MARMORA — The first of four theatrical performances in New Jersey about the man Pope John Paul II called “the patron saint for our difficult age” was scheduled here, at a newly formed parish named for him.
“Maximilian Kolbe dealt with a culture that was opposed to the teachings of our faith. He forfeited his life because of his devotion to those teachings,” said Msgr. Peter Joyce. “He is a model for us today because a lot of our faith’s beliefs are being challenged — there is a subtle disregard of those who are faithful.”
Msgr. Joyce is the pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe, a merged parish that joined three churches here in Cape May County.
“He is the patron saint of our parish. This is known to be a high quality production and, I believe, it would be a good opportunity for us to better appreciate the life of courage, hope and joy that he lived,” he said.
The Wednesday night performance here was to be followed by stops at Thursday, Sept. 6 at St. Peter Church in Merchantville; and at parishes in Howell and Neptune, respectively, on the 7th and 8th.
The one-man drama, “Maximilian: Saint of Auschwitz,, is performed by Leonardo Defilippis of Saint Luke Productions. Defilippis scripted the performance, relying on historical documents and Maximilian Kolbe’s own words.
“This was man of great faith and courage, who used his skills as a journalist to reach many people in a time of crisis,” said Defilippis, recounting how the Polish priest wrote for the magazine of his Franciscan order, “Knight of the Immaculata.”
According to Defilippis’s research, the magazine reached some 1 million readers before the start of World War II and warned of the coming holocaust.
Father Kolbe, born in 1894 and ordained in 1918, was arrested twice by Gestapo; after his initial release, he was re-arrested in February 1941 and imprisoned in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. He ultimately died as prisoner 16770 on Aug. 14, 1941, after volunteering to take the place of a man selected to die by starvation. He was 47.
Pope John Paul II canonized Maximilian Kolbe in October 1982.
“It is such a privilege to do this kind of performance, where I can share my work and my faith with so many different kinds of people,” said Defilippis. “There is an intimacy to live theater makes the experience very emotional. There are no other actors to play off of — so my interactions, my relationships on stage are not with actors, but with the audience.”
The performance incorporates professional lighting, projections and an original score by Randall DeBruyn. DeBruyn is a composer, arranger, pianist, music editor, music director and currently executive editor of English-language missals and hymnals at OCP (Oregon Catholic Press).
Saint Luke Productions has produced live dramas, feature films, and television and radio programming on the lives of the saints and the Scriptures; the company is known for popular “Benedictus Moments,” which are broadcast daily, and their live production “Vianney” on the life of St. John Vianney.