Category: Inspirational

John Wayne and Steve McQueen: Finding Faith at the End

Hollywood stars John Wayne and Steve McQueen apparently found new faith — and not a moment too soon.

Friday, May 26, is the birthday of Wayne, born Marion Robert Morrison in Winterset, Iowa, in 1907. He died on June 11, 1979, at the age of 72, from stomach cancer (after surviving lung cancer).

He was baptized a Presbyterian, but he married three Catholic women, and his children and grandchildren were raised Catholic (we know the first wife never remarried after the divorce and continued to pray for Wayne’s conversion).

One grandson, Father Matthew Munoz, is a priest in the Diocese of Orange in Southern California.

Because of his spouses, Wayne moved in Catholic circles and became good friends in Los Angeles with Archbishop Tomas Clavel. But, he still didn’t become Catholic.

But, as told in an article at ChurchPop:

Then, in 1979, as he was dying of cancer and surrounded by his family in his home, he finally decided to join the Catholic Church. He requested for Archbishop Clavel to come to his house, but he was too ill to come, and so another archbishop in the diocese was sent.

Wayne was received into the Catholic Church and then died just two days later.

Why did he wait until his deathbed to convert? His grandson explained that Wayne was regretful about not becoming a Catholic sooner, blaming “a busy life.”

That other archbishop was Archbishop Mark McGrath, C.S.C., of Panama City, Panama, a member of the Holy Cross Order — which also operates Holy Cross Family Ministries and its subsidiary, Family Theater Productions.

I contacted Father Willy Raymond, President of HCFM and former head of FTP, to ask about Wayne, since there is a parking spot for him in the lot at the FTP offices on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

While Fr. Willy — as he’s widely known from his years in Los Angeles — doesn’t believe that Wayne ever worked for Family Theater Productions or its founder, Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., but his “The Quiet Man” co-star Maureen O’Hara did (and she also has a parking space, as does fellow Catholic and “Quiet Man” director John Ford).

Fr. Willy wrote back:

I had a long conversation with Maureen O’Hara, who said that she loved John Wayne and loved working with him. He was always a perfect gentleman, always well-prepared.

There was never anything inappropriate in their relationship, but she said one of the great joys of her life was working with John Wayne on “The Quiet Man.”

He added that Wayne’s son, Michael Wayne, was a regular donor to the Angelus Student Film Festival, which FTP used to run, and that he was a member of a Catholic parish in the San Fernando Valley.

Now, although Wayne came into the Catholic Church on his deathbed, he was already a Christian.

The same can’t be said of the late conversion of actor Steve McQueen, who died of malignant mesothelioma in Mexico in 1980 at the age of 50.

As related in the upcoming book, “Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon,” coming out on June 13, Southern California Evangelical preacher Greg Laurie (co-author with McQueen expert Marshall Terrill) relates that McQueen had a dramatic conversion experience near the end of his life.

From The Christian Post:

The book includes interviews conducted by Terrill and Laurie with people who were close to McQueen and can attest to his spiritual transformation, such as McQueen’s widow, Barbi, the pastor of McQueen’s church, McQueen’s flight instructor and even a metabolic technician who served McQueen in the days leading up to his death.

“There was a statement that McQueen made, which was, ‘My only regret in life was that I was not able to tell others about what Jesus Christ did for me,'” Laurie said, quoting what McQueen had told Pastor Leonard DeWitt of Ventura Missionary Church before he died.

“I thought, that’s a wrong that needs to be righted,” Laurie added.

According to the book, McQueen began asking profound questions about the reliability of the Bible and the nature of Christianity, with the help of his pastor, a flying instructor and a stuntman friend.

McQueen met with renowned evangelist Dr. Billy Graham in his last days. The book relates how his son, Chad McQueen, found his father holding tight to the Bible that Graham had given him, and that it was with him when he died.

Here’s a video of Laurie discussing McQueen’s conversion at an Evangelical event last year:

God works in His own way and in His own time. Of course, it’s better to come to the realization of faith as soon as possible, but the last guest to the banquet is as welcome as the first.

