Veteran Actor Pat O’Brien: ‘My Faith Is My Life, My Standard for Living’
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: This story is part of our Faith in Hollywood series. For similar stories, click here.
Hollywood actor Pat O’Brien, known for his roles in classics such as THE GREAT O’MALLEY, ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES and KNUTE ROCKNE ALL AMERICAN, held fast to his faith in God for more than 50 years in entertainment.
“When anyone asks me what my faith means to me, the only answer I can give them is, ‘My faith is my life,'” the actor, who died in 1983, wrote in 1949. “The prayer of faith I learned at my mother’s knee set the standard for living and of living ever since. And I would not surrender it for all the rewards of the world.
“Faith, the way I see it, is believing in God no matter how you reverently express your belief—no matter what church or temple you attend,” he continued. “Faith is part of a man’s heart, and all of his soul.”
For O’Brien, his faith remained the cornerstone in his household and his career.
“My wife, Eloise, has this faith, too, and for us it has borne the fruit of true happiness in our four children. Ours is a home of love and mutual understanding. Truly one of the most powerful blessings and a great stimulus for my unswerving faith—is my marriage to Eloise,” he said. “To share a faith, to be dedicated to the same sacred security, has made us one ‘in sickness and in health—for richer or poorer.’ There isn’t any doubt about the O’Brien’s happiness because we ask for and unfailingly get guidance.”
O’Brien held to his faith in blessing and noted that God is faithful in hardship and uncertainty.
“To those who claim that faith is purely subjective, I say with sympathy: You’ve never given it a chance to act and live for you…Ask the soldier who found faith on the battlefield—ask anyone who has come square up against it and found the vital dependable saving power of God. Miracles, some call them. The man of faith knows that guidance and help are always available when sought,” he said.
“When my oldest daughter, Mavourneen, was still a child, she was stricken with a severe illness. Eloise, with the agile loving hands of a mother, worked furiously at her bedside. Suddenly, as if touched by the hand of God, the child became well,” he added. “Eloise went all over the house looking for me. She found me praying. ‘There was nothing else I could do,’ I told her. ‘Nothing else was needed,’ Eloise said softly and threw her arms about me in relief.”
Even while serving with an entertainment unit during the Pacific, China, Burma, and India battles during WWII, O’Brien practiced prayer.
“During the war, I traveled by air with an entertainment unit. We flew about 68,000 air miles to the battles of the Pacific, China, Burma and India. I grew in stature and maturity talking with those boys, trying to make them laugh, watching them pray—praying with them,” O’Brien said. “At Luchow, China, during one of the performances, we were ordered to break it up. Japanese infantry, some 100,000 strong, was approximately 25 miles away and not standing still. We scrambled into jeeps, raced for the airfields.”
“Sure, I was scared. I was praying harder than I thought possible. The prayer was part of my heartbeat. But my prayer was only part of a great salvo of faith that night. You could feel it—those guys had it, to a man. Scared, but full of prayer, men of all creeds. You felt that they knew God had His arms around them. I couldn’t really tell you how we were evacuated so rapidly, but we were. Technically, General Claire Chennault was the instrument of His care—his planes, his superb precision, flew us safely into Chungking,” he continued.
O’Brien’s faith gave him purpose and heart to share the same truth with others.
“Faith never fails. Like an illimitable reserve fund, it is always waiting to give protection, inspiration, forgiveness, courage and spiritual joy. I am firmly convinced that anything I am today and everything I have today I owe to my faith,” O’Brien said.
He concluded: “It is a debt that can be repaid only by passing it on to others. I can ask no greater thrill in life than sitting in church on Sunday with my treasured mother, my beloved life-partner, Eloise, and my four youngsters, all understanding, and trying hard to serve God—all living practical faith. I wish every man and woman in the country could say with the conviction I do: ‘My faith is my life, my standard for living.'”