Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"The Family That Prays Together Stays Together" (Father Patrick Peyton)

Family Rosary Crusade rally in Melbourne, Australia in November, 1951

The month of May, dedicated to Our Lady, is always a calling for Catholics to spend more time with Our Blessed Mother, strengthening our Marian devotion with: increased Rosary recitation, devotional readings, personal prayers or novenas. What some individuals may have not considered is a group recitation of the Rosary with their own family.

Today's post seeks to encourage such a consideration in the spirit of Father Patrick Peyton, CSC who in addition to his Family Theater radio programs and numerous television films, spent much of his priestly ministry travelling the globe in support of the family by promoting prayer in the family, and spreading the Rosary Devotion through his international Family Rosary Crusades.

The importance of the family can not be overstated as "the first and vital cell of society," one that Fr. Peyton understood very well and worked tirelessly to strengthen and protect. Today's post is my tribute to a great priest and man whom I admire, whose life and ministry I hope many will come to know.

The Rosary and its importance for our lives and salvation was first made known to us by Our Lady, who in 1214 gave the Rosary to St. Dominic as a powerful means to convert the Albigensians and restore Catholicism from the heresy that had plagued the southern region of France. Since then, others throughout Catholic Church history were chosen by Our Lady to spread the Rosary Devotion.

One such individual was St. Louis De Montfort, who in the early seventeenth century wrote his well known book, The Secret of The Rosary, which provides essential information on the devotion, including the importance and added benefit of group recitation. You can find this exact information in the chapter titled, Forty-Sixth Rose Group Recitation, in which he stated that there are several ways to recite the Rosary, but the method that gives God the greatest glory and benefits our souls the most, and which the Devil fears more than any other, is that of saying or chanting the Rosary publicly in two groups.

In reference to the scriptural passage of Matthew 18:20, He goes on to further remind us that "Our Blessed Lord expressly recommended common prayer to His apostles and disciples and promised that whenever two or three were gathered together in His name He would be there in the midst of them." (96)

Saint John Paul II and Fr. Patrick Peyton
In more recent times, we have Saint John Paul II who was well known for his Marian devotion. His daily recitation of the Rosary and his admission that it was his most favourite prayer were a complement to his Marian papal motto, "Totus Tuus," or "Totally Yours." So strong was his Rosary Devotion, that Our Lady chose him in 2002 to introduce a fourth set of mysteries, the Luminous Mysteries, which Saint John Paul II honoured with his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae and declaration of October'2002 to October'2003, as the Year of The Rosary.

Background History

Father Patrick Peyton was born on January 9, 1909 in Caracastle, County Mayo, Ireland. He came from a devout Catholic family, the sixth of nine children. It was not easy for his parents to provide, but no matter what material things may have been lacking, one thing was for certain, Fr. Patrick's parents ensured for their children's spiritual needs through a group recitation of the Rosary with the family, led each night by his father. The small house that he lived in was truly a home, one that he greatly appreciated that through the example of his parents, was "the best school, library, hospital and even church" he could ever attend.

His involvement with the Church began at a very early age as he became very close to his parish priest in Attymass at St. Joseph's parish, where he often served two early morning Masses each day. His application to two religious communities was refused because his family could not afford to pay for his education. This upset the young Patrick and discouraged him from pursuing the priesthood.

The practical necessities of life forced Fr. Patrick to leave Ireland for America, with his brother Tom in 1928. He was never to see his mother and father ever again, but before departing Ireland, his father said to him, "Be faithful to Our Lord in America." This is exactly what Fr. Patrick set out to do.

Upon arrival in America, in Scranton, Pennsylvania Fr. Patrick's brother Tom found a job working in the coal mines, while he found work as a sexton in the cathedral. It was a job that afforded him private and personal time in prayer to the Lord and Our lady. As Fr. Patrick stated:
In the quiet of that church, I would pray and pray before the Blessed Sacrament, and as the months went by, the thought of devoting my entire life to God got stronger and stronger. I had to at least try the seminary. I wasn't there long before I knew it was the right life for me. But at the height of my happiness, with ordination day only two years away, I had to face the crisis of my life.
The crisis that Fr. Patrick referred to was the discovery of tuberculosis which the doctors had informed him had developed for a year prior to the diagnosis; that he better pray because all medical treatment had failed. A fellow Irishman Fr. Cornelius Haggerty, CSC, encouraged him not to give up hope with the following words, "Mary is alive right here and now, Pat, She is a 100 per-cent, if you only believe it! You know how dedicated the Irish are to the Rosary. Well, pray it yourself, believing that Mary is alive and able to give you one hundred percent of what you ask."

Father Patrick's response was to fervently pray the Rosary more than he had ever done. After a novena of Rosaries, he declared himself cured on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Doctors confirmed his declaration with medical tests and concurred, he was cured. Thrilled with his recovery and his return to his studies, he decided to dedicated his priesthood to Our Lady.

Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC
Father Patrick was ordained on June 14, 1940 and assigned as chaplain to the Brothers of the Holy Cross who taught at Vincentian Institute High School in Albany, New York. It was in prayer than Fr. Patrick decided he would repay Our Lady for his miraculous healing by promoting the Family Rosary all around the United States.

Setting out with intensity, boundless energy and great enthusiasm, Fr. Patrick embarked on his life long ministry. It was not long before he received assistance as many Brothers volunteered, as did students from the high school and the College of St. Rose. He made an effort to write and contact anyone who could help him, including many bishops to spread the Family Rosary which he officially founded in 1942.

Father Patrick spoke frequently at many parishes, referring with great affection to Our Lady's intercessory power, which included his own testimonial. He did not limit himself to personal testimonials, but embarked on taking the Family Rosary to the airwaves, beginning the radio program that became so well known with his ministry.

The radio program's humble beginning at a small radio station in Albany was seen by him as an opportunity to multiply his voice and reach many more people. He once remarked, "If only I could reach 5 million people in the U.S.A.!" At the time, World War II was raging on and there was a lot of hatred in the world. It was Fr. Peyton's belief that world peace ultimately depended on peace in the human heart and in the family. This conviction eventually became the second famous slogan attributed to his ministry, “A world at prayer is a world at peace.”

The success of the radio program prompted Father Patrick to take the broadcast to the national level. In New York City, he was granted an opportunity by a non-Christian woman, in charge of broadcasting at the Mutual Broadcasting System, to air his program at a certain time slot, conditional upon the inclusion of a Hollywood star. Trusting in Our Lady, Fr. Peyton accepted the air time and the attached condition.

With his trust firmly rooted in Our Lady, Fr. Peyton picked up the phone and asked the operator to get him Bing Crosby in Hollywood. He reached Bing Crosby who agreed to be on his program. Father Peyton also contacted the Sullivan family, whose five sons were killed during the war and asked the parents and the sister to lead the Rosary on the air. The program was broadcast on May 13, 1945, Mother's Day, and also on National Day of Thanksgiving for VE (Victory in Europe) Day on May 8,1945. It appeared that the entire country was listening; three hundred and eleven stations aired the program during Bing Crosby's talk on the importance of the Rosary. In addition, Cardinal Spellman of New York and President Truman also talked on the show. It was a time when the entire nation heard the impassioned voice of the "Rosary priest" encouraging them to strengthen their family life by praying the Rosary together.

Due to the success of the program, Mutual Broadcasting System offered Fr. Peyton a weekly time slot with the same condition of including top stars and writers from Hollywood. Celebrities positively responded, as did many more volunteers including Holy Cross priests and brothers. In 1947, Fr. Peyton opened up Family Theater Productions in Hollywood.

The Family Theater

Loretta Young starred in the first show, Flight From Home, on February 13, 1947. Father Peyton's devotion to Our Lady was so strong and obvious that Young remarked, "I never met a man so in love with a woman as Fr. Peyton was in love with the Blessed Mother." It was for this show that the slogan, "The family that prays together stays together," was used to promote family prayer. It soon became Fr. Peyton's slogan and a household phrase. 

Fr. Patrick Peyton, Jimmy Stewart, Don Amece and Loretta Young at the first Family Theater show in 1947

It was during that first episode that Jimmy Stewart told the Family Theater audience that, “...[W]ith the hope that families everywhere will always be together and that your home will be a happy one—with the conviction that prayer, simple prayer, will help keep it that way.” Every Sunday night, a celebrity host would make similar comments promoting prayer and family unity before and after that week’s radio drama. Family Theater’s basic message was simply that of strengthening the family through faith in God and prayer.

In his book, The Ear of GodFather Peyton expressed his vision of the family, “The family was meant to be the cradle of religion; restore to the family its religious soul and you enrich the entire country, you strengthen civilization.” Many people, including Hollywood entertainers, were happy to support this vision such as: Gary Cooper, Lucille Ball, Jane Wyatt, Henry Fonda, Jack Benny, Rosalind Russell, Shirley Temple, Margaret O’Brien, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Durante, Gene Kelly, Natalie Wood, Vincent Price, Charlton Heston and Raymond Burr.

In an era when radio was "the" communication medium, Fr. Peyton had succeeded in making Family Theater a Sunday-night fixture in many American homes. He effectively utilized radio and established a niche for his message in the most  popular communication medium of the 1940’s. His radio series received numerous awards, such as "Best Program of the year" on the Mutual Network by the Daily Radio trade magazine for four consecutive years, from 1948-1951. Family Theater became one of the longest weekly radio programs in history, lasting twenty two years. It had reached well over the five million people Fr. Peyton hoped for.

