Monday, December 29, 2014

Mark Wahlberg and The Secret to a Holy Family


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A few days before Christmas, Mark Wahlberg was on the Kelly and Michael Show, now Kelly and Michael. And us -- my generation know him better as Marky Mark from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Yeah, you got that? But he's gone on to be the professional Mark Wahlberg, and he really is. He's an outstanding actor. And believe it or not, he's an outstanding Catholic.

I'm actually going to use him and his model of family for the image of the Holy family. So for those of you who don't know who Mark Wahlberg is, you might know him when I name some of the movies. He was in Boogie Nights, Three Kings, The Perfect Storm, Planet of the Apes, Rock Star, The Italian Job. He won an Academy Award for the best supporting actor in The Departed. He was in The Other Guys, The Fighter. You might know him from Ted, that movie with the teddy bear that was really bad and obscene, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. Some of the kids might know him from Transformers.

So he was on Kelly and Michael. And as he was being interviewed, they asked him, "What are you going to do for the holidays?" And when he got on to the show, he said by the way, "Merry Christmas" to everybody, and Kelly and Michael were very quick to say, "Happy Holidays." And he said, "Merry Christmas," like three or four times, and every time they corrected him "Happy Holidays" to be politically correct.

And so they asked him, "What are you going to do for Christmas?" And he said, "We're going to spend Christmas in our house and then we're going to Barbados for vacation with my wife and family. I was thinking about somewhere cold and kind of scenic where there is snow and let the kids snowboard, and my wife said that would be the end of our marriage. My wife is from Florida and she only likes warm weather. I'm happy to take my wife wherever she wants to go."

So they had a sneak peek of their holiday picture. So you know you have the family picture everybody sends out for Christmas now, where you have all the kids and mom and dad, and everybody looks beautiful and happy. So they showed this picture, and it was beautiful. And all of a sudden you hear everybody on the set laughing, because when they showed the picture, Kelly said, "You know what? Everybody is smiling, but you look like you are in pain."

And Mark Wahlberg said, "Yes, I was in pain because trying to get these kids to sit down and pose for a picture when all they want to do is play. And of course, that's the one picture out of 500 that my wife chooses, right, the one where I'm looking like that. And of course she wants to go from one location to the other and all these different sets and costumes and dresses, and all the kids want to do is play, and they're running around like crazy. You can't make them do some organized photo shoot.

"So it's going crazy, and I'm yelling at them, and everybody is all over the place, and that's the picture that she chooses. And my wife still manages to get a smirk while all of that is going on. She loves the holidays.

"You know, I want to push the religious aspect of Christmas a little bit more, like no gifts and, hey, let's go to church."

And Kelly said, "How did that work out for you?"

He goes, "The same way as the winter vacation. I'm not suggesting anything anymore."

So he went on to talk about how he's been really changing his life. So he's removed, for the last seven years, he's been trying to remove all of his tattoos. And he, you know, as some of you may know, lived a very bad life after he was out of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. He went on to do some pretty bad things, and he actually went to jail and he did some time and he hurt some people. He did some pretty horrible things. He's had a huge conversion. And he goes on now to be famous, right? He's really made it as a famous movie star, but he says that "being Catholic is the most important aspect of my life."

He said this at an interview:

Once I focused on my faith, wonderful things started happening to me. And I don't mean professionally. That's not what that's about. These days I'll be in church and people come up to me and say -- now, remember he's Catholic, and being in a Catholic church, and people come up to him and say, "Do you mind if I sit and pray with you?" And they will start praying, and it will turn out that they're praying for their new movie to be a success or whatever. I'm like, this is not what I'm here for. For me to sit down and ask for material things is ridiculous. It's much bigger than that. I want to serve God and to be a good human being and to make up for the mistakes that I made and the pain that I put people through. That's what I am praying for, and that's what I recommend to anybody.

His whole life changed when he centered his life on prayer, on his faith and on his family. He stayed focused on what was most important in life, and his career followed that path.

Wahlberg goes on to say, "Being a good actor or good producer, that's not going to help me sleep at night, or is not going to help me get 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."

He loves his family. Remember, this is coming from the successful actor. So often we see people when they get success, they get the fame, what happens to their married life and their families? It usually falls apart. He's got something right here.

So how does he stay so focused when he's this man of Hollywood? He's rich. He's famous. He can fly to all these places for vacation. And it goes back to his faith. He actually has a spiritual director. So Father Flavin is his parish priest. And Father Flavin has known Mark Wahlberg since he was 13 years old. He's known him for all these years. He helped him when he was in jail.

Wahlberg said, "He's been in life since I was 13. He married me and my wife and baptized all of my children," and he also helped him to lead and guide him in some of the movie choices that he makes. And, no, he's not always been in great movies, but Wahlberg says that helps show some of the humanity. One of the most powerful things about it is his daily life.

So, he begins every day in prayer and he goes to daily mass. And if he can't go to daily mass for some reason, he goes into whatever local Catholic church he can find, and he spends ten minutes in prayer and spends some quality time with Jesus.

So he said, "The first thing I do when I start my day is I get down on my hands and knees and I give thanks to God." So he gets down on his hands and knees and thanks God for his life. "If I can start my day off by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I'm doing the right thing. That ten minutes helps me in every way throughout the day." So he begins every day with ten minutes in prayer.

