In an unusual move for Hollywood, a film celebrating the extraordinary life of a boxer and the actor-turned priest has been released. Fr. Stuart Long is played by Mark Wahlberg, and the viewer follows the roguish young man from fighter to man who inspired many with his deep unwavering faith as he faced a debilitating muscle disorder that would lead to his death.
However, some things have come to light from his own lengthy interview conducted before his death, an interview with his father, Bill Long, and a detailed article from The Pillar that sheds light on the incredible character that was Fr. Stuart Long. Here are some fascinating facts about Fr. Stu in real life.
1. He Had A Sister Who He Adored
Amy, Father Stu’s younger sister, is not depicted in the film. She adored her big brother, however, and expressed her desire to be like him. She also told The Pillar about him, saying, “He was kind and loving to everyone.” It’s funny how people sometimes say, ‘Do the right thing even if no one is looking.’ He’d do the right thing a lot of the time because no one was looking. Because he tried to portray himself as a big, tough badass. But underneath it all, he was just one of the nicest people.”
2. He Was A Little Bit Of A Terror
In the film, you get a taste of Stu’s earlier mischief, but in a charming interview with the real Fr. Stu, you can hear him talk fondly about his childhood. Young Stuart Long was far from angelic, whether he was climbing a roof to throw apples at a passing train or cutting through buildings to get from A to B faster. And he admits to being a little “rambunctious back in the day,” preferring individual sports like boxing to football.
3. He Went To Mass Long Before Becoming A Catholic
Stu discovered the unusual rituals inside the school’s chapel thanks to his education at a Catholic school — Carroll College in Montana — and a football coach who made Mass mandatory before a big game. While Stu felt like an outsider, he was intrigued by some famous biblical figures and thought the priest looked like Johnny Cash!
4. He Couldn’t Resist An Argument, Even At A Young Age
As we see in the film, Stu was straightforward. However, as a college student, he couldn’t help but argue with his teachers, including his history professor, Fr. Jeremiah Sullivan. And it was this teacher, who had to put up with Long’s endless questions in class, who understood him and introduced him to boxing.
5. His Mom Sent Him To Hollywood
The film gives the impression that Stu went to Hollywood despite his mother’s protests. His mother, however, was the one who suggested he pursue a career in acting.
6. He Had Several Accidents In His Life
While we see the shocking accident that nearly killed Fr. Stu, he actually had a number of accidents in cars, on motorcycles, and even in fights. So it seems only natural that his subsequent religious experiences — and eventual conversion to God — were the result of an accident.
7. His Baptism Was The Real Turning Point In His Vocation
In the film, we see a roguish Stu Long take off his shirt to be baptized while winking at his girlfriend. He is later involved in an accident, which leads to his decision to become a priest. However, in his own words, he “just knew” that he wanted to be a priest at the time of his baptism. When Stu mentioned this to the priest who baptized him, he was told not to worry because it was common for adults joining the Church and that the feeling would pass after a few days.
8. He Took Some Time To Discern His Vocation
In the film, Stu decides to become a priest, and the next thing you know, he’s running to a seminary to enrol. In reality, Fr. Stu explained that the feelings he had following his baptism faded, and it took him nearly 7 years to fully commit to becoming a priest.
9. A Visit To Lourdes Helped Him Heal — But Not In The Way He First Hoped
In true fighting spirit, he made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, in 2007. During his journey, he went into the grotto, believing that he would miraculously be able to walk again. He was heartbroken when it didn’t happen, but he went to confession and then back to the grotto.
“The second time he came out, he had this sense of peace, just this real sense of peace, that wasn’t there the first time.” And he didn’t get physical healing, but he did get peace,” Fr. Bart Tolleson, a fellow priest and close friend of Fr. Stu, told The Pillar.
10. He Had The Most Unusual Response To His Deteriorating Health
Fr. Stu described how he began to feel his strength dwindling. He attributed it to his previous “fast life,” but after discovering a tumor, tests revealed he had the incurable disease inclusion body myositis. But he had an unusual reaction to his disease.
Fr. Stu was severely restricted and in pain due to his condition. However, he bravely stated that it was “probably one of the best things that ever happened to me,” for a variety of reasons, including his father’s assistance, the reality of suffering, and how it taught him some humility, something he’d struggled with throughout his life.
11. He Had Some Favorite Saints
Fr. Stu’s wheelchair was adorned with magnets of his favorite saints, including Joan of Arc, Maximillian Kolbe, and Padre Pio. But, in true fun-loving fashion, he also had one of Bigfoot, with whom he had a lifelong fascination.
12. Movies Inspired Him
Fr. Stu’s relatability was one of his strengths. He was inspired by everyday life as well as the fictional lives we see in movies. He recalled scenes from two blockbusters, Armageddon and Gladiator, in which certain characters broached the subject of death. And perhaps it was his less-than-highbrow approach to understanding life and death that enabled him to have such an impact on so many people.
It seems especially fitting, then, that a film about his life has been made, which will hopefully inspire millions.
13. He Had The Perfect Perception Of Life And Death
Fr. Stu was all about “making peace with God” so that we can move on to our eternal life, and as he said in his video: “Live in a place of life, happiness, and peace.” And it was this thought that led him to believe that euthanasia was a heinous crime. As he explained, suffering and relying on others force us to grow closer to God in order to pass on to the next life. Simply put, “we must always err on the side of life.”
14. His Dad Is Actually Pretty Epic
Fr. Stu’s father, Bill Long, is portrayed in the film as an absent father who neglects his family. While he did work away from home, he was always welcomed home, and Stu’s childhood was relatively happy.
While some may be upset that they were portrayed negatively, Bill Long stated in an interview with Helen Air, “I don’t think it matters how I was portrayed, the film is about Fr. Stu.” He wants people to leave the film with the message, “Have faith, hang in there, endure.”
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