As of 12 May, the new film by Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson, Father Stu, will hit Australian cinemas. It is a biopic about Father Stuart Long, a priest of the Diocese of Helena, Montana, in the U.S. It tracks his journey from being a wild and wandering man – from football player to wrestler to boxer to actor – before finally discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
A serious car accident prompted this profound religious conversion. Even before his ordination in December 2007, he was diagnosed with inclusion body myositis, an inflammatory condition in the muscles for which there is no cure. It is an aggressive and chronic illness that caused him great suffering. It’s the kind of disease that affects everything: movement, writing, lifting, swallowing – even the most basic, daily tasks eventually become impossible.
As The Pillar reports, it was while visiting Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and being confronted by a statue of St Joan of Arc, that Father Stu had a mystical encounter that encouraged him to ‘carry the disease for Christ.’
The heroic way in which he bore his suffering meant that he served as an exemplary witness of faith. He became a special instrument of God’s grace to his people.
By all accounts this film does not sentimentalise the faith, as Christian films often do. Instead it presents the gritty, awful reality of suffering, and the grace and beauty that is possible through it.
Mark Wahlberg has also been doing the rounds with Catholic media in order to promote the film. Here is his discussion with Bishop Robert Barron:
And his conversation with Fr Mike Schmitz:
Father Stu opens in cinemas on 12 May and features Mark Wahlberg, Jacki Weaver and Mel Gibson.