Skip to comments.My 'granddaddy' John Wayne, actor and Catholic convert
Posted on 10/02/2011 12:12:54 PM PDT by NYer
.- John Wayne, for many, was a Hollywood legend who symbolized true masculinity and American values. To Fr. Matthew Muñoz, though, he was simply granddaddy.
When we were little wed go to his house and wed simply hang out with granddaddy and wed play and wed have fun: a very different image from what most people have of him, Fr. Muñoz told CNA on a recent visit to Rome.
Fr. Muñoz was 14 years old when his grandfather died of cancer in 1979. In his lifetime, The Duke won three Oscars, the Congressional Gold Medal and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Of all those achievements, though, Fr. Muñoz is most proud of just one his grandfathers conversion to the Catholic faith.
My grandmother, Josephine Wayne Saenz, had a wonderful influence on his life and introduced him to the Catholic world, said 46-year-old Fr. Muñoz, a priest of the Diocese of Orange in California.
He was constantly at Church events and fundraisers that she was always dragging him to and I think that, after a while, 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.
Fr. Muñozs grandparents married in 1933 and had four children, the youngest of whom Melinda is his mother. The couple civilly divorced in 1945 although, as a Catholic, Josephine did not re-marry until after John Waynes death. She also never stopped praying for her husbands conversion a prayer which was answered in 1978.
He was a great friend of the Archbishop of Panama, Archbishop Tomas Clavel, and he kept encouraging him and finally my granddaddy said, 'Okay, Im ready.'
As a result of a change in Panamanian leadership, Archbishop Clavel was exiled from his native land in 1968. Three years later, Cardinal Timothy Manning, then the Archbishop of Los Angeles, invited Archbishop Clavel to Orange County, where he served as pastoral leader to half of Orange County's 600,000 Latinos.
By the time of Wayne's request, however, Archbishop Clavel was too ill to make the journey to the film star's residence.
So Archbishop Clavel called Archbishop McGrath, Fr. Muñoz said, explaining that Archbishop McGrath was the successor to Archbishop Clavel in the Archdiocese of Panama.
My mom and my uncle were there when he came. So theres no question about whether or not he was baptized. He wanted to become baptized and become Catholic, Fr. Muñoz said. It was wonderful to see him come to the faith and to leave that witness for our whole family.
Fr. Muñoz also said that his grandfathers expressed a degree of regret about not becoming a Catholic earlier in life, explaining that was one of the sentiment he expressed before he passed on, blaming a busy life.
Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, though, John Waynes life was far from irreligious.
From an early age he had a good sense of what was right and what is wrong. He was raised with a lot of Christian principles and kind of a 'Bible faith' that, I think, had a strong impact upon him, said Fr. Muñoz recalling that his grandfather often wrote handwritten notes to the Almighty.
He wrote beautiful love letters to God, and they were prayers. And they were very childlike and they were very simple but also very profound at the same time, he said.
And sometimes that simplicity was looked at as naivety but I think there was a profound wisdom in his simplicity.
Fr. Muñoz summed up the hierarchy of his grandfathers values as God coming first, then family, then country. Its a triumvirate he sees repeatedly reflected in his grandfathers films. He believes those values are much needed in Hollywood today and, if the Duke were still here hed be leading the charge.
My grandfather was a fighter. I think there would be a lot of things hed be disappointed and saddened over. But I dont think he would lose hope. I think he would look at the current time as a moment of faith. People are in crisis and theyre looking for something more meaningful, more real, Fr. Muñoz said.
So I think he would look at the situation and say dont get discouraged! I think he would say get involved. Dont go hiding in a shell and getting on the defensive from Hollywood. Get involved and be an agent for the good. I think he would do that. Thats what he did in his time.
There are several freepers who do not like John Wayne. I hope this post reaches some of them.
To the doubters: he was one of America's finest film actors. Don't believe me? Watch “The Searchers,” in particular the scene in which he watches the women who have been driven mad after being rescued from the Comanches.
Wedding pictures, children etc.are all magnificent! Wish that I could share, but I'm only allowed to edit.
Darn it, I still mourn the man...GREAT AMERICAN!!
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An inspiring article. I wonder if John Wayne's letters to God are published anywhere? They sound interesting.
Why would anyone not like John Wayne?
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I guess you've never seen The Conqueror!
Probably because he became a Catholic. LoL!
I’m seriously not in the mood to listen to your dumb remarks about the art of acting. Seriously.
Some freepers have told me he’s a commie (yes, indeed!), a chicken hawk, a thrice married man - eeevvvvill!, and worst of all, a bad actor who said “Pilgrim” alot. I’ve been dealing with these stupid freepers for years.
My husband teaches film acting in New York City and he always shows “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers” to his kiddies to try and get them to see the Duke’s greatness. It often works!
John Wayne had a great career playing John Wayne. Nothing wrong with that — I enjoyed most of his movies, including those noted by his defenders above, The Searchers and Stagecoach. Let’s just not waste people’s time about how he was a great “actor”. He also wasn’t the first man to “convert” in order achieve a secular goal so that doesn’t make him particularly unique, either.
His worst trait was the womanizing. He constantly cheated. His ex-wives still remained fond of him though. Great American and great legacy of films.
Acting is such a subjective art. While one person questions someones “acting” another awards them an Oscar. I like John Wayne, like other’s more, but to each their own.
Great story. I was unaware he converted.
Gotta go rent “The Quiet Man” again.