Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Conversion of John Wayne

John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit  

From OSV:
How did this thrice-married, hard-drinking, larger-than-life megastar make his leap to Catholicism? Faith danced around John Wayne all of his adult life. All three of his wives had been raised Catholic, and all seven of his children were brought up in the Church. His first wife, Josie, who prayed for Duke’s conversion till the end, convinced him to attend numerous parish events with her. He sometimes complained to friends that he was up to his neck in Catholics, but perhaps as he interacted with genuine, faithful people, misconceptions and prejudices fell away. Did the classic church potluck plant seeds of conversion?

Despite his early upbringing in the Presbyterian Church, Duke never had any denominational loyalty and was impatient with the infighting of Christianity. Wayne’s son Michael thought his father was a man who quietly believed in God even as he shunned church attendance. “There must be a higher power,” Wayne said in the year he died, “or how does all this stuff work?”

Catholic priest Fr. Matthew Muñoz, who knew Wayne simply as “Granddaddy,” hints that obstacles to his grandfather’s conversion toppled slowly as Wayne grew in knowledge of Catholicism. “After a while,” Fr. Muñoz said, “he kind of got a sense that the common secular vision of what Catholics are and what his own experience actually was were becoming two greatly different things.”
In the mid-1960s, Duke was fighting a persistent cough. His wife urged him to have it checked, and since he needed to renew an insurance policy anyway, he had a physical. When he returned to the clinic the next day for results, he was subjected to an extensive round of X-rays. As he waited, he ran into the technician who’d performed the tests. The young tech revealed what he thought the star already knew: it was lung cancer. (Read more.)

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