Father Patrick Peyton was born in Attymass in the picturesque verdant valley between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ox Mountains of County Mayo in the northwestern sector of Ireland on January 9, 1909. From his earliest memories he can recall his parents praying their Rosaries and devoted to the Church. As the youngest in the family his brothers and sisters showed him the treasures of praying as the family would gather together nightly to say the Rosary. It touched him tremendously, fostering in him a love for the Faith and prayer, especially the daily Rosary. For him his home was a cradle, a school, a library - a "little church."
At the age of 19 he accompanied his older brother to America, settling in Scranton, Pennsylvania where they joined three of their older sisters. Before leaving for the States, his father charged Patrick with the call to "be faithful to Our Lord in America." That, as we can see he was and more. Though he felt great sorrow in leaving his mother and father who he had been so close to, he realized it was time to sprout his wings. But those "wings" were somewhat sooty, for both Peyton boys, in order to make a living, went to work in the coal mines of Scranton. Hard work was never something either shied away from. It wasn't long before his older brother entered the seminary and Patrick became a janitor at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Scranton. A year later, the lure of the priesthood called Patrick who entered the Congregation of Holy Cross seminary in South Bend on the Notre Dame campus. He was joined at the same time by his brother who transferred to Indiana. There both brothers led their new family - their fellow seminarians - in praying the Rosary.
During his time at Notre Dame he fostered a deeper love for Our Lady, reminded by the various landmarks on the campus in the chapel, the grotto and the Golden Dome. It was an ideal spiritual atmosphere for the young Irishman to study and enjoy his priestly formation. But in 1939, two years before he was to become a priest he contracted a serious illness while studying at the major seminary of the Holy Cross Fathers in Washington, D.C. He was sent back to South Bend and confined to the Notre Dame infirmary. It was there that his Faith was strengthened even further as he discovered "no man is an island" and he was totally dependent on the medical people for his life. As he deteriorated further, he heard the doctors pronounce that it was hopeless. They could do no more and the only answer now was prayer. Patrick was near despair but a good friend, a former professor, came to him and encouraged him, reminding Patrick that Our Lady was there, all he needed to do was to give himself to the Blessed Mother entirely. This he did and his faith and hopes were revived. He picked up his Rosary and feebly prayed and soon miraculously he was cured much to the amazement of the medical staff.
He regained his health totally and on June 15, 1941 he, along with his brother, was ordained a priest of the Holy Cross Fathers in the Sacred Heart Church at Notre Dame. Their parents were not able to be there for the ordination but their joy and thanks were immense. They both cried when seeing both their boys in their cassocks and the blessings God had bestowed on the Peyton family. But there was more to do for Father Patrick was intent on repaying Our Lady for her intercession in his healing. That payback came seven months after his ordination while he was on retreat. He heard clearly in his heart the direction he was to take, the same direction his own father and mother had directed him towards: the Family Rosary Crusade.
How could this be accomplished by a young Irish priest? Father Patrick didn't have a clue but God did. It was at the end of World War II and the Mutual Radio Broadcasting System, then the largest, granted Father Patrick a half hour to broadcast the Rosary across the country. Father was ecstatic. But what would he do to promote it? His Irish ingenuity came through as he asked Cardinal Francis Spellman to be the speaker and set the day for Mother's Day, May 13, 1945. It was also the 28th anniversary of the first Apparition at Fatima. He also invited an Irish family from Iowa who had lost five sons during the war to lead the Rosary. But the kicker was that he convinced Bing Crosby (the 90th selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY) to appear as well. This translated to an open door to Hollywood for Father Patrick. Executives at Mutual Radio were touched by the reverence and the response from the public. Soon Crosby was campaigning for Father Patrick, recruiting such Hollywood Catholic luminaries as James Cagney, Grace Kelly, Loretta Young, and Pat O'Brien (the 94th selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY) to name a few.
Soon the famous phrase by Father Patrick Peyton became a household term, "the family that prays together, stays together." By 1947 his Radio Hour had gone international with "Father Peyton's Family Theatre." A year later he began his worldwide crusades, beginning in the Diocese of London in Ontario, Canada. He also produced fifteen films, one for every mystery of the Rosary which still air today.
He stayed on the air through the fifties as more families huddled around the radio, praying the family Rosary, flocking to hear him wherever he went around the world. Every parish promoted the program and Father Patrick became known as "Our Lady's Priest" and the "Rosary Priest." Families would seek him out in sincere thanks and he became as well known as many Hollywood celebrities. It is estimated that he reached close to thirty million people with his message during his lifetime. But the fame never went to his head for he realized it was not him doing it, but God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He never forgot how Our Lady had interceded for him in that infirmary when he was at death's door. He wanted to bring as many souls as he could to God and, when the great book is revealed, we suspect the number of souls saved will be staggering.
