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The Heavyweight Boxer Turned Catholic Priest, Father Stu

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
November 11, 2022 3:03 am

The Heavyweight Boxer Turned Catholic Priest, Father Stu

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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November 11, 2022 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Father Stu is a motion picture starring Mark Wahlberg (who plays Father Stu) and Mel Gibson. It is based on the true life story of Father Stuart Long, the Golden Gloves Heavyweight Boxing Champion-turned-Catholic priest. We’d like to thank the Diocese of Helena, MT, for providing the footage you are about to hear of Father Stuart Long.

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Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb
Our American Stories
Lee Habeeb

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Listen to Chasing Sleep on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. And we continue with our American Stories. Father Stu is a motion picture starring Mark Wahlberg, who plays Father Stu, and Mel Gibson. It's based on the true life story of Father Stuart Long, the Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing champion turned Catholic priest. Wahlberg first heard about Father Stu's story while out to dinner with two priests, and he, a devout Catholic, put his own money into financing this film.

Wahlberg intentionally gained 30 pounds in six weeks to portray Long in the film, eating up to 7,000 calories a day. Sounds like fun. We'd like to thank the Diocese of Helena, Montana for providing the footage you are about to hear of Father Stuart Long himself sharing his story with us.

Let's take a listen. I was born out in Harborview Hospital out in Seattle, and then my dad was discharged from the Navy, so they came back to Helena. And I grew up there, and we used to go and hike around in the hills, and there were all kinds of little abandoned mine shafts, and you're not supposed to go in there, but we'd sneak around. Oh, it was just an adventure, and I really enjoyed that when I was a young man. And we used to get in trouble. We had apple trees in our yard. We'd sit up on the roof of our house, and when the tour train would come by, we'd throw apples at the people on the tour train.

They didn't like that so much. When you're a kid, it's funny what you think. When I attended Central School, we lived up on the south end of Helena, and I looked at the kids and thought, man, that building is so big.

It's got to be shorter to cut through the middle than to walk around it. So I'd walk through there, and there's this grumpy old guy, and he'd always see me, and he'd start chasing, you damn kids. And he'd come running after us, you know.

It was like a game. We'd run off, and I did it probably about eight, ten times throughout my life. And sometimes you'd come up, and you'd open the door, and he'd be standing there with his arms folded across the chest, and you'd say, out. You wouldn't let us in there. Sometimes you'd get in there, and he'd chase you. Other times, he'd be busy talking to people, and he'd just kind of shake his arm.

He'd just kind of shake his head at us. And then I guess I kind of outgrew that. Ladies and gentlemen, the graduating class of 1981. My first year of college, I attended Western Montana down in Dillon.

You know, it was Western then. I guess it was University of Dillon or something. But I didn't really, I didn't care for it. So I transferred back to Carroll, and I went back to Helen, and I went to Carroll. And I played football there for two years under coach Bob Petrino. And I also boxed each of the years I was there. I really enjoyed the box. The individual sport seemed to fit my personality a little better than the team sport.

I was kind of a little rambunctious back in the day. But it was a curious experience for me, because I wasn't Catholic. And Carroll, as you know, is a Catholic school.

So I always felt kind of like an outsider. I remember we had to attend mass there as part of the football preparation. Coach Petrino came out of his office.

One of the young men on our team could do an excellent impersonation of him, but I'll do my best here. He said, tomorrow's our first game. Today, mass in the chapel at five o'clock.

Attendance is mandatory. So I looked at the kid that was dressed across the little walkway from me. I said, what's the chapel?

I didn't even know what it was. He's like, yeah, yeah, he walked off. And one of the other guys took me up there and showed me.

And we're sitting in there for mass. And the windows, they were like stained glass windows about eight feet up along each of the long walls of this chapel's rectangular shape. And there were, I had no idea what was going on. I look at the window on this wall, and there was a man who had wings with a flaming sword who was going to get another man who was laying at his feet, who had horns and a tail.

