You Can Hear It Now
Marians Release Audio Diary
By Dan Valenti (Apr 28, 2011)
The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception have released their audio version of the Diary of St. Faustina. The project has been years in the making. We recently interviewed Br. Leonard Konopka, MIC, who played an instrumental role in the production of this project. His comments add tremendously to the sense of excitement that, after so long and many setbacks, the perseverance of all who participated will finally bear its fruit.
VALENTI: What was your involvement in the audio CD Diary?
BR. LEONARD: It started with a spiritual practice I began 25 years ago. In 1986, I made sure to read at least one page from the Diary every day. I've been faithful to this discipline since then. It is not an exaggeration to say that I have read the complete Diary about five or six times. As a result, my reference to the Diary would often come up in my conversations with others I have met in past years who likewise had a similar interest.
My interest in having the Diary recorded began approximately five years ago. People began expressing a great interest in wanting to hear an audio version — not abridged — and faithful to the original text. They most often wanted to listen to it while driving to and from work. I also met a brilliant woman lawyer who was sustained by her devotion to Divine Mercy. Unfortunately, she became paralyzed from the neck down and has been bedridden for more than 10 years. She also expressed an interest in being able to hear the Diary because she could not lift the book. She became a special inspiration. Other people told me they would often take three- to four-hour drives during weekends and also wanted to listen and learn more about Divine Mercy. It became obvious to me that God was moving these people to take advantage of hearing the Diary read so that their time on the road would serve a greater purpose.
Finally, the blind were most eager to listen as well, since there has never been a Braille version of the Diary.
Many people continually promised not only to pray for the Diary to be on CD, and often they would remind me of their continued interest. I took this as a sign of the Holy Spirit at work. I think God heard their prayers.
VALENTI: After you realized this, how did you begin to tackle the practicalities and logistics of the project?
BR. LEONARD: I had done some recordings of the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy at a recording studio and became aware of some of the dynamics involved. This is actually what prompted me on a personal level to realize that the Diary could also be done in a similar manner.
After consulting with Fran Bourdon [executive director of the Marian Helpers Association on Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass.], he acknowledged that they [the staff of the Marian Helpers Center] also had received calls about recording the Diary.
Finally, I received permission to begin exploring the possibilities of recording the Diary here in D.C. [Br. Leonard lives at the Marian House in Washington, D.C.]. I knew a married couple who taught seminarians at Catholic University and the Dominican House of Studies the proper way of speaking and reading from the Lectionary. I invited them both to come and read portions of the Diary and recorded them on tape. I submitted the test recording to Fran Bourdon and his advisory board. This couple articulated well and gave great depth of feelings to their readings. In fact, the wife broke out in tears when she was given a random passage that St. Faustina had written because she was so moved by her thoughts and words.
VALENTI: What happened after that?
BR. LEONARD: After submitting their practice tape to Mr. Bourdon, there was an extended waiting period because there were other voices being auditioned. It eventually took several months to find a woman of Polish descent who spoke English. She was chosen to be the voice of St. Faustina, and it gave the recording a sense of authenticity.
A man named Greg Amaya contacted Mr. Bourdon and negotiated the recording of the Diary in a studio in Atlanta, Ga. He had previously made some recordings on spiritual issues. I was contacted and agreed to this arrangement because not only did he agree to do the recording, but he also agreed to supply the other voices, such as Jesus, that were required to do the readings.
VALENTI: That was obviously a welcome development. Did it make for smooth sailing after that?
BR. LEONARD: No. There was still much to be overcome. Mr. Bourdon called and said that if I was still interested in having the Diary
With their contribution, Mr. Bourdon authorized Greg Amaya to arrange the recording sessions, including the procurement of voice talent. In my communications with Greg, he suggested that since I had been involved with trying to get the Diary recorded, I should be given the opportunity to also play a role in the reading portions of the Diary. The MHC agreed, and I accepted the invitation. I didn't feel that qualified, but since it was taking so long ... and others were not forthcoming, it seemed that our Lord didn't require renowned individuals to produce this CD version of the Diary
The preparation for recording took another several months. The Polish lady who was to read the parts of St. Faustina lived in Chicago, and she had to journey to Atlanta in July. I was on vacation in Michigan and interrupted it to fly down there as well. We both stayed at Greg's home for that weekend. Both of us took turns reading from the Diary. This was done without any practice, rehearsal, or preparation. We winged it and in some areas it shows. We sat in a makeshift recording studio in the basement of Greg Amaya's friend, who also had a band and used this studio for their jam sessions.
VALENTI: What was your reaction being chosen to participate?
