#366: The “Myth” of the Magi—Father Dwight Longenecker

#366: The “Myth” of the Magi—Father Dwight Longenecker

This is an offbeat look at the Nativity Story through the lens of the mysterious Magi from Matthew’s Gospel 2:1-12. Popular imagination, Christian art, movies, and Christmas carols have shaped the way we think about the Magi. Popular blogger and author Father Dwight Longenecker lays out the facts, based on his book Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men.

Most of what you know about the Magi and the scenes of the may be wrong: The Bible doesn’t mention that there were three, doesn’t say they were kings (although they were clearly wise), and they didn’t find Jesus in a manger or cave but in a house. Listen and, as I did, learn.

 

In this episode you will learn:

  • How reliable Matthew is as an historian
  • Why describing the Magi a function of myth doesn’t not take away from their historicity
  • How the colorful additions (Caspar? Melchior? Balthasar? Camels?) to the biblical story arose
  • The multiple meanings of “the East” for the Jewish people
  • How the arrival and worship of the Magi set the Incarnation onto an international setting
  • How to see the accretions of the Magi part of the story with Santa Claus and the original story of St. Nicholas

 

Resources recommended in this episode:

 

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#365: It’s a Wonderful Movie—Mary Owen and Karolyn Grimes

#365: It’s a Wonderful Movie—Mary Owen and Karolyn Grimes


This episode debuted six years ago, and I could think of no better show  to honor my all-time favorite movie, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)  through the eyes of two women with close ties to its creation.

If Mr. Capra didn’t write it, why do I call it “Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life? It’s because that’s how the movie was marketed, which helps explain why the film got only a so-so reception when it was first released. Most of Mr. Capra’s pre-World War II movies were so sweet-hearted that they later earned the moniker “Capracorn,” not meant as a compliment.

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the most critically acclaimed films ever made. Nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made, and placed number 11 on its initial 1998 greatest movie list, it also ranked number one on its list of the most inspirational American films of all time.

Think about that. In light of the fact that hundreds of thousands of movies have been made, this is a jaw-dropping achievement.

By the end of the Second World War, though, the mood of the movie-going public had shifted, as I wrote about the making of the movie in National Review a few years ago HERE.

The next day after it was published, an appreciative email from a woman named Mary Owen arrived in my inbox. Turns out, Mary is the daughter of actress Donna Reed, who played Mary Bailey, the wife of James Stewart’s George Bailey.

I thanked her for the lovely email and we had a few back-and-forths. After my podcast was up on two feet and spreading around the world (110 countries and counting), I thought it would be fun to have her on the show to talk about her mother’s role in this now-international favorite Christmas movie and to learn some back story to her mother’s career and her commitment to writing back to the G.I’s who wrote to her from the trenches and the gun turrets of World War II.

The interview segues nicely into the next one, a rich conversation with actress Karolyn Grimes who played Zuzu, one of the four Bailey kids. Remember Zuzu’s petals? This was a real treat for me who loves the movie so well, and I know it will be for you as well.

I learned, among other things, how much Mrs. Grimes suffered as a teen when her mother died and then the next year her father was killed and she became a ward of the state—then “rescued” by an aunt and uncle in Missouri, which was an unhappy home situation. Karolyn also played Debbie, the daughter of David Niven and Loretta Young in another Christmas favorite, The Bishop’s Wife.

For those of us who can’t gobble up enough trivia and true stories about It’s a Wonderful Life, Mrs. Grimes is a treasure trove of first-hand memories and insights! Yes, I was star-struck, okay? Is that so wrong?

In this episode you will learn

  • How Donna Reed’s work represents the best of the Golden Age of television and movies
  • Why she made sure she was “just a regular mom” with Mary and her other real-life children
  • The story of how Reed’s children found a shoebox full of correspondence with American soldiers from the War in her Bel Air home 65 years later
  • Why Owens thinks the movie that made her mother a household name has such enduring appeal
  • Who is the oldest living cast member (hint: it’s not one of the child actors)
  • What it was like to be on set with Frank Capra and to appear with Jimmy Stewart
  • The ways in which It’s a Wonderful Life touched the lives of the cast and crew forever.

Resources mentioned in this episode

 

Our Sponsors 

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MyPillow.com: Up to 66% off all his 100+ products, all US-made) and a special offer on his book What Are the Odds? From Crack Addict to CEO. Use promo code PATRICK or call: 800-794-965

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#364: Why Mary is Not Contrary—Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown

#364: Why Mary is Not Contrary—Dr. Rachel Fulton Brown

This week’s guest is a mentor and kind of spiritual mother to Milo Yiannopoulos (whose very candid interview with me was Episode 101) and wrote the bracing Foreword to his latest book (see link below). Dr Rachel Fulton Brown is a tenured professor of history at the University of Chicago, and a renowned medieval scholar with a speciality in the area of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

She is also a fervent convert to the Catholic Faith. In this episode we dive deep into the biblical and historical roots of the role of the Blessed Mother in salvation history, and suggest ways to answer objections to the truth about Mary.

 

In this episode you will learn

  • Why we say Mary is the Mother of God and not just the Mother of Jesus
  • Why all Marian doctrine is Christological in nature
  • How the medieval era got things right regarding the role of Mary in the life of the Church
  • When devotion to Mary went into eclipse and how to revive it
  • Why Our Lady is a powerful intercessor for all mankind, not just Catholics
  • The reason why all the titles of Mary in all the litanies can never exhaust her beauty nor the full truth about her person and mission

 

Resources mentioned in this episode


 

Our Sponsors 

Glory and Shine: Catholic personal care handmade products for Catholic men. Their products are “good for the Body, Mind, and Soul.” I personally love them! Use coupon COFFIN and get a discount. Shop HERE.

MyPillow.com: Up to 66% off all his 100+ products, all US-made) and a special offer on his book What Are the Odds? From Crack Addict to CEO. Use promo code PATRICK or call: 800-794-965

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#363: Must-Watch Christmas Movies—Anthony Esolen

363: Must-Watch Christmas Movies—Anthony Esolen

Magdalen College Professor Anthony Esolen is not only an eminent man of literature, he is also a walking encyclopedia of cinema. That definitely included movies set against or directly about, Christmas. In this free-wheeling conversation featuring brushes with fame and interconnectivity of actors who worked with the same directors, we hit many favorites and also some lesser-known Christmas movie nuggets.

In this episode, you will learn

  • Reasonable criteria for what makes a Christmas movie a Christmas movie
  • How everybody seems to miss the non-stop blasphemous swearing in Die Hard (1988)
  • The culture degradation as manifest in the way Christmas was treated by Hollywood in years gone by
  • Why many Christmas moves seem to include notes of sorrow and grief
  • Reasons why the Golden Age (1934-1966) produced the great movies about or set against, Christmas

Resources mentioned in this episode

Movies

  • It Happened on Fifth Avenue 
  • The Man Who Came to Dinner 
  • Penny Serenade 
  • The Shop Around the Corner 
  • Remember the Night
  • Christmas in Connecticut
  • An Affair to Remember
  • The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek 
  • The Bishop’s Wife
  • Meet John Doe
  • White Christmas
  • Holiday Inn
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • Die Hard
  • Love, Actually
  • Joyeux Noel
  • The Apartment
  • And course: It’s a Wonderful Life!

Books

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