NEW YORK (CNS) — Despite his status as a rising star in the Oakland Athletics’ farm system, in 2010, outfielder Grant Desme walked away from a likely major league career — and the prospect of earning millions — to become Frater Matthew of the Norbertine monastic order.
The young monk is one of several extraordinary figures profiled in the uplifting, if flawed, documentary “The Face of Mercy.”
Written and directed by David Naglieri, and narrated by actor Jim Caviezel, the film debuted on ABC affiliates Oct. 16 and will continue to air through Dec. 16. Broadcast schedules for local regions can be found online at: faceofmercyfilm.com.
Though predictably free of objectionable content, “The Face of Mercy” does touch on such mature themes as war, genocide, narcotics and the nature of evil. Accordingly, it will best be appreciated by teens and their elders.
With its release timed to mark the Nov. 20 conclusion of the church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy, the hourlong movie celebrates the legacy of St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), the “Apostle of Divine Mercy.” An “utterly obscure Polish nun,” as Catholic commentator George Weigel describes her, Faustina was nonetheless destined to become one of the best-known mystics of the 20th century.
The documentary describes the visions of Jesus that St. Faustina experienced, and that became the basis for the now-familiar image of Divine Mercy, adorned with the motto “Jesus, I trust in you.” Viewers also are introduced to the remarkable story of how the devotion that St. Faustina originated overcame the initial opposition of the Vatican — based, at least in part, on a faulty translation of her writings — to spread around the world.
The lifting of the ban the church had imposed on St. Faustina’s works coincided with the election to the papacy of her fellow countryman — and tirelessly devoted follower — St. John Paul II. Only a few years later, the events surrounding the miracle that would be needed for Faustina’s cause for sainthood to move forward got under way.
As they themselves recount, Massachusetts-based couple Bob and Maureen Digan made a pilgrimage to Faustina’s tomb in Krakow, Poland, to pray that Maureen might be cured of Milroy’s disease, a condition that caused painful swelling in her legs. She was indeed healed — in a manner doctors were unable to explain scientifically. Faustina was beatified in 1993 and canonized in 2000.
“The Face of Mercy” also focuses on the transforming power of forgiveness through testimonials by, among others, Steven McDonald. A former New York City police detective, McDonald fell victim to a shooter who left him paralyzed and permanently dependent on a ventilator.
Just as McDonald was eventually able to forgive his assailant, young widow Jennifer Trapuzzano — whose husband, Nathan, was murdered three weeks before the birth of their first child — showed similar clemency toward her spouse’s slayer.
Although it tells moving, important stories, “The Face of Mercy” falters artistically. From the film’s outset, viewers will feel as though they have walked into the middle of a conversation as a constant stream of commentators dive into the theme of divine and human mercy without first providing the audience with an appropriate context.
The 4K high-definition cinematography is often impressive and sometimes startling. Yet, as the camera sweeps along at a rapid pace, viewers will likely feel that too many images are moving too fast.
Despite these defects, the program — produced by the Knights of Columbus and the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy — retains its broad appeal as well as the potential to strengthen believers in their faith.
Byrd is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.