The Deacon's Bench

Sometimes, the most effective evangelists use unexpected tools. This fascinating piece from The Catholic Herald in Wisconsin profiles an actor who is turning his passion for theater into The Passion:

Silence enveloped the audience at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, “Where was I when my God was nailed to a tree?” echoing through the darkness.

Stepping away from his dramatic mask, Jeremy Stanbary, with his booming, deep voice, addressed the crowd he had just transported to the streets of Jerusalem.

“I hope and pray we were able to give you something,” Stanbary said. “‘The Scrutiny Passion’ is a chance for me to really scrutinize my own life and my own relationship with Christ, to allow myself to enter more deeply into Lent.”

Greeted with applause, the actor, playwright, artist, founder and executive director of Epiphany Studio Productions left his mark in Milwaukee March 7 through his original production of “The Scrutiny Passion,” a look at the passion of Christ through the eyes of those in the scrutiny Gospels – the woman at the well, man born blind and Lazarus.

Stanbary moved from role to role throughout the cathedral with ease – adjusting the lights, playing the roles of a disciple and the blind man, greeting the audience, discussing errors from the night’s performance and striking the set.

While for some actors it is business, for Stanbary, it is his answer to God’s call.

“It’s my identity,” Stanbary said over fish and French fries after the Milwaukee performance of “The Scrutiny Passion.” “I struggle with my sins, faults and failures. My Catholic faith really informs everything that I do. I try to find my identity in Christ. Jesus Christ fully reveals humanity through himself. The closer I become to Christ, the more fully human I become.”

Today, God is at the center of his life, but for Stanbary, who grew up in Sioux Falls, S.D., it was not always the case. A self-described “lost cause” in his youth, Stanbary, 29, raised Catholic, found himself wrapped up in the lights of the entertainment world as a freshman at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, where he majored in theatre arts.

“I was living my life in a way that I thought would make me happy,” Stanbary said.

Faith took a backseat until he received the ultimate wake up call.

“I found out I was going to be a father,” Stanbary said. “It totally turned my life upside down. Thanks be to God, we chose life. I knew then that I had to make some changes and I knew I couldn’t make those changes on my own.”

Turning his life over to God, he returned to the sacraments and welcomed son, Aidan, now 10, into the world. Stanbary visits his son in Chicago often, reserving the entire month of August for father and son bonding time.

“He is definitely the instrument God used to bring me back to him and his mercy and his providence and his plan,” Stanbary said.

There’s much more at the link. And you can find out more about Stanbary’s work at his website.