Mario talks about the time he turned against the faith and one day suddenly was able to encounter Christ and feel His presence which led him to his conversion. His conversion led him to be in a “Faith Honeymoon” that eventually will be challenged by the evil one.
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Printable Study Guide PDF
Printable Transcript PDF
Reflective Study Guide Questions
“For nothing will be impossible for God.”Luke 1:37
- As Mario said, “No pain, no gain”. It is true that with hard work, perseverance and prayer all things are possible with God. Is it easy to overcome difficulty, sin and suffering? No, it’s not but it is worth it! What can you do to work towards overcoming the obstacles of your burdens?
- Mario mentioned the common phrase, “Let go and let God.” What does that mean to you? How would you do that in your own life?
- How is it that we can make the most of our broken past, and allow God to do His work, and to do our part? When faced with this question we can take comfort that with Jesus we can always start a new. With everything we have been through in our lives, we can start fresh through the grace of the sacraments and the sacrifice of Jesus. When you think of starting over in this regard, what does it mean to you?
- Everyone has brokenness and sin in their past. What is the cross that you carry or what are the many crosses that you carry? What are some of the obstacles in your life? To overcome obstacles, it’s not about what you can or can’t do; it’s about doing the things that you didn’t think were possible. We are called by God to overcome our sinful nature and to have victory over evil.
Text: Letting God Making the Most of A Broken Past, Part II
Hi, I’m Mario St. Francis, and welcome back to Letting God Make the Most of a Broken Past. Let us begin in prayer.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Oh Lord, present myself and all of those who are listening, our intentions and all of our needs before Your heavenly throne, before the cross of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. May His body, blood, soul, and divinity assist us, guide us, and sanctify us in all that we do, and all who we are, and all that we have done and been in our lives. May we start anew, start afresh in this day, through the grace of the sacraments and the sacrifice of Your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, to do all things for Your greater glory, oh Lord. Amen. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Allow God to do His Work
So how is it that we can make the most of our broken past, and allow God to do His work, and to do our part? I don’t know what it is that you’re struggling with, and I don’t know where you’ve been and what your story has been. Whether it’s premarital sex, pregnancy outside of marriage, an abortion, dealing with addictions like alcohol, drugs, pornography, annulments and divorce, struggling with low self-esteem or depression. There are so many things that we, as people of faith, can try to pray away, that we can hope for, light many candles for, and go on pilgrimage, and be on our knees for. But they still weigh heavy on us, and they can be so heavy on us that we may lose our faith. And I’ve seen it so many times, whether it’s clergy, seminarians, or laity; young adults, men or women; whether it’s high-class, low-class, middle-class; a successful life in the ways of the world, of material possessions, those who have an abundance or those who lack much. We all have this human condition. And what I can share with you is what I’ve gone through.
Now, while I have studied theology and philosophy, while I have been throughout the world in every continent as a lay evangelist, giving my own testimony and doing teachings, catechesis, while I help prepare those who are about to have their children baptized, or perhaps substitute for the RCIA class in my parish in English or in Spanish, I can tell you this: That there is book knowledge, and then there is going to the school of hard knocks. And that’s more so where I come from; while I have had education, I want to speak to you from my heart.
Faith Makes it Possible
So, faith. Faith doesn’t make things easy necessarily, but it does make them possible, as Luke tells us in chapter 1, verse 37. You know, our trials, they can be heavy burdens in our lives. And I’m not sure where it is that you come from, what is your background, what is that cross that you carry, or the many crosses that you carry. What I have learned is this: That the greater the obstacle, is the greater the glory. The victory.
You know, in the gym, when we work out, or when we’re striving to pass a test, there’s a whole no pain no gain, right? Perhaps you’ve spent all-nighters, you’ve changed your sleep schedule, you’ve really crammed harder, you’ve worked out and lifted more than you’ve ever done, and you’ve done more repetitions than you’ve ever done before. There’s that whole no pain no gain. And that is, in many ways, similar to how I’ve seen and experienced my own faith journey, and what I see in the lives of the saints, and of those in the audiences that I share my faith with, and who share back with me what their experiences are. The bigger the storm, the brighter the rainbow. With God, all things are possible. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. We hear these kind of clichés, we see the bumper stickers, I own the tshirts that remind us of some of these contrasting realities, you know.
