I must admit that I recalled it differently: that John Wayne married thrice, always to Catholic women, and that his last wife was the one most directly instrumental to his conversion. Which seemed a bit odd to me, as it is not clear to me how a devout Catholic woman may marry a man who has been married twice (or once, in the case of the second wife) to Catholic women, has divorced and the first Mrs Wayne is still alive.
Still, I am not an expert and the matter is complicated; one would have to know more in detail how the Church considers the marriage of people who – like Wayne – did not consider marriage a sacrament, and/or didn’t even, perhaps, marry in church. I must raise a white flag here, though my first instinct would be that the Catholic second (or third) wife shouldn’t even think of it, full stop.
More important in our little story of today is that John Wayne did convert – as confirmed by various sources, including his son – and that one of his grandchildren has become a Catholic priest.
The reminiscences of Father Munoz are important because he recalls not only the fact that his grandmother – who never remarried as long as John Wayne was alive – never ceased to pray for our hero’s conversion, but also gives some moving details about John Wayne’s religious life, a mixture of Protestant “sola scriptura” principles and childish abandonment to God. I do not know many people who write letters to God, I frankly have no problems in imagining the man doing it. With the likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, it is a bit less likely…..
Still, this good man – sinner as he was, as everyone of us – did find the nerve to grow above his Protestant letter-writing and choose to do the right thing. I find it beautiful, as people like him are those most in danger of considering themselves – after a life willingly and unwillingly spent listening to people flattering them – worthy of being taken by God as an example.
Also interesting is what Father Munoz – very probably not knowing what he is doing – recalls about the values life of John Wayne: God first, family second, Country third.
I smiled while reading this, as it immediately reminded me of a very famous slogan of the Italy of the past: Dio, Patria e Famiglia. These values were instilled in millions of Italians, even after the war. They come, as you might have imagined, from the Duce himself.
Isn’t it wonderful, that right values go beyond national boundaries and political tendencies and write themselves down directly in the heart of the people.
I’d like to think of both men now happily in paradise, though purgatory appears to be, on a more sober reflection, a far more likely outcome at least for the Italian chap. I would personally sign for that with joy, both for him and for myself.
With your permission, I allowed myself to pray for both.
Well, for the three of us, really…