Mark Wahlberg, who is a devout Catholic, financed and produced the movie “Father Stu” as a passion project. The movie is about a man who makes a number of bad decisions in his young life, but eventually finds God and offers to God his life as a priest. It is about redemption and, as Wahlberg says, “Nobody is beyond redemption.”
Wahlberg’s movie portrays Stuart Long as a boxer and would-be actor who nearly loses in life in a motorcycle accident. That accident, and the support of friends in a Catholic parish to which he became attached (cynically, in order to be close to a woman), let him to re-evaluate the direction of his life. He decides he will become a Catholic priest.
Sadly, during his seminary studies, Stu is diagnosed with inclusion body myositis, an incurable muscle disease that eventually causes loss of motor function and death. Undeterred, he continues his studies and, after some question as to whether or not the Church would ordain him, is ordained a priest for the Diocese of Helena in Montana. The example of Fr. Stu’s dedication to Christ and joy in his ministry inspires others to come to him and draw from his rich deposit of faith.
When the movie was released during Holy Week of this year, it caused some controversy among Catholics because of the R-rating, which is mostly because of the coarse language. Wahlberg, however, felt that the language was necessary because it was true to the life of the man, a man who had not lived the most noble of lives in his youth, and also of one who struggled greatly as an adult and even as a priest. Even with the language, the movie is an inspiration.
However, after discussing the matter with Bishop George Thomas, who had ordained Fr. Stu in 2007, Wahlberg agreed that a PG-13 version of the movie was needed. Bishop Thomas, and then Wahlberg, didn’t want the message of the movie to be lost to a generation of younger Catholics whose parents would hesitate to have them see it because of the R-rating and language. So, a PG-13 version was edited and will be released in December under the title “Father Stu: Reborn.”
I saw the original version and the language is strong. At the same time, it is realistic to the genre of the movie and the story of the man’s life. Frankly, there’s no language in the movie that I haven’t heard at work. My children are adults now, so I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the original version. Still, I appreciate the concerns of parents with younger children, and I’m glad that Bishop Thomas was able to convince Wahlberg of the need to make it available to a younger audience.
The script is excellent. The cast is excellent. The story is hard but true. Finally, the message that nobody is beyond redemption comes through loud and clear. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend it. It’s a story worth hearing.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.