza said.

Father Kaluza asked the parish’s Divine Mercy celebration organizer, Gina Rickert, to consider working on bringing the drama to Rogers. She didn’t hesitate, having seen another St. Luke’s Production at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 2016. It was about St. Faustina, who recorded Jesus’ message of divine mercy in her diary in the 1930s.

“It was absolutely phenomenal,” Rickert said. “I don’t know that there was a single heart that wasn’t touched in watching that performance. It was so moving.”

Through an anonymous donor, the parish could keep the cost for admission at $5 for individual tickets and $10 for families. For more information, contact Mary Queen of Peace at 763-428-2585 or parishoffice@mqpcatholic.org.

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