Venerable Patrick Peyton, CSC: His life and legacy
“The family that prays together stays together.”
These words, so simple yet so iconic, have come to define the life and legacy of Ven. Patrick Peyton, CSC.
Known to millions around the world as “the Rosary priest,” Fr. Peyton was born into humble roots in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1909. A family Rosary, prayed nightly in the Peyton home, fueled his early love for Mary and the Church as well as a vocation to the priesthood. But when multiple seminaries rejected him, Patrick journeyed to the United States in 1927 with the goal of becoming a wealthy real estate magnate. Upon settling in Scranton, Pennsylvania, he was unable to find work, so Patrick accepted a job as a sexton in a Catholic parish. Here, his desire to serve not only as a priest but also as a missionary was rekindled and found a path to fruition.
In 1929, alongside his brother Tom, Patrick Peyton enrolled and studied at Holy Cross Minor Seminary at the University of Notre Dame and went on to Holy Cross College in Washington for theological training. Patrick’s health began to fail in October 1938. He ultimately developed advanced tuberculosis.
After a year of progressively worsening health and given a choice between risky surgery or praying for a miracle, Patrick Peyton followed the advice of a priestly mentor and prayed through the intercession of Our Lady for a cure. On Oct. 31, 1939, he knew in his heart that Mary had indeed carried his prayers to God and he had been healed. His studies continued, and on June 15, 1941, he was ordained a priest and gave his heart and his life to Mary.
[Patrick Peyton] knew in his heart that Mary had indeed carried his prayers to God.
On his first assignment at the Vincentian Institute in Albany, New York, in his spare time young Fr. Pat recruited the faithful around him to organize a Rosary campaign. These humble crusade beginnings formed the roots of an organization that would eventually be called “Family Rosary.”
Fueled by his love for Mary and his deep belief in the power of family prayer, Fr. Peyton next set his sights on the power of the airwaves. Assembling a team of A-list celebrities including Bing Crosby and with the participation of Cardinal Francis Spellman and President Harry Truman, Fr. Peyton took to the radio on May 13, 1945, and gave an impassioned plea for families to pray a Rosary together for peace.
This wildly popular initiative led to the formation of Family Theater Productions in Hollywood in 1947. From radio to television and ultimately to movies, Fr. Peyton harnessed the power of the media to win hearts for Jesus Christ through a devotion to his mother Mary.
Soon Fr. Peyton was invited to Canada, where he held his first Rosary rally in 1948. With a desire to reach millions of families, Fr. Peyton would go on to lead 260 rallies around the world. At these popular prayer events, Fr. Peyton always underscored his two lasting messages: “The family that prays together stays together” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace.”
A tireless advocate and organizer, Fr. Peyton continued his work until his health once again declined, continuing his daily commitment to Adoration, Mass, and the Rosary. He died peacefully on June 3, 1992, with the words “Mary, my Queen, my Mother” on his lips.
Fr. Peyton was buried at Holy Cross Community Cemetery at Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts. The organization he founded, Holy Cross Family Ministries, now continues his worldwide ministry from its headquarters nearby. In 2017 Pope Francis promulgated a decree recognizing him as Ven. Patrick Peyton. Fr. Peyton’s cause for canonization continues, with millions around the globe praying daily through his intercession.
The power of praying families
Today the “Family Rosary” organization created and nurtured by Ven. Peyton and his many supporters remains committed to sharing the Rosary priest’s legacy around the world. Holy Cross Family Ministries is currently operational in 26 ministry sites in 17 countries on five continents.
“The Congregation of Holy Cross has officially embraced Fr. Peyton’s ministry to help families pray,” said Fr. Wilfred Joseph Raymond, CSC, Holy Cross Family Ministries’ president.
Fr. Raymond’s own vocation to the priesthood can in many ways be seen as a testament to the power of the family Rosary.
“Growing up in a family of 12 children in Old Town, Maine, we prayed the Rosary every night after dinner as a family, in French,” recalled Fr. Raymond. “Usually the house was filled with the noise of siblings rivaling each other, household chores being accomplished, and voices raised in anger, or laughter, complaining and demanding. However, when we prayed the Rosary, the family united in prayer and sensed that Jesus, Mary, and all the saints were a real part of our family.
“After the Rosary, there was always a moment of tranquil peace and solidarity. The grace of our family Rosary was a special blessing to all of us. For me, I have no doubt that the call to religious life and the priesthood was first issued in our family Rosary and first heard by me in the same devotion. The Rosary nourished that call and continues to reaffirm it today in profound ways.”
Danielle Bean serves as brand manager for CatholicMom.com, the newest member in the Holy Cross Family Ministries family of services.
“Families today are pulled in so many directions,” Bean, herself a busy working and homeschooling mother, acknowledged. “With such a busy schedule, it can be hard to find time to spend together as a family.”
It seems that now more than ever, today’s families need and are grateful for the spiritual support offered by those who minister today with the values underscored by Ven. Peyton.
“The work Fr. Peyton started is always focused on small, simple things such as praying together as a family,” Bean said. “Can you pray together before meals? Can you teach a small child the Hail Mary? Can you tell older kids about the Rosary and teach them how to pray a decade? Start where you are, and God will bless your efforts.”
“Our world is so broken, and outreach starts with the family,” said David Socha, CEO of Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co. “Where the family goes, so goes the moral fabric of society.”