Images: Flickr: Steve Avery (McQueen); Wikimedia Commons; Family Theater Productions/Kate O’Hare

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Catholic High Schools Battle ‘Prayer-Shaming’ in Two Videos

Want to feel proud of Catholic high-school students? Here are a couple of videos that celebrate prayer, faith and freedom — and also remind us of the sobering reality a lot of young people face in our violent world.

This especially warms our hearts, since Family Theater Productions’ founder, Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., was a strong proponent of the rosary, especially the family rosary, and of prayer in general. He’s known for the phrase “The Family That Prays Together Stays Together,” based on his own experiences of daily family rosaries growing up in Ireland.

No doubt he’d be very pleased to see the video below, created in 2015 by students and teachers at East Catholic High School in Manchester, Connecticut.

It urges all of those who love God and pray to come out of the shadows.

As they say: “No more prayer shaming. Let’s bring God and prayer back into our lives.”

In early 2016, in the wake of the December 2015 terrorist shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people and injured 22 more, students at Notre Dame High School in nearby Riverside, California, made a similar video to support East Catholic High.

After the San Bernardino shooting, there were indeed incidents of “prayer-shaming,” as many on social media made cynical attacks on those who offered prayers. From a story in The Atlantic:

The most powerful evidence against this backlash toward prayer comes not from the Twitterverse, but from San Bernardino. “Pray for us,” a woman texted her father from inside the Inland Regional Center, while she and her colleagues hid from the gunfire. Outside the building, evacuated workers bowed their heads and held hands. They prayed.

The video is also a reminder that today’s high-schoolers live with constant reports of terrorist attacks and school shootings — and in the case of these kids, terror took someone they knew.

Pray for our Catholic schools and students. Let’s keep them strong, keep them Catholic, and keep them dedicated to Christ, the Faith, the Church and to prayer.

Amen.

Image: YouTube screenshot

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan Say Her Illness Has Strengthened Their Catholic Faith

Fame and success don’t insulate anyone from trials and suffering, something Catholic spouses and parents of five Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan recently experienced, when Jeannie underwent surgery to remove a life-threatening, six-centimeter tumor wrapped around her brain stem.

On May 1, her husband took to Facebook with this news.

Jeannie Gaffigan — who is her comedian husband’s writing and producing partner — survived the April 18 surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and is currently recuperating at home in New York with her husband, children and other family members.

Speaking to People magazine, Jeannie Gaffigan, 47, said:

“Every thing has completely strengthened my faith in God,” says Jeannie, 47. “Because I told God, I said, ‘God, I’m not ready to go. I have work to do. Please help me.’ ”

She also said:

“I have no doubt that there were supernatural powers helping me through this. No doubt.”

Grateful for circumstances that allowed them to quickly meet with Mount Sinai top surgeon Dr. Joshua Bederson, Jim Gaffigan said to People:

“It’s a miracle that lead us to that place,” says Jim, 50, who admits it’s been hard to watch his wife go through such a scary process, and now, a difficult recovery.

A story last week at People also talked about how the Gaffigans were struck by the amount of love and prayers they received, and are using this experience to teach their children about compassion.

Said Jeannie:

“When you’re in the hospital and you can’t take care of yourself and you see all these people who are just committed to being doctors and nurses and caregivers, it’s really unbelievable that people would dedicate their lives to taking care of other people. And I want children that are in touch with that kind of empathy.”

Images: Wikimedia Commons; IMDB; Facebook — Jim Gaffigan

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

NBC to Air ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Live Musical on Easter 2018

NBC — home to the hit family drama “This Is Us,” and the network that aired one season of “A.D.: The Bible Continues” — has chosen “Jesus Christ Superstar” as its next live TV musical, to air on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018.

Staged on Broadway in 1971, “Superstar” follows NBC’s other live musical events, including adaptations of “The Sound of Music,” “Peter Pan,” “The Wiz” and “Hairspray.”

Original show creators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are executive producers for the event, and will oversee any new music or lyrics for the NBC vision. The other executive producers — Mark Platt (“La La Land”), Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — are also veterans of musical productions.

