Father Stuart Long was a diocesan priest from Helena, Montana who was diagnosed with a terminal illness (ALS) before his ordination. Father Stu became a beloved priest, confessor and friend to countless people. His physical suffering sanctified him. Accepting the pain and weakness of each day he gave thanks to God always.

Father Stu’s witness brought dozens (if not hundreds) of Montanans to Christ. His fascinating life story (before his conversion to his deathbed decree) will be portrayed in a major motion picture set for release later this year, starring Catholic actors Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson.

Father Stu’s life story, which appeared in California Catholic as “Boxer, actor, priest” upon his death in 2014, was an inspiration for the film.

The following is part two of a three-part correspondence between Fr. Stu and his parishioners during  a pilgrimage to Lourdes and the acceptance of his fate as a dying priest.



Dear Friends in Christ,

After the trip to Lourdes my second experience of healing came in Paris. There I was graced with the most profound religious experience I have ever had. It happened at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

The Cathedral is built in the shape of the Cross. Along the outside of the main body of the church were side chapels devoted to French saints. These chapels were exquisite! If the saint were a priest, there would be his Confessional box, to the right, a painting or sculpture of the saint to the left, and the altar straight ahead with a relic resting on it. There were chapels with votive candles devoted to female saints with the clothing that they had used and worn. It was marvelous!

At the far end of the Cathedral, in the right corner, was a small chapel, simple and plain. I looked and read, “Jeanne le Arche.” I was confused because the painting looked like a young man. Observing my bewilderment a passing English speaker whispered into my ear, “Joan of Arc”.

I became suddenly aware of her as a person. I felt what I can only describe as a warm presence embracing my soul. The effects of gravity and heaviness that had been weighing on my diseased body over the last several months no longer seemed like a burden. Tears suddenly and unexpectantly streamed down my face. A tremendous sense of peace enveloped my entire being. I had never felt closer to God in my whole life.

Although I never had a special or particular devotion to St Joan, the visit to her chapel overwhelmed me. I am convinced I received a spiritual healing through her intercession as well as an interior message from Christ to “man up” and put on “the whole armor of God”.

Dear friends, I return to you renewed and strengthened to take up the mantle of Holy Orders and serve you as a priest. I commend you all to God each day in thanksgiving for your concern and support. I am sincerely thankful for all that you do for me. Your efforts are a sign of a true Christian Community in action. God bless you all abundantly!

With my thanks and prayers, Deacon Stu Long.

PS — Bishop George Leo Thomas said that pending one final formality, I will be ordained December 14, 2007 at the Cathedral of St. Helena!

Read part 1 of this series.