I was cruising through my new favorite book, The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States, when I came upon the April 7 entry, entitled “The Duke.”
It began, “When asked about his religion, John Wayne usually gave one of two responses. Either he claimed to be a ‘presbygod____nterian’ or a ‘cardiac Catholic.'”
My husband endured his fair share of my reading aloud from this particular book, prefaced by an innocent interrupting-of-football-in-the-most-annoying-way-possible, “Did you know XYZ was Catholic?”
But when I came to THIS entry, I knew a few things with certainty.
1. I would be returning to it.
2. My husband would be reading this book.
Before we continue, you should be aware of a few truths of my life.
Truth #1 of the Reinhard Household: My husband does not view reading as a leisure activity quite the same way the rest of us living here do. He reads for work. He reads for information. He reads because he has to. When he has free time, it’s not spent with a book.
Truth #2 of the Reinhard Household: We shall watch and love John Wayne in all his appearances. My kids regularly ask if Daddy will watch John Wayne with them. When she was about five, my oldest said she wanted to go to Texas because John Wayne and all the horses were there. We have a picture of John Wayne, proudly mounted on a horse, with a great quote, hanging in our bathroom.
The Almanac gave me more fascinating information about John Wayne in one short page than I might have learned anywhere else, in part because of the Catholic focus.
John Wayne was Catholic? Well, technically yes, but he was a deathbed convert. Here’s another tidbit that caught my imagination: one of his grandchildren became a Catholic priest.
It’s not just that John Wayne rode horses or had a certain morality in his movies. It’s not just that he seemed to be about the same off-screen as he was on. It’s not just that we just liked the scenery.
It’s that, finding out that he was Catholic, we could relate. We related before. But now we were all ah-ha! about it.
The American Catholic Almanac does is brilliant in its approach: one page per day for one person.
None of the people highlighted are stuffy or boring. Most of them are either (1) people I hadn’t heard of or (2) people I didn’t know were so stinkin’ interesting. Even with the people who are so well-known as to be patrons of my kids, I learned interesting facts that made them more human.
And the history I’ve gotten out of this book! I can only compare it to when I read The Frontiersman many years ago at my husband’s insistence. Honestly, I think The American Catholic Almanac would be well placed in a history classroom.
I had NO IDEA the work and hardship that early American Catholics had to work through and put up with! I had NO IDEA what kind of investment mission priests and religious made in the United States! I had NO IDEA how many inter-stinkin-esting people there were in the annals of American Catholic history!
Thanks to The American Catholic Almanac, I’ve had a taste.
This isn’t a book for the bookshelf. It is, however, a book to share and reread and quote. It’s a book to learn from and be inspired by.