Says Variety:

“As we continue to expand the profile of our live musicals, we are thrilled to be partnering with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to bring a new live staging of the iconic ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ to NBC,” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment. “Casting has just begun, but we want to fill out this classic show with as many recording artists as possible to give proper voice to what is the original rock opera score.”

The choice of “Superstar” follows Fox’s Palm Sunday, 2016, presentation of Tyler Perry’s “The Passion.” The live event was based on a Dutch production chronicling the last hours of Christ’s life, staged in New Orleans and featuring a panoply of pop-music performers.

Apparently NBC is also on the hunt for authentic music stars to fill out the cast.

For those too young to remember “Superstar,” it’s a rock-musical take on the last week leading up to the Crucifixion, largely from Judas’ perspective (or at least the perspective assigned to him in this version of the Passion narrative).

Most people who know “Superstar” have either heard the original cast album or seen the 1973 film version, starring Ted Neeley as Jesus, and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene. But at its heart, it’s still a stage show.

Also from Variety:

The musical first opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway in 1971 and starred Jeff Fenholt as Jesus and Ben Vereen as Judas, and was nominated for five Tony Awards that year. Prior to making its way to the stage, the musical was originally conceived as a concept album that hit no. 1 on the Billboard charts. Since then, the show has been performed in nearly 20 countries and translated into 18 different languages. In the 46 years since its debut, “Jesus Christ Superstar” has been revived many times, including Tony-nominated runs in 2000 and 2012.

From a Catholic perspective, “Superstar” is not good catechesis, but then, why would anyone expect a 1970s rock musical to be that, anyway? But it is an engaging, very human portrayal of Christ, and many folks — myself included — have found it spiritually uplifting and effective.

NBC’s version could be great, or awful, or somewhere in between, but throwing up a few prayers starting now can’t hurt.

Many Christians have decried “Jesus Christ Superstar,” but the Vatican did approve a version for pilgrims back in 1999.

From the U.K. Guardian:

Gerald O’Collins, a professor of theology at Gregorian university in Rome, said that accusations that the musical demeaned or trivialised Jesus were misplaced. “Christians have been depicting Him on stage since the passion plays of the middle ages,” he said. “This is no different.”

Here’s a peek at Ted Neeley’s performance:

Here’s Elliman, with Mary Magdalene’s signature song:

And Carl Anderson, as Judas, singing the musical’s signature song:

And here’s the entire 1973 movie, filmed in Israel (it’s not a great quality video; for better, grab it off Amazon Prime):

Image: Original Broadway logo

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

For Mother’s Day, PBS Offers a Grieving Son’s ‘Requiem’ Mass

From PBS for Mother’s Day, “Requiem for My Mother” follows a son trying to deal with the sudden loss of his beloved mother by writing a new choral work for her, a traditional Catholic Requiem Mass — which premiered at the Vatican.

From the inbox:

REQUIEM FOR MY MOTHER

PREMIERES NATIONALLY ON PUBLIC TELEVISION IN MAY 2017

IN CONJUNCTION WITH MOTHER’S DAY

Inspiring Story of the Power of Music to Transcend Loss and Inspire a New Generation

Requiem for My Mother is an award-winning documentary and a compelling musical celebration of life and love, loss and acceptance. The film chronicles the personal journey of prolific Hollywood film score composer Stephen Edwards as he is forced to deal with the sudden loss of his mother, Rosalie Edwards, whose passion for music transformed his life and who was his constant inspiration. To deal with his loss, Edwards channels his anger, passion, sadness, and faith into a major new choral work — a “Requiem,” the traditional Catholic mass for the dead. The film follows the thrilling creation of the piece and the massive preparations leading up to its international premiere at a renowned music festival in Rome’s Vatican City. In collaboration with the Continuo Arts Foundation, along their renowned conductor Candace Wicke, the Requiem goes from a son’s personal lament to a soaring 160-voice choral performance with a 50-piece orchestra, staged in one of the most beautiful and sacred places in the world, the Basilica of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rome. Directed by Stephen Edwards and David Haugland,Requiem for My Mother premieres nationally on public television in May 2017 (check local listings) in conjunction with Mother’s Day.