I'm like, okay. And I didn't know who it was. And then there was another man on this side, a great big guy, had a little boy tied to a rock, and he was going to get him with a knife. And it was the story of Abraham and Isaac. I had no idea at the time, but I'm just like, oh, what's going on here? And then a man dressed like Johnny Cash came in. Everybody stood up and sat down. And I had no idea what was going on.

Yeah, I had no idea. That was my first mass. I was not Catholic, and I didn't, you know, had no understanding, no education. They had us take a couple of religion classes there when we attended the school. I used to argue with the teachers all the time. One of the history professors was Father Jeremiah Sullivan. And I just really enjoyed this man's class. He was so well educated and very knowledgeable. And he would teach us like history of the civilization or Italian history or all these different kinds of history. And I kept interrupting his class and asking very ignorant questions that didn't even relate.

But I, you know, I didn't have the background that a lot of the people there had. And he would say, Mr. Long, one day he tells me after class, he said, do you enjoy boxing? And I said, no. And he said, well, why don't you meet me down at the gym today at four o'clock?

So I said, okay. So I went down there and he took me into the little boxing room. And at the time, Father Sullivan was probably 5'10", maybe about 350 pounds, pretty, pretty, uh, portly. But since I've seen both Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson hit the speed bag and Father Jeremiah could hit the speed bag better than either of those guys. I was just amazed how fast he was moving. And I was like, wow. And then he showed me how, you know, certain basic techniques in boxing. And when the coach came in, it was Walt Chauncey, my old football coach from Capitol. Uh, he said, uh, this is your coach.

And he said, let's do what he tells you to do. And, and I just, I fell in love with it. I really liked that boxing. My goal after, after graduating from Carroll was to get into professional boxing. And I knew, you know, you know, a man who knows a man who knows a man. And I knew a friend there's the old judge, uh, Mills Lane. Um, he was a district attorney in Nevada, and he was also one of the main boxing referees of his day.

And he was also involved with a top ranked boxing on ESPN, where they take younger fighters and give them a fight on TV to kind of make a name and see if they would make a splash in the boxing industry. And I had this, this in with my friend's dad who, uh, used to train horses with Mills Lane. And so I thought, yeah, there's, there's an opportunity for this, but I had some dental work done on my jaw and all my teeth are false.

They'd, they'd remove a large portion of my upper jaw and put it in a bridge. And I tried to fight one more time again after that. It just wasn't the same.

Yeah. So I had to, I had to give that up and I'm up here on the house for, I don't know, probably six months. I was working, but I didn't have a job.

I was working, but I just kind of, you know, I didn't really have anything to add a degree in English or literature and writing, and I didn't really know what to do with it. And, uh, my mom came to me one day and she said, she said, you always liked movies. I said, yeah, I like movies. She said, why don't you go to LA and get in the movie business? I thought that's a good idea.

I didn't really have too much other. I had a friend that just had just moved down to Los Angeles. So we did that. I went down there and, uh, to get, you know, to get in the movie business and I did, I did some, I did a couple of commercials. I was, I did, I was an extra and a bunch of me see, I would see me like walk around the background, you know, you work long hours and the money is just terrible. Uh, I did, I did, was in a CBS movie of the week. So, and I got typecast pretty early as a bad guy, like a hit man, that kind of thing.

And I was the head of the, uh, the neo-Nazi skinhead gang in Los Angeles. Yeah. Yeah. So somebody would say, oh, I'd like to see that movie. I'm like, nah, I don't think so.

I'm not going to drag it out so you can watch that. You're kind of embarrassed about some of the things you used to do. And I had some, I had some trouble kind of, it didn't really work out the way I thought it would. And I had a lot of, uh, a lot of real un unpleasant experiences with some of the people who are involved in casting in, uh, you know, becoming, you know, uh, acquiring new talent and they were talent agents and directors and stuff.

And it was, it was a real, a real seedy, seedy business. And I just decided that I didn't really want to do that anymore. And I used to work at a nightclub. I worked at a comedy club and a bar in the evening.