Mark Wahlberg and his family and his faith are witnesses to Hollywood, and I think to all of us, of what it truly means to be a holy family and how Jesus will really help and lead us and guide us through the crazy world that we live in. If he can lead and guide Mark Wahlberg through the craziness he's been through, believe me, he can lead and guide each and every one of us through whatever craziness we face.

So today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.

When I was born, my mother, she did this with all six of us, but she kind of consecrated us to God. With each one of us, she blessed us and asked God for these three things. She said, "Please help my child to be holy, healthy and happy," in that order. To be holy, healthy and happy. That was her prayer for each one of us when we were born. And the truth is, it does need to be in that order. Holiness first, healthiness and then happiness.

Sometimes we get mixed up if we go in the opposite order and we want happiness first or healthiness first, and we kind of put holiness on the back burner. Holiness has to come first.

What does it mean to have a holy family? When we hear in the scripture today, "God sets a father in honor over his children." So think about this. Mark Wahlberg is a spiritual leader of his family. He is the one that is leading family in the faith. The truth is, in our faith tradition, it's always been the father figure that has been the teacher, the primary teacher of the faith. We even say this at baptisms, that the father, that he be not only the primary teacher, but the best teachers of the faith. The father is really supposed to be the one that leads the family in the faith. And I think the difficulty so often we've gotten our priorities mixed up.

Oftentimes, when I'll bury a father, their children will tell me about what was important to him, and they will say to me, "My father never missed a day of work in his whole life." And they think -- that's a wonderful virtue by the way. But they say that's what he prided above all. He never missed a day of work in his whole life. Now, he didn't go to church or he didn't really pray to God, or anything like that. He was a good guy, but he never missed a day of work in his whole life. Did that father help his children get into heaven? No. He missed the boat, totally. He focused his whole life thinking he was doing good, thinking that work was the most important thing. But the most important thing is not work. It's God.

Imagine if a child said to me, "My father never missed a mass a day of his whole life," or say, "He never missed a Sunday mass or Holy day a day in his whole life." You've got 52 masses a year, plus the Holy days. Let's say 60. You times that by 80. That's -- what is that? Eight times six. What is it? Somebody yell it loud that can do math.


Four hundred eighty thousand. 480. Yeah, but like 80 years. Is that it? Forty-eight hundred. Thank you. None of you know math.

So imagine if 4800 times God was put first. Now, I know all of you today on Sunday, Sunday mass right now, you have given up something to be here, right? Maybe it's -- maybe you could have slept in. I don't know what it is. You've given up something to be here Sunday, and Sunday after Sundayafter Sunday after Sunday you've given up something. You have chosen holiness over something else 4800 times over your whole life.

Then we hear in the second reading, "Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord forgives, so must you do. And over all these put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts."

That's what truly holiness is, when the peace of Christ is at the center of our lives and he controls our hearts.

"Let the word of God dwell richly in you." How does that happen? It happens by coming to mass every Sunday and hearing the word of God. And as Mark Wahlberg did, every day spending ten minutes letting the word of God dwell richly in us.

"Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in gratitude in your hearts to God."

So we hear, you know, Jesus made it very simple. He said if you want to get to heaven, there's only two commandments. The first is love God with all of your heart, all of your mind and all of your soul. And the second is love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two commandments, and all of the commandments fall under these.

I think the problem is we've lost the first one: Love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul. That's what makes us holy. We just kind of focused on the second one, which is the good-guy heresy, I'd like to say. Just be a good guy and that's enough. That's wonderful, but if you are not loving God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, you're failing, we're failing in our priorities.

So finally we hear in the Gospel, Jesus is consecrated. He's taken to the temple. So right after he is born, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple and they lay him down in the altar. Now, the altar was always a symbol of sacrifice. So in the temple back in those times, 2000 years ago, they would sacrifice animals. And that's why they were taking a pair of turtle doves. They would sacrifice animals for God to make atonement for their sins.

Jesus, they actually took Jesus to the altar and laid him on the altar and they gave their son to God. And that's when we heard Simeon say, "Now you let your servant go in peace, for your word has been fulfilled."

Notice for Mary, she chose holiness first, but happiness didn't follow, because we hear in the Gospel the prophet says to her, "In your heart, Mary, a sword shall pierce." Mary would experience pain by giving her child to God. Holiness would not ultimately lead, in all cases, to happiness. I'm sure there were many happy occasions for Mary, but she's known as the sorrowful mother because holiness came first.

So the truth is, for all of us, that's the order, the priority that we ought to have with our families: Holy, healthy and happy. We want all three. And hopefully we do have all three, but they have to come in order. And sometimes healthiness and happiness don't happen, but holiness can always happen.

And just as Mark Wahlberg had been living a horrible life, and he was saved and kind of turned back to God, his whole life changed and he took once more that role of being the spiritual father of the family. He's the one that insists that Christmas really is about Christ. He's the one that insists on daily prayer and going to mass together as a family and really focusing on what Christmas is really about. He's the one that goes on a talk show and says, "Merry Christmas" when everybody else says "Happy Holidays." Something has changed in him.

So for all of us, in order for us to have holy families, we truly do need to keep our priorities in order. I think we can do that by Sunday mass, maybe even daily mass, and by at least daily prayer by taking ten minutes, getting down on our knees as we start our day and asking God to help make us and our families holy, happy and healthy.

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