A Father’s Love – Lessons from Father Stu

To Lead you to that Love, is the reason God gave me the scenic route to die.

Father Stu

I finally sat down today and watched the movie Father Stu.

After hearing all the controversy over the foul language and some recommendations to avoid watching it with children, my interest was peaked to see a PG-13 version available to rent. The children and I geared up with our snacks and baby-friendly zone for happy appetites and little distraction only to realize we rented the rated R version by mistake. I hesitated to continue and then the thought entered my mind the language they were about to hear was no less than what they’d already heard from the world around them.

We do our best to give our children the shelter they need to face the difficulties of simply growing into themselves without being bullied over by the storms raging around them. But at some point we have to allow themselves a safe place to test who they are becoming. Isn’t that what home is for?

As it turned out, I was right.

At first I cringed, as my ten-year old daughter covered her ears and starred at me. Mom! Do we have to watch this? Her innocence and purity gives me hope. She has alway been the voice of modesty in our home. I often pondered the way her natural disdain for profanity and immodesty seemed present almost right away. At times it made me sorrowful that I could not keep mine longer as a young girl and I have found myself watching over it jealously at times for her to keep it as long as she can. To say I am sensitive to it may be an understatement. I began to question my judgement at the sight of her eyes starring back at me with horror.

I admit, the cacophony of foul words was assaulting to my ears. It made me cringe as I watched the priest and everyone Stu interacted with have a similar reaction. But that’s also when I realized the beauty of grace at work. To be a Christian in today’s world, we will have to learn to be in the world without developing such a disdain for it that we lose our ability to love others who are very much in it.

It is a privilege to be able to teach from the couch and not the streets. A privilege very few are given.

I embraced the moment of learning.

As a director for a school of ministry where many people seek after God much like Father Stu did at first, like a bone to be caught in the mouth or a fight to be won, I was pleased to be reminded that adversity too is a privilege. Encountering God is messy. His Divine Will and our plans often never align with perfection. I can’t keep my daughter from the assaults this world will give her, but I can encourage her that when it does she needn’t be afraid of it ruining her purity. In fact, it’s a good reminder of the gift she’s been given. If she can face the Stu’s of this world with hope for their conversion and not let it harden her heart then maybe there is still hope for humanity. There is a reason God moves through the hands of virgins.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m not condoning that profanity is acceptible. My favorite line was when the priest pointed out through the sacrament of reconciliation that God’s grace was calling him to deeper levels of conversion. He recommended starting by cleaning up his language.

The Scriptures are pretty clear on the subject.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:29

Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

Ephesians 5:4

It’s actually quite interesting to see how holiness transforms a person in this regard.

I’ve also noted too how much it’s resurgence can be a sign that one needs to frequent the sacraments a little more often for more of that transformative grace.

Once Stu made it past this point, it was clear the transformative grace was at work within him, which he says came to him through Our Blessed Mother. Another point of conversion I loved sharing with my children. It’s so rare these days to see a Hollywood picture portray Mary in such a way that isn’t painfully full of sorrow and demonic influence. For this reason alone I would watch this movie a thousand times.

But even more than Father Stu’s conversion, I think, is the way his life helped those around him encounter the Lord.

I know Mel Gibson has had his share of brokeness, but I couldn’t help but think how much this movie and his portrayal of Bill Long must have been a moment of conversion for himself too. Maybe it was knowing his own struggle in Hollywood that lended to his heartwarming portrayal of this father afflicted by grief or my own experience with healing ministry and the life-giving freedom that comes when one is set free from the burdens we carry that prompted me to consider the poignancy of what was being portrayed. But to say it moved me is a simple use of words. So much of life is caught and not taught. I prayed in that moment that my children would be able to look into the brokenesss of another man’s life and see his beauty when so many can only see the bruises.

He [God] doesn’t promise our stories will make sense, but He does promise they’ll find their greater purpose if we’re patient.

In today’s confused generation, the name ‘father’ has become just as foul-mouthed to say as ‘priest’. The nature of a man has become so convaluded and under assault that many have forgotten how to see the beauty, much less the gift, in either one.

Father Stu reminds all of us the real worth of a man lies not in the language he is born into but in his calling and in his character. Every man is called to be a son of Our Heavenly Father. Every man is called to be holy as Our Father is holy. Every man, no matter how beautiful or bruised, gentle or foul, is called to live his life in such a way that it leads others to the Father’s House.

The Scriptures tell us there is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends. Suffering is a gift of great love no matter how big or small. There is no greater suffering on earth than a Father’s love. What a father gives for his flock or his family is something only a father can give. And our world is in desperate need of it.

This Father’s Day, I’m remembering all our fathers and thanking God for each of you. May Saint Joseph continue to lead you to that Love and grant you wisdom to live a life that we can follow.

Whether by offering his son, or for watching one die, a father’s just looking for love, like the rest of us. Imagine how it must’ve felt for Joseph… to be the less important father.

In his name, you pray for penance.

Father Stu

Saint Joseph, pray for us. 🙏🏼

Let us know your thoughts? Were we right on or do we need more coffee?