World Wide Rosary Rallies (Family Rosary Crusades)

Forging ahead with his mission, Fr. Peyton in 1948 began to organize huge Rosary rallies. He called them Family Rosary Crusades. So popular were these crusades that he received invitations from bishops around the world. The first photo above published with this post is one such rally in Melbourne, Australia. The one directly below this text is another; from the 1961 San Francisco rally in which five hundred thousand people attended and was deemed by the Archdiocesan archivist in 2003 as the number one event in the Archdiocese's one hundred and fifty year history.

The Family Rosary Crusade was a huge success in Latin America: in 1962, one million were in attendance in Colombia; one and a half million were in attendance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1962; and another two million in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1964; and in the Philippines, two million attended the rally.

San Francisco "Family Rosary Crusade rally in 1961

With the success of the Family Theater, Fr. Peyton continued to press forward to reach even more people on an international level. Below are his own words describing the next phase of his ministry, taken from the YouTube video of the web site,
With my work in Hollywood firmly established, I went on the road once more, eagerly seeking a way to reach more people personally. In the first year, we received requests from bishops in Western Canada and Alaska that covered a territory as large as the continental United States. From there we went to areas all over the eastern and western United States. Then to Eastern Canada and Newfoundland. As the crowds got larger, they overflowed open fields, filled the ballparks and crowded the stadiums. Not to witness a circus, not to see a ball game, but to pray to God together as a family. 
New York City was a milestone for the crusades and brought it national and international attention. Requests for crusades outdistanced our sources to answer them. From Newcastle in the north of England to Malaga in the south of Spain, the crusade message met acceptance by peoples who believed in its urgency, its necessity and its ability to meet the needs of the moment. To Burma, Thailand, Pakistan, Philippines, India and more. The people of Africa took us to their hearts as we did them. From South Africa the crusade went to Kenya, Tanganyika (together with the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba became Tanzania) and Uganda. Then to Rhodesia (now split into two countries, Zambia and Zimbabwe), Nyasaland (now Malawi) and the Sudan. 
With the new communication medium of the television, Fr. Peyton in the 50s added to his ministry with a massive film project producing three feature-length epic dramas in Spain on the life of Christ, divided into the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. Viewed by millions around the world, they were for many Latin Americans the first films ever seen. Adding to his efforts were television specials, interviews, documentaries and variety programs that included many of Hollywood's biggest stars.

Father Peyton's work achieved global importance and for a very brief period he had to break from his ministry because his presence was needed at the Second Vatican Council. Upon his arrival in Rome, he was warmly greeted by Pope Paul VI who encouraged him to continue his efforts on behalf of the family.

This wasn't the first instance that the Vatican took notice of his ministry. Pope Pius XII wrote two letters to Fr. Petyon that expressed his gratitude and encouraged him. Here is one of two letters available for viewing on line, in which Pope Pius XII addressed the letter to "Our Beloved Son, Father Patrick Peyton Priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross." Similarly, Pope John XXIII also wrote two letters of encouragement and gratitude. 

Another well known figure from the Church, Mother Teresa also supported his ministry. Even President Richard Dixon gave Fr. Peyton such a wonderful accolade in which he was quoted as saying, "...we honour a man who is not just a Catholic priest, he speaks for the best of America."

Fr. Peyton with Mother Teresa reciting the Rosary

Father Peyton's ministry saw him speak to twenty eight million people in person during the Family Rosary Crusades. Several million more were reached with over six hundred radio and television shows and through his films. Father Peyton passed away on June 3, 1992 at the age of 83, in San Pedro, California. He was buried at the cemetery of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Easton, Massachusetts

Holy Cross Family Ministries

Today the work of Fr. Peyton continues under the title of Holy Cross Family Ministries (HCFM). If you visit the web site, you will see an impressive effort that continues in the spirit of Fr. Peyton. Here is their mission statement, "In the spirit of our founder, Servant of God Patrick Peyton and under the sponsorship of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Holy Cross Family Ministries serves Jesus Christ and His Church throughout the world by promoting and supporting the spiritual well-being of the family." HCFM seeks to promote and support the spiritual well being of the family by: making the Rosary widely known, using media to share the Word of God, identifying the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of the family and creating programs to address those needs.

HCFM's Mission In Action entails carrying out their mission through face-to-face and media ministries: Family Rosary and Family Rosary International that encourages family prayer, especially the Rosary, Family Theater Productions which directs its efforts to the evangelization of the culture using mass media to entertain, inspire and educate families, The Father Peyton Family Institute which focuses on research, education and service in family life ministry and the relationship of spirituality to family.