Socha, who serves as a member of the board of directors for Family Rosary, has seen the ministry’s impact on his personal prayer life. “They have helped me to be more faithful seeking Mother Mary’s intercession.”
Our world is so broken, and outreach starts with the family.
As a busy mom, Margaret Dwyer Hogan tucked a laminated prayer card published by Holy Cross Family Ministries into the visor of her car in the late 1990s.
“At the time, I was working and giving birth to three children while saying goodbye to a number of immediate family members on both sides of our family,” Hogan remembered. “By learning to meditate daily on the mysteries of the Rosary, my children grew up in a home centered on being present in the moment. I learned through the school of Mary — contemplating the life of Jesus Christ — what was important, and what was not.”
Now more than ever, family prayer — and especially a devotion to the Rosary — can sow and nurture seeds of faith, peace, and hope in every domestic church.
A world at prayer is a world at peace
Fr. Paul Pinto, CSC, who serves as international director of Holy Cross Family Ministries, also experienced his vocational calling in a home devoted to family prayer.
“I developed a desire to become a missionary priest growing up in a home where my parents called my eight siblings and me to prayer every evening,” Fr. Pinto said. “Not a single day passed that we could have dinner without praying the Rosary together as a family.”
Very much in the spirit of Ven. Peyton, Holy Cross Family Ministries now serves families around the globe by every means possible, including in-person services and retreats but also video, radio, daily family prayer intercession via an app or email, a Rosary app, weekly e-books, and 24/7 reflections through social media and blogs.
“The life and legacy of Fr. Peyton continues to inspire, foster, and promote the spiritual well-being of families,” Fr. Pinto said. “Although the implementation of the mission is different in each country, the focus is on helping families pray. Out of the 14 types of prayer events that have been conducted around the world, Family Enrichment is the most frequent. Through our ministry of visiting families in their homes, listening to and counseling them, and praying with them, we have seen many families reconciled.”
In so many ways, faith begins and is nurtured in the home. Just as Fr. Peyton recognized and urged providing services to families, Holy Cross Family Ministries continues to embrace every effort possible to serve families and individuals.
“I would say that partnership with dioceses, parishes, family life offices, institutes for family life and prayer, and Catholic publishers and schools are all crucial for future effectiveness in helping the family with the resources it needs to grow and flourish spiritually. This means moving from competition to collaboration,” Fr. Raymond said.
“It also means avoiding the pitfall of polarizing the people of God into conservative and liberal camps. Too much time and energy are expended in intramural disagreements. There is no easy solution to preventing the partisan discourse from poisoning the community of the Church, but it is a challenge and needs our attention.”
As Holy Cross Family Ministries continues to build upon the legacy of Ven. Peyton, it’s easy to imagine that the man who used every means possible to share the Good News would fully embrace the many tools being used today to draw souls closer to Mary even in the context of busy family life.
“Everything begins at the home! What Ven. Peyton began with families continues to have ripple effects around the world, gradually transforming them,” Fr. Pinto pointed out. “When families pray together, they become conscious of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and develop close supportive relationships. In this context, they develop competence to see, courage to act, and wisdom to distinguish between good and evil. And they become sensitive to and deal with signs of problems that could disrupt their family unity.”
“When families pray together, they reduce the risk of family breakdown that can lead to the deterioration of civility in everyday life and the development of an addictive culture. As we become more aware of the societal need for unified praying families, we become more convinced that we should do something and not be mere bystanders. Holy Cross Family Ministries is making efforts to meet this need by helping families pray together, continuing and extending the legacy of Ven. Patrick Peyton. I believe helping families pray is one of the most urgent and relevant missions today.”
FR. PEYTON’S PAITH TO SAINTHOOD
Following Fr. Patrick Peyton’s death, a cause for canonization was opened by the Congregation of Holy Cross. In 2001, Fr. Peyton was given the title “Servant of God.” The cause has advanced in ensuing years as the faithful continue to pray through the intercession of Fr. Peyton.
“Presently, Fr. Peyton is now called Ven. Patrick Peyton,” explained Fr. David S. Marcham, vice postulator for the cause of Ven. Patrick Peyton and director of the Father Peyton Guild. “This means the Church points to the example of his heroic virtue and sanctity of life for others to emulate and draw inspiration. In addition, the Church looks to him as an intercessor as we pray to God for our needs.
“The next step in the cause for canonization/sainthood will require the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints to approve a possible medical miracle through Fr. Peyton’s intercession. At this time the Vatican is reviewing a proposed miracle, and we await their findings. If approved, the Holy Father could declare Fr. Peyton ‘blessed.’ After that, one additional miracle would be needed to declare Fr. Peyton a saint.”
PRAYER MUSEUM TO OPEN
Opening Sept. 15 in North Easton, Massachusetts, Holy Cross Family Ministries’ Museum of Family Prayer will continue Ven. Patrick Peyton’s mission of encouraging families to pray daily, particularly the Rosary. This new museum welcomes families from around the world for an immersive, inspiring, educational, and unique experience of prayer. The museum uses digital media for the entire family to experience together.
Visitors of all ages will come to understand the origins of prayer and how their hearts and minds can be enriched through daily prayer. Exhibits will include an immersive and inclusive look at “A World at Prayer,” a historic examination of the roots of prayer, an interactive media-oriented look at Fr. Peyton’s life and legacy, a hands-on family room, as well as daily programs, liturgies, Holy Hours, confession, and other sacramental events in the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Chapel. Visit MuseumOfFamilyPrayer.org for more information.