Then in the daytime, I could drive around and do auditions and things. And, uh, finally I said, well, I'm going to let that go and I'll go get another job, you know, during the daytime. And I started working at a museum and I really enjoyed it. And I ended up managing a museum for seven years.

It's the Norton Simon Museum down in Pasadena. What a nice job, nice job. And I supervised about anywhere from between 55 and 60 people on a daily basis. And I really enjoyed it. It helped me grow a lot.

And I learned a lot about relating with people. And you've been listening to Father Stewart Long tell his story. There's the movie Father Stu with Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson. This is the real Father Stu.

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There's a better way to fly private. And we continue with our American stories and the story of Father Stu as told by Father Stewart Long himself. Let's pick up now where we last left off. I used to ride a motorcycle in my attempt to get in the movie industry, so I thought it would give me a better chance to get a part. So I ride my, we had a uniform at work, so I'd ride my motorcycle from my apartment over to work and one day I was riding home after work and I got hit by a car and I smashed into a car in the next line with my head. I was immediately unconscious.

I have no idea what happened and the witnesses told, reported to the sheriff's that I was rolling down the road and another car ran over the top of me and I thought I would die that night. My dad and the girlfriend that I had, I had a girlfriend that I lived with at that time. They were both in the hospital there and I had some really, really interesting religious experiences that proved to be, you know, what I perceived to be a call of God and it brought me into the Catholic Church. This girlfriend, she was a beautiful woman. She was a Mexican girl. She had dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes. She was a really nice gal. She came in one day and she had a little chip on her shoulder. I had a big chip on my shoulder and I think that's what kind of drew us together, but she came in one day and she had dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes.

She was, her hair looked blonde and it looked like there was light coming from her face and she was vacuuming the carpet of this apartment we shared and I looked at it and I said, what the heck happened to you? And she says, I'm Catholic. I've been away from the church for 13 years and I just saw, I just went to confession. Now I attended Carol and I had some exposure to the Catholic Church and I didn't really understand anything about it, but when I saw this change in her, I knew there was something to it and she said, we were talking about getting married at the time. I said, if we're going to get married, we'll get married in the church and, you know, here's a class you can take.

She had a bulletin. Here's a class you can take that will allow you to get baptized and confirmed in the church and then we'll be able to set a date for our marriage sometime after that. And I said, okay.

And I went through this, this about a year and a half of this RCIA class. And then when I was, when I was baptized at the very moment, the priest is pouring the water over my head. I didn't hear the voice of God or see a big banner come down from the sky or anything. I just knew that I was going to be a priest right at that moment. I'm like, I didn't want to be a priest.

I want to get married. I didn't really know what a priest did. So I went on for about three days later, I told the priest to baptize the message. The other night when you baptized me, I thought I had this feeling that I'm going to be a priest. He said, don't worry about it.

Every man who's baptized as an adult has that same feeling. Wait a few days, it'll go away. And I went away. I'm like, thank you. But I came back, went away, came back.

I played ping pong with this for about seven years. And then I was going to go into a religious order in New York City. And I went there and spent some time on and off for a couple of years. They sent me to school in Ohio to do what they call pre-theology studies.

You learn some philosophy. And then after that, we discerned this religious order. And I discerned that I was better suited for parish work. So they sent me back home to the diocese of Helena. And in 2003, they sent me to the seminary out in Mount Angel, Oregon.

And I was ordained a priest in 2007 in December. It's funny because I lived a very fast life. I was involved in troublemaking. I used to get in street fights a lot.

I was very involved in you know, I used to drink. And I mean, I had a lot of problems. I had several accidents, both on my motorcycle and cars. I had some falls. I hurt myself, you know, fighting. And about 15 years ago, I just started weakening.

And I thought maybe because I had such a fast life, I was just aging a little more rapidly than people my age. And when I was in the seminary, I had hip surgery. My left knee just kept, it was really causing me a great deal of pain. So I went in, they did an x-ray of the knee. No, knee is fine. They did an MRI.

