Mark Wahlberg on Lent, Suffering and the ‘Bigger Sin’

Sporting his ashes on broadcast television, the Catholic actor talked about what makes this season so important and why he never wants to deny his faith.

Mark Wahlberg wears his ashes on the ‘Today’ show with Savannah Guthrie discussing Lent.
Mark Wahlberg wears his ashes on the ‘Today’ show with Savannah Guthrie discussing Lent. (photo: Screenshot / Youtube/Today)

It’s been about a year since I interviewed Mark Wahlberg — last Lent — when we discussed the beautiful life of Father Stuart Long as told on-screen in the flick Father Stu, which ended up being a box-office success and even led to a reboot featuring milder language. 

As we entered 40 days of the penitential Lenten season yesterday, Ash Wednesday, the Catholic actor made headlines again, while speaking about his Catholic faith. The interview hit on several topics, including his own Lenten practices, the danger of duplicity, why he will never deny his faith.

The conversation also brought to mind some of the things Wahlberg told the Register about family.

Sporting salvific soot on TV, Wahlberg proudly shared why he will never deny his faith — even in an industry that shuns it. 

Speaking to Savannah Guthrie on Today, Wahlberg said he has always been open about his Catholic faith, but “I don’t want to jam it down anybody’s throat." He went on to say that denying his 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," the Catholic actor explained.

Getting into the reality of what the Lenten season requires of every Catholic, Wahlberg discussed fasting in detail, something he actually does year-round, with intermittent fasting. 

But these 40 days call for even more, he explained. 

“You know, we all know those things that make us feel guilty, don’t make us feel as good as we should, so being able to detach from those things and focus on, you know, good habits as opposed to bad habits,” Wahlberg said, before pivoting to the challenge that lay ahead. “So there are challenges for fasting; like today, I won’t have any meat, I’ll have one meal today, and I will do that every Friday throughout Lent and Good Friday — but just challenging people to be better versions of themselves.”

Expanding the importance of detachment and how there are other things that Catholics need to put down this Lenten season, Wahlberg told Guthrie: “There are many different elements to fasting, and I think the important thing to understand is — and first of all, if you have issues with food, there are other things — God knows the things that he wants you to detach from.”

“I just think it gives me — discipline has always been important for me in life. Once I started getting in movies and transitioned from music, I realized I needed a lot of discipline in my life, and that discipline has afforded me so many other things, and I have been rewarded for it so much, and I want to share that with people,” Wahlberg added.

“So, whether that’s with fasting, working out more, detaching from other things, and just spending more time with God in prayer or in thoughtful reflection, and those things are important,” he added.

As a father of four, Wahlberg also spoke to Guthrie about teaching the Catholic faith to his children, telling Guthrie, “I don’t force it on them,” adding his concern about causing any “resentment” and his desire to lead by example.

“I want them to gravitate to it in a very natural way. I want them to understand that Dad has to start the day by getting on his hands and his knees, and no matter where I am, the priority on Sunday is to go to church; so to be able to do those things and just see them — hopefully, they will say, 'Well, okay, there’s got to be something there’ and let them do it on their own.”

Wahlberg spoke to the Register in April 2022 in Helena, Montana, on the sidelines of the Father Stu premiere and spoke about the importance of family. Broaching the topic of how he helps guide his own children in an increasingly hostile world when it comes to faith, he says it all comes down to communication and an understanding of our human condition. 

“I think, for parents and kids, just communicating with each other, being honest about how you feel, especially kids being able to communicate their feelings. ... When you see kids are dealing with their suffering and having to keep things inside, that should be accepted and embraced, no matter what. That was a very difficult thing. ... You know, there’s one Judge. There’s one Judge. And we’re all sinners. We’re all weak in the flesh. And we all have made mistakes. But we want to encourage people ...”

Speaking with Today about his new role with the Hallow app, along some some other Catholic actors, including Jonathan Roumie, Walhberg spoke about the importance of community during this period of penance, especially on the heels of the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that impacted so many during the Lenten season of 2020, leaving millions isolated, alone and without the sacraments.

“We want to bring people together,” he told Guthrie before he quoted the late Pope Benedict XVI: “The world affords you a lot of comfort. We’re not made for comfort. We’re made for greatness. In order to be [great], we gotta be in the fight to get the rewards.”

“The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You
were made for greatness.” ― Pope Benedict XVI