Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Mark Wahlberg and the Desire to Be a Saint

Mark Wahlberg

(All Saints’ Day 2017: This homily was given on November 1, 2017 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3: 1-3; Matthew 5: 1-12a.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: All Saints 2017]

I want to begin my homily on this All Saints’ Day by speaking about Mark Wahlberg, the well-known actor.  Now if you know anything about him—and his personal and professional history—you might find it a little odd that somebody would use his name and the word “saints” in the same sentence!

But that’s precisely the point.

Wahlberg has become a practicing Catholic in recent years, but prior to that he was definitely not what you would call a “good role model” for our youth.  Among other things he was involved with gangs, he spent some time in jail for assaulting a Vietnamese immigrant, and he made some bad decisions in terms of the roles he played in feature films.  Last month he spoke at a Catholic youth conference out in Chicago, and there he said, “I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I’ve made some poor choices in my past.”  When he was asked about particular movies that he regrets starring in, he mentioned “Boogie Nights” specifically—a film in which he played a porn star.

And this is a good thing!  It’s good that he feels this kind of regret for some of the roles he’s taken in the past.  It shows that he’s developing a good conscience.

Now he’s got a long way to go—even his views on things like so-called “gay marriage” need some refining.  But it does seem that he has the desire to move forward, the desire to grow closer to God, the desire to become “the best possible version of himself”—the desire, in other words, to be a saint.

Which is the first step to becoming one!

When he goes to Mass today, on this holy day of obligation, I hope and pray that his desire for sanctity will intensify—because that’s one of the purposes of this celebration!  It’s one of the reasons we have All Saints’ Day on the Church’s liturgical calendar.  We gather here to honor our brothers and sisters who’ve already made it to heaven; our brothers and sisters who lived the Beatitudes, and who are now a part of that vast crowd that St. John saw in that vision we heard about in today’s first reading from Revelation 7.  We gather, in other words to honor ALL the saints of heaven: the canonized and the un-canonized.

But, in honoring them the Church wants us also to be inspired by them!  The Church wants us to be inspired by them to pursue holiness ourselves.

Mark Wahlberg needs that inspiration (especially in the environment he lives and works in).  But we all need it too, because we’re living right now in a culture that’s constantly pulling us away from God and his truth.

All you saints of God, pray for Mark Wahlberg and for us, that we will have a deep, strong, unwavering desire to become saints ourselves.  And pray that we will ACT on this desire each and every day of our lives. Amen.