The 15-year-old boy threw rocks and racial epithets at a group of black children. “Kill the n*****s!” he screamed as he terrorized them.
The resulting civil rights injunction for the hate crime appeared to be no deterrent as the youth, two years later, attacked two Vietnamese men during an attempted robbery. He bashed the one over the head with a long wooden stick while shouting, “Vietnam f***ing s***,” and punched the other in the face while mocking his “slant-eyed looks.”
This time the young man, Mark Wahlberg, was charged with attempted murder—a charge that was reduced to criminal contempt. Led away in shackles to Boston’s Deer Island House of Correction, as he later described it, apologized, “making sure I paid my debt to society and continue to try and do things that make up for the mistakes that I’ve made.”
Wahlberg’s turn-around began with Father Flavin, a parish priest who pushed him to make drastic changes in his life. Flavin has remained a key part of the actor’s life. “He married me and my wife and baptized all my children,” Wahlberg says. It’s also believed that he helps Wahlberg choose movie roles that “honor his religious roots.”
Mark Wahlberg acknowledges the role that faith had in turning his life around and has no qualms about saying so, nor about practicing his faith in public. This past Ash Wednesday the actor wore an ash cross on his forehead while sitting for an interview on national television.
“I don’t want to jam it down anybody’s throat, but I do not deny my faith. That’s an even bigger sin. You know, it’s not popular in my industry, but I cannot deny my faith. It’s important for me to share that with people. But, I have friends from all walks of life and all different types of faiths and religions, so it’s important to respect and honor them as well.”
A typical day in the actor’s life begins with prayer at a local Catholic Church, wherever he is. Even when scheduling constraints prevent him from making it to daily Mass, he’ll at least spend a few minutes in church.
“The first thing I do when I start my day is, I get down on my hands and knees and give thanks to God,” he says. “If I can start my day out by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I’m doing the right thing. That 10 minutes helps me in every way throughout the day.”
“Being a Catholic,” Wahlberg says, “is the most important aspect of my life. Being a good actor or a good producer: that’s not going to help me sleep at night or get me into heaven. The most important thing from where I sit is to be a good father, a good husband, and a good human being – a man who helps his fellow man and raises his kids to be good human beings too. Every single aspect of my family life is joy.”
Quite likely there are others in Mark Wahlberg’s profession who center their lives around their faith rather than the other way around. Quite likely there are those in the entertainment industry who are happy and fulfilled professionally, personally and spiritually concerning this world and the next. But it is doubtful that many have traveled as much road. As Wahlberg says, “If it all ended today, I’d be happy. I’ve had such an amazing journey.”