He was 16, when he had the experience of the prison for the first time. Mark, the youngest of the nine children in the Wahlberg family, had a turned a hell of juvenile by that age. Born on 5th June 1971 in Dorchester, Mark Wahlberg’s parents separated when he was just 11 years old. As in the case of many youngsters who lost their way, the ‘fall’ of the Boston boy ‘Mark’ was an inevitable outcome of the separation of his parents. His mother has later remorsefully admitted that her own emotional neglect was the underlying cause for her youngest son’s descent into juvenile delinquency.
At the age of 14, Mark Wahlberg dropped out of school and began to indulge in all sorts of nefarious activities including hustling, stealing, and selling drugs. Day after day, young Mark plunged into the abyss of crime and cruelty, until the age of 16 when he was arrested for brutally manhandling a Vietnamese man.
A new dawn in the prison
Prison, generally regarded as a cage of darkness, loneliness and dejection, turned out to be a place of resurrection for Wahlberg. During the dead hours of night caged within the silent and lonely prison walls, Mark reflected on life and its meaning. Light began to flow into his heart, filling his heart with positive thoughts and morale-lifting ambitions. He got struck with the idea of chiseling his physique by rigorous exercises, which he did. “I would be a different man when I come out of this prison after 45 days” Mark thought.
Flavin, the guardian angel
There was one man profoundly instrumental and influential in Mark’s life and transformation. His name was Father Flavin, a young Catholic priest, who would remain his spiritual director for life.
Mark later recalled the priest in an interview: “It was around 2 a.m. in one of Boston’s toughest neighborhoods. Protected by darkness, we were selling drugs on a street corner. But that night we were being watched – not by undercover cops, but by a fearless, young priest.”
Mark and his gang were astonished by the presence of Father Flavin, and wondered what the priest was doing at an hour when the dawn was still far distant. At that instance, the fearless Father walked straight into the gang and asked: ‘‘what the heck are you doing?’’ The priest, who kenw Wahlberg from his early teens, had dedicated himself to save Mark the baddie.
That is how Mark described the role played by Father Flavin in his life: ‘‘It took me far too long to realize that the real heroes are there all the time. Where we grew up, we had a tendency to look for the wrong role models in the wrong places. But he helped us realize who the real heroes are. He is my hero, my mentor, my friend, my brother.”
The Rise of ‘Marky Mark’
Mark emerged from the prison a changed man with radiant dreams on life. By that time, his older brother Donnie had rocketed to stardom as one of five fresh-faced members of the pop band New Kids on the Block. Donnie wanted to redeem his brother. Mark was not a good singer like his brother, but he had dashing looks and an uncommon charisma. Hence he took on the rap name ‘Marky Mark’. Their first album ‘Music for the People’ was out by 1991, which became a hit, raising Mark to stardom. Calvin Klein, the leading innerwear brand roped him for their new campaign, thanks to his Apollo-like chiseled figure.
To the heights of Hollywood
A career shift to acting took Mark to greater heights. In 1993, Wahlberg appeared in television movie The Substitute, and a year later, he had a grand entry into the big screen through the movie Renaissance Man. The Basketball Diaries, released in 1995 invented the gifted actor in him, and Mark’s career graph began to soar.
Three Kings, which hit the screen in 1999, was another landmark. The celebrated film The Perfect Storm came the very next year, followed by the remake of the classic The Planet of the Apes. Mark’s acting career touched another highpoint when his performance in the Martin Scorsese film The Departed was nominated for the Academy Award. Many noted movies came on his way, like Ted, Lone Survivor, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Ted 2.
“Being a Catholic is the most important aspect of my life”
It is easy to forget God, when you are basking in glory of success, especailly when you are in the limelight of stardom with everything you can desire are at your beck and call. But, what makes Wahlberg a special person is his profound faith in God and his attitude of life. Wahlberg once said in an interview: “Being a Catholic is the most important aspect of my life.”
Listen to these words coming right from the lips of a celebrated Hollywood actor: “Once I focused on my faith wonderful things started happening for me. And I don’t mean professionally – that’s not what it’s about. These days, I’ll be in church and people will come up to me and say: ‘Do you mind if I sit and pray with you?’ And they’ll start praying and it’ll turn out they’re praying for their new movie to be a success or whatever, and I’m like, this is not what I come here for. For me to sit down and ask for material things is ridiculous. It’s a much bigger picture than that. I want to serve God and to be a good human being and to make up for the mistakes I made and the pain I put people through. That’s what I’m praying for, and I recommend it to anybody.”
“I go to church everyday!”
Wow! Do you find it hard to believe? A celebrity with such a hectic schedule! But it is true. Thus says Mark Wahlberg about his daily spiritual excercises: “I try to go to Mass every day, but I definitely go to the church everyday. That’s how I start my day off. I get in there for about 15-20 minutes and say my prayers.” He adds that it brings “ a very clear focus on what’s important. Expressing my gratitude of what has been bestowed upon me, and a reminder everyday of what I need to do and what I need to stay away from.”
“I pray to be a good servant to God”
When asked what he prays when is in the church, Wahlberg gives a reply only a real Catholic can give. “I pray to be a good servant to God, a father, a husband, a good leader of those that look up to me, and a good follower to those people who are serving God, doing the right thing, and people that I can look up to an try to emulate.”
Merciful God. A merciful Pope
Wahlberg is all praise for Pope Francis. A role model, whom he is trying to to emulate, Pope Francis, for him, is an embodiment of mercy and forgiveness.
A true family man
We have heard stories of celebrities who have hardly any time to spend for their family. Here you have a different man. He loves spending his time with his family, when ever he is not working.
Wahlberg says: “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.”
Rhea Durham is Mark Wahlberg’s spouse. They have four children Ella, Michael, Brendan and Grace Margaret.
Faith is freedom. Jesus Christ has said in the gospels: “The truth shall set you free.’ Mark Wahlberg’s life story has been an odyssey from the confines of sin and misery to the boundless freedom of the love of Christ. Once touched by the divine love of Jesus Christ, he became a changed man. An enormously admired celebrity, Wahlberg finds time every day to go to church and pray to God. He maintains his relationship with God so beautifully. He gives paramount importance to family relations in a world abounding in broken relationships.
He is a celebrity with wisdom in heart. The words, “the most important thing from where I sit is to be a good father, a good husband, and a good human being” are a testimony to his profound spiritual personality. Among the celebrities, he stands as a perfect model to emulate. In the midst of your phenomenal triumphs and celebrity status, you can still be a good servant of God, and above all, a good human being.