No, your knee is fine. And finally they did an x-ray of my back and they noticed something on my hip. And they did an MRI and they found that I had a large tumor about the size of, I can't close my fist anymore, about the size of your fist that was growing right at the insertion point of your groin muscle in my femur. And that's what was causing it. It was putting stress on the muscle. That's why my knee was hurting.

So they removed that tumor. And just a couple months after they did that, I just, I remember sitting at the seminary one day on the edge of my bed and I could just feel the strength flowing out of my body. It was the most uncanny experience that I've ever had in my life. It's like a ball rolling across the table.

And then when it gets to the edge, it just drops. That's where my strength is. And I was diagnosed very soon after with a disease called Inclusion Body Myositis.

That's what I have. It's a different disease, but it mimics ALS. So the progression looks very similar to somebody who suffers with Lou Gehrig's disease.

And there's no care for this one either. It will claim my life. But it's a very curious experience because through the difficulties and the struggles that I've been through, the problems that have arisen from this, and the people, especially my dad, who have come to my side to support me and aid me, you know, and assist me through this life since I've been diagnosed with this, it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. It's a profound experience, suffering. And every person in the planet suffers. And the more you try and deny it and move it, the more you suffer.

It is a truly profound mystery. And what I've noticed in my life, the good things that are coming from this, it's helped me overcome some of my prideful ways, which was a big cross for me for many years. It's taught me a little humility. It's taught me dignity and respect for others, especially for those who share the condition that I'm in. I live in a nursing home now.

I live at the Big Sky Care Center just south of St. Peter's. And, you know, I've entered, when I became Catholic, I used to go and volunteer at a convalescent home every week. And sometimes you go into this place and it was like entering the first circle in Dante's hell.

You would smell the feces and urine and people are screaming and you wonder, you know, why you go there. But when you left, every time you left, you felt a little better about being able to participate in assisting others with their suffering and helping them struggle with their burdens for life. You know, it's a powerful, powerful reality. For myself, you know, I've been very healthy and active my entire life up until about five years ago. And at the end of my ordination, I said, I sit before you, a broken man. My disease is disabling and it will continue to progress. And barring a miracle of Christ, it will claim my life. But like I said, the struggles of this disease helped me and help others to learn the way that we should have been living all along. And sometimes people like me, there's an extreme example.

We need things like this to be able to make those changes and decisions in our life that are going to help us to become better people, to become the people that God has created us to be when he sent us to this planet. There's a really interesting movie. It's called Gladiator.

And there was one line in that I really enjoyed. There was the man played by Oliver Reed, who's now deceased. And he was the owner and trainer of the gladiators.

His name was Proximo in the movie. And he was given these gladiators a little pep talk before they went out into the arena to fight. And he said, ultimately, he said, we're all dead men. He said, sadly, we cannot choose how, but we can choose how we face that end in order that we are remembered as men. And I think this is a message for all of us. We don't get to choose what happens, only how we respond to it and how we're going to cooperate with God to overcome the difficulties and challenges that exist in our world. And a terrific job on the production by Greg Hengler and a special thanks to the diocese of Helena, Montana, for providing this footage, this audio of Father Stuart Long telling his own story.

With his mother and father at his side, Father Stuart Long, at 50 years of age, passed away in the early morning hours on June 9, 2014, in Helena, Montana, where he resided and ministered since 2010. You know, so much is written about happiness and chasing happiness. And John Stuart Mill wrote about this and said, people who chase happiness end up being unhappy. It's the people who step into others suffering that understand happiness. And my goodness, did Father Stu do that? And did people do that for Father Stu? And always understanding who is in charge for Father Stu, that was Jesus Christ.

The story of Father Stuart Long here on Our American Stories. Hey, it's your fave pop culture queen, Paris Hilton here with big news. I've created my very own 3d interactive world.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-19 01:14:06 / 2022-11-19 01:24:43 / 11

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