BR. LEONARD: I felt privileged and honored to be part of this effort, but I didn't realize the depth of the experience I would have. When I began listening to the entire project for errors that needed to be corrected, something remarkable happened. I was not prepared to be so inspired while hearing our Lord's words spoken through the reader. They conveyed a deep longing to be in relationship not only with St Faustina but also, by inference, with all of us. It bordered on what sounded like extreme vulnerability on the part of Christ, who expressed profound yearning to be trusted and relied on for His mercy. I almost sensed that our Lord was conveying a feeling of: "How much more do I have to do to convince mankind to trust Me." Hearing these words makes it both deeply divine and at the same time profoundly human.
VALENTI: It sounds like you had a new experience with St. Faustina's book, a work with which you were so familiar.
BR. LEONARD: No question about it. The feelings I had listening to the conversational voices of St. Faustina and Jesus were inspiring. On a human level, I felt like I was eavesdropping on an intimate conversation between two close friends. The tender expressions of love St. Faustina conveyed to Jesus were only surpassed by His own words of love for her. It almost seemed like they were trying to outdo one another in expressing their sentiments and feelings. Their conversation gives greater understanding of what the Song of Songs is all about in the Old Testament.
In a certain sense, my own knowledge of God became more experiential when I slowly began to realize how human His expressions of tenderness were toward St Faustina. Up to this point, I was much more aware of God's transcendence. However in listening and reading the Diary at the same time, I became profoundly aware of His immanence.
Everyone should have an opportunity to experience this kind of intimacy and realize how God communicates Himself to a soul. No doubt other mystics have had conversations with God and some were written down for posterity, but we almost never were aware or made cognizant of the type of emotions that are so apparent when listening to these recordings.
There were certain instances toward the end of the Diary that took on a surreal atmosphere when the conversations between Jesus and St. Faustina reached a level of candor that I never imagined could ever have happened. Here is God, Jesus, communicating to a soul His love and need for her that seems to be beyond human reasoning. After all, He is God, and we think He is without having a "need" of any kind. Yet He expresses to St. Faustina a tremendous desire to be united with her and, by inference, with all of us. Our Lord seemed madly in love with this nun. "Star crossed lovers" is also a term that comes to mind.
VALENTI: From what you say, it seems, then, a small step to realize that the audio CD version of the Diary is this an effective way to spread word of Divine Mercy.
BR. LEONARD: I think this may be called the last of the so-called "frontier" in the history of this revelation of God's mercy. The Diary was first written, then put into a movie, then the chaplet was musically recorded numerous times. Workshops, seminars, and retreats have been presented numerous times. Just about every known medium has been utilized. There is also an effort of using our master CD recording of the Diary and have it available on MP3. Therefore, I think it is effective for people who otherwise would not have made themselves open to reading the Diary.
VALENTI: What were the recording sessions like?
BR. LEONARD: We prayed before each session and at the beginning surrendered the entire effort to Our Lady's maternal care. We also prayed for providential guidance.
The recordings took place in the basement at the house of Greg's close friend. There was no coaching or direction per se but only a window in which we could see the other room where all the audio instruments were located. If a correction was required, we were able to hear them from Greg and his friend through the earphones that we had on the entire time we were recording the Diary. I spent all day on Saturday recording and took breaks while the Polish lady read some of her parts. Then I resumed reading in the afternoon and all morning on Sunday. I think it took the reader of St Faustina's writings about 10 days to complete her portions of the Diary.
There were several brief moments that I was overwhelmed by the thought that there was a type of history being made. The words of the Diary would now be heard by a new audience who otherwise would be deprived of such spiritual wealth. It seemed God was going out of His way to address those individuals who otherwise might be reluctant to pick up and read the entire Diary. The size of the book is overwhelming for many. God obviously knows how to communicate and seems to take special pains to break down the barriers that some have to accepting His greatest attribute.
When the recording was completed, I listened while reading along with the Diary at the same time in order to tell Greg if any corrections had to be made. Then I would inform him of the Diary passage number so he would track down the actual place on the CD. Each CD took about an hour and fifteen minutes to be fully played. All told, it took about 45 hours to entirely complete the review.
VALENTI: Obviously, this was a moving and worthwhile experience for you. Anything else you want to add.
BR. LEONARD: Christ communicates to St. Faustina His views on many aspects of her life in which she would then respond appropriately. However, on many other occasions, He would take great lengths to address some specific concerns that she had revealed to Him. His responses to her are always moving and filled with such human gentleness and profound compassion, yet St. Faustina seemingly just writes them down and starts another paragraph writing on an unrelated subject. There seems to be no response from St. Faustina in regard to how she must have felt when He addressed these poignant words to her.
I don't think she was indifferent, but it surprises me to read and hear that even our Lord finally seems to confront her about her lack of trust in Him on a certain level. She does express many doubts in spite of her almost daily encounters with Him. This was gratifying for me to know how patient He was with her, for it suggests He will be even more patient with the rest of us still struggling with our own issues without having the comfort of hearing Him speak His mind.