As crass commercialism and immorality took over in the sixties, seventies and eighties and television became the main medium he, like Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen were forced off the air in favor of programming that was more akin to the outhouse rather than the penthouse. But it was all about ratings and money and the aftermath of Vatican II, when bizarre changes were made with no documentation and the Rosary de-emphasized for reasons we still cannot figure out. Soon generations knew of Father Patrick Peyton and his "Family Rosary Crusade" only through their grandparents. Afterall, the Rosary was passe to them. They had become modernized, not treasuring the great Deposit of Faith and the tools to strengthen that Faith. According to the cocky attitude of the youth and young adults, the Rosary was old-fashioned and needed to be put on the shelf. A good example of this was that notorious former head of the Theology Department at Notre Dame Richard McBrien who, on national television announced, "the sooner we do away with Rosary Beads and the emphasis on Mary, the better off we'll be."
That sad reality from a man who has become the media darling shows the trend that has occurred with the public over the years, a trend that has gone from an acceptance and interest in the Roman Catholic Church because of the efforts of men like Father Peyton, Bing Crosby et al and the state of the media's stance with Catholics today where Catholic bashing is the norm, thanks in large part to people like McBrien and Andrew Greeley who openly bash their own Church and the public buy it as if it's gospel. Thanks to a revival of Fatima, the phenomena of Medjugorje, the Knights of Columbus, and the emphasis on the Rosary by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, the Rosary is experiencing a revival despite the inane comments of modernists and progressive liberals out to divide the Church. When one looks really close they'll see the seeds planted by Father Patrick Peyton have taken root despite the tremendous patch of cockle from the modernists and apathy that choke the good sprouts. But from those good sprouts nourished by Father Peyton's efforts and total dedication to Our Lady's cause, we are confident the power of the Rosary will manifest itself as God intended.
Another famous phrase he coined, "a world at prayer is a world at peace" gives testimony today to how much we need the Rosary for the world is certainly not at peace as we enter the third millennium. Father Patrick passed away in San Pedro, California on June 3, 1992 at the age of 83 having fulfilled all Our Lady had asked of him and even with his dying breath he acknowledged it had been all for her when he uttered, "Mary, my Queen, my Mother." We can just imagine what Our Lady and her Divine Son replied as they welcomed him into the Beatific Vision, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
In 1994, two years after Father Patrick's death, his Family Theatre Productions produced an hour-long film on him simply called "A Most Unusual Man" narrated by such luminaries as Ann Blyth, MacDonald Carey, Ralph Edwards, Bob Newhart, and Jane Wyatt which documented his life and shared with the audience his association with many famous stars of Hollywood. Two years later the Odyssey Channel broadcast a half hour on his life entitled "A world at Prayer - the Vision of Patrick Peyton, CSC". Even more programs have been produced and more on the horizon.
His cause for beatification has been introduced in Rome and the same Postulator - Father James Fitzpatrick, OMI - who was working on the canonization of Blessed Andre Bessette who we featured as the 40th selection of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY. Many have come forward extolling the virtues of this man from Hollywood stars to the common man; proof that many are truly intent in perpetuating the message this man learned from his wise and devoted parents while still a toddler - to truly rise and stand tall for God, we must start on our knees.
"Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8).
Everything we believe, everything we hold dear, or are supposed to hold dear, is based, ultimately, on faith. Why do we hold to the Pope and the teaching of the Magisterium? Because of faith. Why do we do good works, works of charity? Because of faith. Why are we willing, and even able, to withstand suffering and disappointment? Because of faith. Faith in God that is.
We all have faith of one sort or another. In a debate between Fr. Ken Roberts and the American athiest, Madeline O'Hare, Fr. Roberts asked her to prove that there was no God. "I can't do that, it's impossible to prove that there is no God." He then responded, "Then your disbelief is based on faith just as mine is." Since God was someone an atheist can't see, touch, taste or hear, then, by faith, they conclude that He doesn't exist. Ultimately, then, their entire lives are lived according to that 'faith'.
The same can be said of other kinds of 'faith'. Martin Luther, essentially, lost his faith in God by thinking that the Church had fallen away from the true Gospel message, even though Christ promised, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
The notion that the Church fell away, and that 'he' rediscovered the truth, says, essentially that Christ was in error. That the powers of death, the gates of hell, DID prevail against the Church. Or even that the 'true' Church remained hidden for some 15 centuries, or had to go into hiding after the 'ascent' of the Catholic Church. It says Christ was mistaken, since, then, the Church was prevailed against. However, if we have faith in God, then there can be no doubt that the Church was not prevailed against. It did overcome the persecutions of Rome, transforming the Empire into a bastion of Christ.
Some historians seem to think that, instead of Christianity overcoming Rome, Rome overcame Christianity. Again, that Christ was mistaken. But if Christ is God, then Rome could not overcome His Church. When one has no faith, other explanations have to be found.
