Michael Franzese has a powerful testimony to share. It’s about his journey on the road to perdition; during which he was transformed from a made man in the Colombo crime family to a remade man in the family of Christ.
The true-to-life tale of the Lord’s saving grace is recounted in the new documentary film, “God the Father.” It opens in theaters Halloween night.
Franzese is the son of the one-time underboss of New York’s Colombo mob. So it was not terribly surprising that Michael chose to follow in his father’s unholy footsteps.
He remembers vividly his induction into La Cosa Notra, which means “This Thing of Ours,” he explained, during an appearance this past summer at Pastor Greg Laurie’s annual Harvest Crusade.
Franzese was escorted into a room dimly lit by candles. A knife was used to cut his finger, symbolizing the blood oath he was to make. A card depicting a Catholic saint was set afire, a warning to the newest member of the Colombo mob that if he ever betrayed the family, he would burn in hell.
With that, the officiant at the satanic-like ceremony pronounced: “Michael Franzese, you are born again into La Cosa Notra.”
Franzese rose quickly within the Colombo family hierarchy, owing to his exceptional prowess as an “earner,” bringing ill-gotten lucre into the family. At peak, he recalled, he was making $8 million to $10 million a week, much of it from a “gas scam” he orchestrated that bilked the government out of excise taxes.
The Colombo family boasted “maybe 115 made guys,” said Franzese. About 100 of those made it by committing a murder. The other 15, including Franzese, made it by being top earners.
Indeed, so prodigious was Franzese that he became a “capo,” mob-speak for captain. That meant he was part of the crime family’s inner circle.
But as the word of God cautions, those that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind. And so it was with Franzese.
His mob family turned on him, thinking he was skimming the take from the gas scam. His very own mobster father put out a contract on his life. And federal prosecutors, including U.S Attorney Rudy Giuliani were determined to send him to prison for racketeering.
Franzese eventually was convicted and found himself confined to a 6 by 8 prison cell. And that’s where he was convicted by the Holy Spirit.
A prison guard gave him a Bible. And after initially throwing it against his cell wall, he opened it up and started reading the Word of God, the Book of Proverbs in particular.
“I came to a verse and it just knocked me out,” Franzese remembers. Proverbs 16:7. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
“I realized,” said Franzese, it was “the first time God spoke to my heart. I really needed to hear that. It really encouraged me. It put me on the pathway to Jesus, who is my hero and my idol in life.”
Michael’s tale of redemption brings to mind the New Testament account of the miraculous transformation of Saul of Tarsus that began on the road of Damascus.
Saul, a persecutor of Christians, became the servant of Christ we know as the Apostle of Paul.
Michael Franzese, the one time mobster, became an evangelist for Christ after completing his prison sentence.
He is living proof of God’s promise to the truly repentant: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”