He’s one of Hollywood’s hunkiest heartthrobs. But behind Mark Wahlberg’s successful career, beautiful family, and charming smile, you’ll discover a man whose journey displays God’s powerful and redemptive ways. This is amazing.
Mark Wahlberg believes in God. And if you meet him in person, you’ll quickly learn that he’s unashamed to tell you so.
But Wahlberg doesn’t claim to be a perfect Christian. In fact, he admits that many of his life’s deepest struggles are what caused him to turn to his faith.
Wahlberg’s latest film about the Boston marathon bombing, “Patriot’s Day“, releases nationally on January 13th. And for Wahlberg, this project is especially important to him. In the film, Wahlberg plays the role of Boston Police Department Sergeant Tommy Saunders, who finds himself in the aftermath of the horrifying terrorist attack.
In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE last week, Mark Wahlberg opened up about how he, and his hometown of Boston, have changed for the better over the years — and why it continues to inspire him to this day.
Today Mark Wahlberg is one of Hollywood’s most successful actors, but he hasn’t always had it easy. While growing up in Boston, Mark got into quite a bit of trouble. And like many celebrities of our day, Wahlberg wrestled with severe addiction and even served time in prison as a teen.
Wahlberg was the youngest of nine children born to Alma Elaine (Donnelly), who was a bank clerk and a nurse’s aide, and Donald E. Wahlberg, Sr., who was a delivery driver. The Wahlbergs were a poor, close-knit family, all living in a three bedroom apartment .
But sadly, one day everything changed for the 11-year-old Wahlberg. Life took a dramatic turn for the worse when his parents split up in a nasty divorce. Living in the Boston district of Dorchester, Massachusetts, it was there that Wahlberg was forced to grow up quickly.
By age 13, Wahlberg had developed a serious addiction to cocaine among other destructive substances. At just 14 years old, Wahlberg dropped out of school, joined a ruthless gang, and began making his living on the streets—hustling, stealing, and dealing drugs. And with each passing day, young Wahlberg’s rebellious, anger-riddled, and destructive ways mounted.
Wahlberg was always in trouble and had almost regular run-ins with the law. In retrospect, Mark’s mother has since blamed her own emotional neglect for Mark’s wild and reckless ways as a young man.
Throughout those years, Wahlberg was arrested a reported 20-25 times for one horrific reason or another. But two years after dropping out of the 9th grade, Wahlberg’s chaotic life finally came to a crashing halt.
The young teen was arrested and charged with attempted murder for his role in the savage beating of a Vietnamese man.
Wahlberg’s sentencing was later reduced to criminal contempt, which carried a maximum sentence of ten years. After pleading guilty, he was given a two year sentence at the Deer Island House of Correction in Boston.
While imprisoned, young Wahlberg finally hit rock bottom — and that’s precisely where God helped him turn his life around. 16-year-old Wahlberg’s sentencing was reduced, but nonetheless, God sovereignly used the 45-day stint in prison to change his life forever.
“As soon as I began that life of crime, there was always a voice in my head telling me I was going to end up in jail. Three of my brothers had done time. My sister went to prison so many times I lost count. Finally I was there, locked up with the kind of guys I’d always wanted to be like. Now I’d earned my stripes and I was just like them and I realized it wasn’t what I wanted at all. I’d ended up in the worst place I could possibly imagine and I never wanted to go back”, Mark Wahlberg revealed.
While serving time, Wahlberg had plenty of time to reflect on his life and the choices he made leading up to his incarceration. Wahlberg devoted himself to becoming a better man and discovered that working out proved to be a good outlet for him. The young man had truly been transformed from the inside out and he learned to take full responsibility for his actions.
Wahlberg was quoted saying, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life and I’ve done bad things. But I don’t blame my upbringing for that. I won’t behave like a victim so that I will have a convenient reason for victimizing others. Everything I did wrong was my own fault. I was taught the difference between right and wrong at an early age. I take full responsibility.”
After being released from prison, Mark went straight to work, employed as a bricklayer — working long hours of manual labor with minimal pay. It was a very modest earning compared to the cash he’d made selling drugs, but Mark was more concerned with staying clean than making money. With his new life, Mark fully dedicated his life to Christ.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Mark Wahlberg’s big break came thanks to his older brother, Donnie, who’d decided to help him find his own niche in the music business. Donnie Wahlberg was already famous as a member of The New Kids on the Block, a band Mark had initially been a member of at the age of 13, but quit before the group became their big break.
With help from his older brother, Mark formed the band Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Mark landed a record deal and produced his first record. At the ripe age of 19-years-old, Mark released his group’s debut album, Music for the People, which ended up going Platinum thanks largely to the hit single Good Vibrations and the follow up single Wildside.
This former street hustler was an overnight breakout success and living proof that any young man could turn his life around — no matter how far gone he was.