Consider Pharoah. "But Pharaoh said, 'Who is the LORD, that I should heed His voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover I will not let Israel go...' The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, 'You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as heretofore; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks which they made heretofore you shall lay upon them, you shall by no means lessen it; for they are idle; therefore they cry, 'Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.' Let heavier work be laid upon the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words' " (Exodus 5:2; 6-9).
Aren't we 'laden' with heavier work of all sorts so we pay no regard to 'lying' words? We're told the Church lies, is power hungry, etc. We should concern ourselves with racism, hunger, poverty, women rights, gay rights, etc. Yet, if we did regard the Church's teaching, Christ's teaching, would there be racism, hunger, poverty, etc.? Wouldn't women be treated with respect and wouldn't women cherish the lives of their children? Wouldn't sex be seen as a blessed gift and not a recreation? Can't we see that it's this lack of faith in the world which has brought us where we are?
When God changed Aaron's rod into a snake, Pharaoh's magicians did the same through illusion. Even when God's snake devoured the others, Pharaoh thought it was nothing more than a good trick. When God changed the water of the Nile to blood so that no one could drink from it, and the fish died, again, Pharaoh's men gave him plausible explanations. So Pharaoh, again refused. In all of the miracles of God, Pharaoh believed that they were caused by other things, and not God. So it seems today. In a secular, atheistic world, God's power and glory are closed off, hearts hardened to see His glory. Whether it's man's coming to be solely through chance (evolution) or de-emphasizing His miracles (the people didn't cross the 'Red' Sea but the Reed Sea) God has to be removed from any and all equations. Thus it is that many refuse to acknowledge God in any way, but put their trust, their 'faith' in man. Man(kind), who gave us centuries of blood, oppression, and poverty. Every 'movement' by such men (and women) generally saw them impose an even more cruel thing on their people than the one they overthrew.
The French Revolution was founded under the supposition of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Everyone was equal, a 'citizen'. But it didn't take long for the ideals of the revolution to become the Terror. Anyone who even disagreed (or was reported to disagree) with 'Citizen' Robespierre was sentenced to the guillotine.
The Russian revolution was supposed to replace the oppression of the Czar with a workers paradise, where wealth and land was redistributed. Instead, it was replaced with a system even more oppressive, even crueler, than the Czar's ever were. Anyone even accused of being the least bit unsatisfied, was either locked into a psychiatric hospital (prison), sent to a Gulag, or treated as a non-person (if they were well enough known in the world). Much of what these two liberation movements pushed is heard today, in the US and throughout the world. And in both cases, God was forcibly removed from the people. Those who did have faith were ridiculed, persecuted, imprisoned, even killed.
Those who knew God's power and glory, though, also lost their faith. "When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, 'Up, make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' And Aaron said to them, 'Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.' So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" (Exodus 32: 1-4).
How many 'molten calves' do we have today? Since they lost faith in God, they lost faith in Moses, so they needed to make their own god. Today, we see those who 'say' they have faith in God, but say they have no faith in the leaders of the Church who God set to guide and teach His Church. So they make their own 'gods'.
What does faith entail? Trusting in the Lord, even though our sense, and our logic, tell us differently. Abraham had faith in the Lord, even when He asked him to sacrifice his son to Him. As St. James says, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness'; and he was called the friend of God" (James 2: 21-23). Abraham's faith showed through his works, his actions. He didn't say, "This makes no sense, it isn't fair so I won't do it!" No, his faith told him to trust in the Lord.
Consider the Roman centurion. All he needed was Christ's say so that his servant would be healed. "But the centurion answered Him, 'Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it" (Matthew 8: 8-9). He didn't need to see Him heal his servant. He didn't need proof Christ would do it, or could do it. He knew He could, and if He said He would, that was enough.
"When Jesus heard him, He marveled, and said to those who followed Him, 'Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith'" (Matthew 8: 10). Faith, it's the beginning. It's what we need to remain faithful, trusting. If we have no faith then we must replace it with another faith. Faith in men, women, politics, policies, etc. But, as seen, those who put their trust in these often find themselves in even worse positions.
As the Archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojytila (now John Paul II) asked, "Has this world brought the unbeliever to unbelief (loss of faith) or has his unbelief brought him to the world 'he' lives in?"
We trust in the teachings of the Church and the Pope, not because of them as men, but precisely because we trust in God. We do works of mercy, not simply because it's the socially responsible thing to do, but because we have trust in God. "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith" (James 2:18). With faith, the Church is the bride of Christ, given His authority to teach and guide His people. Without faith, the Church is simply a medieval institution, which needs to be overcome, remade, overthrown. A power hungry, patriarchal, homophobic organization bent on it's own power.
With faith, it is a loving mother tending her children who are Christ's, showing them the way home. Without faith in God, there will be no justice, no love, no compassion. Only rationalization and more oppression to give the illusion of love, justice, and compassion.
"I believe in You, O God, because You are Truth itself, and as You have revealed them to her, I believe all the sacred truths which the holy Catholic Church believes and teaches."
Pax Christi, Pat