To go into detail as to the contents of the Holy Cross Family Ministry web site would entail a separate blog post on its own, but I would like to point out one aspect that I found particularly interesting and impressive, the Hear From HCFM page, which really spot lights how well this ministry has utilized the internet to evangelize and help the family. At this page, one can sign up to receive emails that include information on: Beads and Blessings, a Biweekly newsletter from Family Rosary, Credits, a Biweekly newsletter from Family Theater ProductionsSunday Family Prayer, a weekly email with prayers and activities for families to do together each day, HCFM News, updates from Holy Cross Family Ministries, Prayer Of The Day, a daily morning prayer to start your day focused on what matters most and Weekly Homily Newsletter, an inspirational "homily" issued weekly. If you prefer, you could receive all the above via text to your cell phone as well.

So well thought out has been the effort at HCFM, that there is a separate web site dedicated to an on line store, At this location, what I found particularly interesting was the Audio section's Classic Radio; a collection of DVDs of radio programs from the past, including some big name Hollywood stars. Although these programs were produced well before my time, it was interesting to take a retro journey and capture the Catholic spirituality that provided an uplifting, humorous and meaningful look into family life.

Cause For Sainthood

Father Peyton's official status is Servant of God, which is granted to a candidate whose cause for sainthood has been presented by a promoter group, the Congregation Of Holy Cross, to the Vatican and accepted for investigation. This is but the first in a four step process for declaration of sainthood to occur.

For the cause to proceed, it must be determined and declared that Fr. Peyton's life was one of holiness and heroic virtue. The gathering of information to determine this began in October'2003. Testimonies of his heroic virtues and holiness were presented after which a Theological Commission and a Historical Commission were officially appointed. A Theological Commission is appointed to study the candidate’s writings, published and unpublished to ascertain faithfulness to teachings of the Catholic Church. The Historical Commission is appointed to collect and examine all the documents of the candidate. If the evidence presented is the proper proof needed, the candidate is then declared Venerable.

The next step in the cause is when the candidate is declared Blessed, which occurs when it has been determined that a miracle occurred attributed to his intercession. Under review since November'2005 has been the submission of a miraculous cure of a mother and son from East Africa, who together with the Holy Cross Fathers, prayed for Father Peyton’s intercession. To date both mother and son are symptom-free of the disease.

The miraculous cure has yet to be officially attributed to the intercession of Fr. Peyton. A six thousand page report has been submitted by a tribunal to Rome to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints where a review was conducted. A summary of the report was completed by the Postulator, Dr. Ambrosi, referred to as a Positio (Position Document). It is a thirteen hundred page study of Father Peyton’s life and ministry; the result of a four-year study completed in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Baltimore and thirty four other dioceses around the world.

In April of this year, Father Willy Raymond, CSC, Father David Marcham, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines, presented the Positio to Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of SaintsThe video below captures part of this presentation and further explains Fr. Peyton's life and the cause for sainthood.

What remains is for the Congregation of the Causes of Saints to confirm that Father Peyton led a life of holiness, a life of heroic virtue. If this proves to be the case, Fr. Peyton will receive the status of Venerable. If it is determined that through Fr. Peyton's intercession that the African woman and her child were cured, then his status will change to Blessed. Upon proof of a second miracle attributed to his intercession, Fr. Peyton will be declared a Saint

If today's post was the first you have ever heard of Fr. Patrick Peyton, I hope his life and ministry will encourage you to introduce prayer to your family including a daily recitation of the Rosary.

Prayer within the family is urgently needed in today's world with so many attacks against the family including: abortioncontraception, euthanasia, human embryo research, fertility clinics, pornography, LGBT agenda and propaganda, gender ideologysexual immorality in the education system, anti-life policy development within medical organizations and immoral laws.  

Father Peyton's ministry (HCFM) remains ever relevant and needed today; the perfect solution to the current and potential new threats against the family and world peace. The importance of the Rosary for world peace is not a new message, but given to us anew with Fr. Peyton's ministry. It was only a few decades prior to Fr. Peyton's efforts that Our Lady had already given this important message of the Rosary prayer for world peace in Fatima, Portugal. 

Today marks the anniversary of Our Lady's first appearance to Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, the three small children from Fatima, Portugal. Our Lady appeared to the children for six consecutive months, on the 13th of each month from May'1917, to October'1917. One of the two main requests given by Our Lady was for the daily recitation of the Rosary for peace in the world. So significant is the Rosary for peace in the world that Our Lady appeared to the children, introducing herself as "The Lady of the Rosary."

Our Lady continues today with her message of Rosary prayers for world peace in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina. On June 24, 1981, Our Lady began appearing to six visionaries that continues to this day. She introduced herself as the "Queen of Peace," and told the visionaries, "What I started in Fatima, I will finish in Medjugorje, my heart will triumph."

In the spirit of Fr. Peyton, may we all effectively utilize today's communication mediums to defend and strengthen the family, promote world peace and spread devotion to Our Lady through the Rosary.

Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.

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