The handsome young Mark Wahlberg eventually dropped his ‘Marky Mark’ rap name and went on to find success in modeling and also released a work-out video. Wahlberg landed a two-year contract with the designer Calvin Klein, and went on to be featured on hundreds of ad campaigns.
To further his career, Mark and decided to take up acting. Despite early skepticism by critics, he made the switch successfully, with his first critical success coming from appearing in Renaissance Man, (1994), in which he played one of a group of Army recruits taught by an ex-advertising salesman, played by Danny DeVito.
Having been bought up a Catholic, it was his old Parish Priest, Father James Flavin, who helped him to turn his life around. He told the Daily Mail in 2009 that Flavin was “the one person who never gave up on me” and even encouraged him to take up acting.
Wahlberg revealed, “He [Father James Flavin] was always there for me, through the good times and the bad. Back then there was more bad times than good. But he always had faith that I could change my ways. He was the first to recognize the actor in me.”
And throughout his great success as a young actor, Mark remained determined to inspire other young men to leave the street-life behind, encouraging them that “clean living is rewarding.”
With every new film, Wahlberg’s unparalleled success mounted as countless Americans fell in love with the street-thug-turned-actor. For the next two decades, dozens of films featuring Mark Wahlberg such as Three Kings (1999), The Perfect Storm (2000), The Italian Job (2003), The Departed (2006), and Shooter (2007), were major box-office hits.
Additionally, Wahlberg was nominated for more than 50 awards — including 2 Academy Awards, 2 Golden Globe Awards, and 7 Primetime Emmy Awards and countless others.
Mark recalled the moment he first phoned his parents to tell them the news of his Academy Award nomination, “I told my parents that I was nominated for an Academy Award, and of course, they were in tears — of joy. It was the first time that I remember calling them and making them cry — but for a good reason. Usually it’s, ‘Mom, I’m in Quincy I got arrested for stealing a bike, you gotta come bail me out.'”
But despite his successful acting career, Mark Wahlberg doesn’t consider it his biggest blessing. Instead of seeking the fleeting love of fame and fortune, Mark Wahlberg remains a devoted husband and family man.
After being together for over fourteen years, Mark recently recalled the moment he first met his wife — the beautiful model, Rhea Durham. Mark explained that their shared faith and respect for God was how he knew without a shadow of a doubt that Durham was ‘the one’.
Wahlberg revealed, “We met in New York City, while I was doing a press junket. I asked her if she wanted to come out with me, and she said yes. Then I asked her if she wanted to come to church with me the next morning, and she said yes again. So that was our first date: St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. I knew shortly after that she was the one, but I still had to make sure that I was able to be the man I needed to be.”
Today, Mark and Rhea Whalberg are the proud parents of four beautiful children — Ella, 12, Michael, 9, Brendan, 7, and Grace, 5.
And aside from praying to be a loving husband and good steward, Mark asks God every day to make him the best father he can be. With well over a decade of sobriety under his belt, Wahlberg is free to enjoy his wife and children.
Mark shared how his faith affects his parenting, “I’m trying to be the best dad I can… What I do every day is pray for the strength to be a good servant, father and husband. I ask for the ability to raise my kids, to teach and protect them, and to be disciplined and firm and loving and nurturing. It can be a fine line, so I ask God for the strength to not lose my patience with my children.”
Today, Wahlberg’s life boasts of God’s redeeming grace and goodness, and proves that no man is ‘too far gone.’ Because of this, the former gang member and rapper, acclaimed actor, and producer is very outspoken about his faith.
In fact, Mark Wahlberg has shared in countless interviews that his faith is the most important part of his life. He is an active churchgoer and makes it a point to pray for at least 15-20 minutes daily and encourages others to do the same.
Wahlberg revealed, “I pray to be a good servant to God, a father, a husband, a son, a friend, a brother and uncle, a good neighbor, a good leader to those who look up to me and a good follower to those that are serving God and doing the right thing.”
Watch Mark Wahlberg’s powerful interview as he shares about his Faith in Jesus Christ:
Since dedicating his life to God, it’s simply incredible to see all that God has done through Mark Wahlberg.
“I pray every day and try to go to church every day. My faith in God is what makes me a better man,” Mark Wahlberg says, earnestly. “It’s the most important part of my life. I pray that I will live up to my intention to be the best husband and father than I can be. I never would have been able to change my life and have the success and love that I have in my world today without my faith.”
“For me to sit down and ask for material things is ridiculous. It’s a much bigger picture than that…The first thing I do when I start my day is, I get down on my hands and knees and give thanks to God. I want to serve God and be a good human being… that’s what I’m praying for. If I can start my day out by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I’m doing the right thing.” – Mark Wahlberg
Praise God for His redeeming love and grace! While listening to Mark’s inspiring story, I just couldn’t help but think of Colossians 1:13-14 which read,
“God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son He loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.”
Thank you, Mark Wahlberg, for sharing your inspiring message of Grace! America needs more men of Faith like you! Please share if you agree!