There was a shirt that I saw once – and it’s a slide that I’ve used in presentations, and it’s something that I even kept on kind of a business card, but it was a holy card that I would carry out and even gave out to many of the students in high schools and colleges where I would speak – where it would say, you know, it would have an image of Jesus and it would say “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” And it’s not always easy, but it is worth it.
We are Called to Overcome
You know, we’re called to overcome. Strength doesn’t come from what you can do, it comes from overcoming the things that you thought you couldn’t do. I love to run obstacle course races. It’s a crazy thing but these, you know, mud races, obstacle course races for me, it’s a real tangible experience of “I don’t think it’s possible, I couldn’t possibly climb over that wall, or climb up that rope,” or “I couldn’t possibly do 10+ miles and 20+ obstacles.” And “Maybe I should train” and, you know, “Oh, I’ll put this off and put it off months and months out, and years out into the future.” Overcoming obstacles has become a passion, and has become almost a tagline of much of the work that I do, both secular and faithfocused. To overcome obstacles, it’s not about, you know, what we can do, but about doing the things that we didn’t think were possible.
Indeed, I would say we do need to let go and let God. But what does that mean? And how do we do that? I can share with you a little bit about how I did it, my story. And it’s a summary, it’s brief. But as a child, I had that faith. I read and would hear in school, you know, Catholic education, about Fátima, and Lourdes, and I believed in miracles, I believed the messages that were shared with the children.
But as I mentioned earlier, I fell from that grace, from that faith. I stopped being the one wanting to pray at the dinner table. When the cable television was installed in our house, and I started to get into junior high school and high school, I started to notice that life was more than just family and prayer, you know, and God, and doing good.
But there was this competition, this being part of that social network, that social group, that peer pressure. And I gave in. I gave into that. And almost instantly upon giving the gift of my virginity away outside of marriage, I felt this shame, this break, this shatter happen in my life, and I remember looking up at the crucifix, and there was this little doll with an ugly, you know, turned nose that I had gotten on a vacation in Colombia, South America, that, for whatever reason, I had it pinned to the ceiling in my room. And it was right next to the crucifix, and it said on this ugly kind of doll “Nobody is perfect.”
And it was in that moment that I sort of heard this message, that “You’re not perfect, Mario.” And I saw Jesus right there, who is the perfect one, the Son of God, and I started to equate the youth ministers that I’ve seen in my life, and the catechists, the religious educators in my life, they all seemed to wear khaki pants and, like, polos, and, you know, penny loafers, and sort of just emanated this “I’m perfect,” or “I got it all under control.” And they would kind of point their finger and wag their finger at me, the black sheep, and all of my peers, or some of my peers. All I knew is that I wasn’t perfect, and I for sure wasn’t perfect now that I had given into the temptation of the flesh, as I had heard so often.
And I made a decision there. “I’m not perfect. I have sinned. Therefore I cannot attain heaven, and therefore hell is my destiny, is my future.” And I don’t know where I heard this phrase, but I just embraced this idea of “Well, if I can’t make it to heaven and I’m going to hell, I might as well go to hell in a handbasket.” I just remember making that mental declaration. And for years to come after that, I just kind of became this even darker black sheep, and rebelled, and just went the way of the Prodigal Son, far away from that childhood faith. Maybe you’ve experienced that as well. I don’t know what hurts came into your life, or fallings from grace, or how you reacted to that, but I just dove in head-first, and felt like “I might as well have fun, since hell is my future and my destiny.”
The Presence of God
But then I did find God. At the age of 24, eventually, after many knocks on the head, God really worked hard to get my attention. I survived several accidents. I actually ended up having a very profound and deep even mystical experience, where I truly and very tangibly experienced the presence of God. I was at a parish mission, so there was a lot of human work that was done. The priest that was preaching this mission during Lent had helped me understand and the audience understand our faith. Revelation, the scriptures, apostolic succession, he kind of did this apologetics session, which means giving a defense for the faith, or explaining the faith.