The film introduces us to the remarkable Rosalie Edwards, the beautiful daughter of Sicilian-American immigrants, proudly recalled by Edwards as a “typical 1950s glamour girl.” A mother of four, Rosalie was a dedicated musician who instilled her love of music in her children and became their biggest champion. Through vintage photos, old home movies, and interviews with his siblings, Edwards shares his memories of his mother and his Michigan upbringing. Rosalie’s story is intercut with the nerve-wracking preparations for the Requiem’s debut as conductor Wicke, a friend of Rosalie’s, and Edwards travel to rehearsals in Wisconsin, Miami and New York, as amateur choirs from far-flung parishes are painstakingly taught the piece. With time running out, the question looms. Will this massive choir, along with members from the Prague Philharmonic — with only one rehearsal — rise to the occasion for the most important musical moment of Edwards’s life?

A moving personal story as well as a rousing performance film, Requiem for My Mother reminds us of music’s power to transform grief into beauty, healing and hope for the future.

For complete information on the film and to listen to the Requiem, visit http://www.requiemformymother.com/.

Requiem for My Mother is an RFFM production in cooperation with the Continuo Arts Foundation. South Carolina ETV is the presenting station.

For more information, visit: http://www.requiemformymother.com/

Find it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/requiemformymother/

About Stephen Edwards

Michigan native Stephen Edwards’ music education began at an early age, with training by his mother, Rosalie Edwards, followed by studies at Interlochen Music Camp and Lawrence University, where he was recipient of the “Outstanding Classical Soloist” award sponsored by DownBeat magazine, and selected as a participant in the All-American College Orchestra National Talent Search sponsored by Disney. Mr. Edwards continued his studies at the Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, and immediately started working as a session musician for film and TV composers, such as Mike Post. A prolific composer, Stephen has scored more than 60 movies, from comedy to action, martial arts to documentaries. Recent and upcoming projects include a Dolph Lundgren zombie movie called Dead Trigger, Cops and Robbers with Tom Berenger, and Stoic with Antonio Banderas.

Image: Wikimedia Commons; RFFM Productions/Continuo Arts Foundation; Facebook: RequiemforMyMother (Stephen Edwards)

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Jimmy Kimmel’s Emotional Story About His Infant Son’s Surgery

In an emotional, tearful monologue that opened the May 1 edition of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” the new father — whose son William (“Billy”) was born to him and wife Molly, a co-head writer on the show, on April 21 — revealed the terrifying events that followed the blessed event.

Delivered at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, the infant was discovered to have a serious heart condition, and was taken to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for surgery.

As you can see from this picture, Billy is home and doing well.

But you’d better get a hankie before watching the video below.

As Kimmel said, “We had atheists praying for us. We had people who don’t even believe in God praying to Him.”

As for the show, said The Hollywood Reporter:

Without any sort of announcement or fanfare, Kimmel quietly went to repeats last week when his son was still in the hospital. Assuming there isn’t a writers’ strike, he will go out on paternity leave for the remainder of this week. If there is a work stoppage, the ABC late night show, like those at the other networks, is expected to go dark.

In his stead, Kimmel’s friends have lined up to guest host Jimmy Kimmel Live. Will Arnett is set for Tuesday’s show, with a special appearance from his Gong Show host Tommy Maitland.Anthony Anderson is on board for Wednesday, while Kristen Bell and David Spade will takeover on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The guest list for the week includes Maya Rudolph, Charlie Hunnam, Adam Scott and Guy Richie.

Although he doesn’t discuss it often, Kimmel was raised a Catholic, and I’m pretty sure a few novenas and rosaries are being said for his son.

And, as he urged, if you want to donate to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, just click here.

UPDATE: On May 2, Kimmel posted this to Twitter, showing wife Molly, baby Billy and big sister Jane …

Image: Courtesy ABC/YouTube screenshot

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.