He could have been fighting real bad guys instead of pretending to fight them in movies!

Tom Cruise is a super famous movie star (Mission Impossible, Top Gun, et al.), recognizable around the world. He’s also one of the most visible advocates for Scientology.

But his life almost turned out very differently: as a young man, he was a devout Catholic, attended a Catholic seminary, and was on track to become a priest –  until he got kicked out.

Born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV in New York, Cruise’s family was Catholic, but his father was abusive. In elementary school his family moved to Canada for his father’s work, but in middle school his mother left his abusive father and took Cruise and his three sisters back to the United States.

As a teenager, he met Fr. Ric Schneider, who persuaded him to enter St. Francis Seminary School in Cincinnati, OH.

“Tom was instantly hooked,” the priest later said. And though the priest said he thought Cruise was lured by the chance at a free education, one of Cruise’s best friends at the time, Shane Dempler, says Cruise was serious about the priesthood.

“He had a very strong Catholic faith,” Dempler recalls. “We went to Mass, spent time in the chapel and enjoyed hearing stories from the priests. We thought the priests had a great lifestyle and we were really interested in priesthood.”

They almost didn’t let Cruise in. The school had an IQ cut-off of 110, and he got exactly that score on their test. Though Cruise never did well in school, he excelled at sports and joined their drama club.

But then it all came to an end. Cruise and Dempler, Dempler says, started to break the rules. For one, they would regularly sneak out and smoke cigarettes.

But what really got them in trouble was much bigger: Dempler and Cruise decided to steal some liquor from the private rooms of the Franciscans. Dempler snuck into the room, found the liquor, and tossed several bottles out the window to Cruise down below. Most of the bottles broke, but they managed to secure a few. Word spread among the other seminarians, and soon a big group of them were in the woods drinking the hard liquor. A few of them were later found drunk by the Franciscans, and they confessed where they had gotten the liquor.

“The school wrote a letter to our parents saying they liked us both, but would prefer if we didn’t return,” Dempler explains. “So we weren’t kicked out, just preferred not to go.”

So Cruise left seminary, and with it any plans to become a priest. He decided to try his hand at acting instead, and 5 years later, just before turning 20, he got his breakout role in the movie Taps. Soon after that came Risky Business, then Top Gun, and the rest is cinematic history.

Unfortunately, he didn’t keep his once-devout Catholic faith in the process. After hitting it big, his first (of unfortunately several) wives introduced him to Scientology – and he fully embraced it. Since the early 1990s, he has been deeply involved, raising huge sums of money for the organization and publicly advocating for it.

Many people who were once devout Catholics can find that they can’t really ever get away from it. So who knows if he may ever return.

So say a prayer for Tom Cruise!

[See also: The Miracle that Led “Obi-Wan Kenobi” to Convert to Catholicism]

[See also: Jim Caviezel’s Stunning Testimony from Playing Jesus in “The Passion”]

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