Because I had become this anti-Catholic Christian, I had broken away from the practices of my faith, and the sacramental life, and I really became antagonistic, and fought against everything that the church stood for, that I understood growing up, and I became kind of what The Man in the Arena was talking about. I started pointing the finger and became quite anti-Catholic actually. And after this conversion, this mystical experience, I believed. I believed in everything that the church taught, I believed in apostolic succession. The one holy Catholic in Apostolic Church, I believed in everything that we say in the creed, and I began this faith honeymoon.
I would go to daily mass, I would pray the Liturgy of the Hours if you know what that is, I would smile, I had this ridiculous glow on my face, just walking on clouds. I would go to confession weekly, sometimes multiple times a week, had this hunger to read the lives of the saints, to read the scriptures. I would read the newspaper, you know, the Catholic newspaper of the local area, and watch Catholic television. I was just on this honeymoon. And I remember that my brother had told me, he had prayed for me, and I subsequently I had this profound conversion. I even blamed him for my conversion, for lighting a candle by the crucifix at his parish. But I got so wrapped up in it all that I even challenged the devil, and basically said, like, “Throw anything you want at me.”
Challenging the Devil
And my brother had said something very interesting. He had said “You know, I…” he was talking about himself as having been, you know, a pretty good kid all around, and he says “You know, I don’t present much of a threat to the devil, so he kind of leaves me alone. But you, you, you went black sheep, you went rogue, you went rebel.” He explained to me about the Prodigal Son, and he said “And now, you have the ability to talk and connect with people about a life of sin, a life of the flesh, of indulging in pride, in ego, and this materialistic, this model world, this Hollywood world.” And he said “You have the ability to really mess things up for the devil. So be mindful that he’s going to set his targets on you.” And I said “Bring it on.”
And while I had a faith honeymoon, and spent several years in that honeymoon phase, and got to study at Steubenville, and go on mission trips and, you know, theology, philosophy, catechetics, you know, being around Christians that were in film, and even watching The Passion of the Christ, you know, being presented on TV right before it was aired in theaters. I went to World Youth Day in Toronto and ended up hearing from John Paul the Second at that World Youth Day about “Go out into the world and preach the good news.” I heard it personally, that I accepted a very strange life, a unique mission as a layperson being an evangelist.
And after 2 years of studying at Steubenville, I ended up going to Hollywood and becoming an assistant to the manager of Jim Caviezel, who was Jesus Christ in Hollywood from the movie, The Passion. And this mission began in my life, and it’s also where things started to go very, very hard, challenging, and more difficult for me. So stay tuned as I share with you about that part of my journey after encountering God. So if you would join me, let us close in prayer.
In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Lord, I thank You for this time and for the attention of those who are tuned in to us right now. May Your grace be what enters into their hearts, minds, and souls. May Your grace infuse and be about me and through me and communicated from me, that we may collaboratively grow deeper in knowledge and in love. To forgive and to be strengthened for the calling that You have for us in our lives, in our vocation. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thank you so much for tuning in, and stay tuned as I continue to share about letting go and letting God make the most of a broken past.
About Mario St. Francis Herrera
Mario St. Francis Herrera B.A., M.T.P.T. is a husband, father, speaker, model, actor, producer and is currently becoming a certified personal development facilitator and trainer, and he’s based out of the Washington DC area. Since experiencing a radical call to conversion at the age of 24, Mario has been a highly sought-after Catholic Speaker around the world most known for his conversion story from a “Hollywood to Holy-wood”. A young man without faith turned overnight into a passionate Eucharist-loving daily Mass-attending proud Roman Catholic Christian. After experiencing his first World Youth Day in Toronto, 2002, he attended Franciscan University of Steubenville studying Catechetics, Philosophy, Theology and TV/Film. While there he was offered the opportunity to work for the manager of the most notable Catholic actor in Hollywood Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ). Leaving Steubenville, he spent a decade working as a producer of Catholic media projects and speaking as a missionary on every continent, mostly to youth and young adults.
In 2012 he left his final long term Mission in India and settled back in the US. He finished his undergraduate in Texas, graduating Magna Cum Laude from the Mexican American Catholic College with a degree in Pastoral Ministry. While in Texas, he met his wife and they have two beautiful young children and look forward to growing that family.