A newly ordained priest, recovering from near-fatal illness, looked at the world and prayed. He saw a world filled with violence, families torn apart, a pace of life that made it increasingly difficult for individuals to find time to be with people they love the most.
Authentic prayer would lead to peace. He believed in the presence of God, the compassion of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the goodness of people. He did not despair. He turned to prayer, and there he found hope and began a project that would consume his whole life.
That young priest was Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., who this week was declared Venerable by Pope Francis.
Previously he was named Servant of God, and being declared Venerable moves Father Peyton one more step up the rung toward possible sainthood. Learn more about him here.
The project idea that came to Peyton arose from his own experience growing up poor in Ireland and later emigrating to the United States. On the hardest days of work on the farm, the most discouraging days of poverty, Peyton’s family, (mother, father and nine siblings) gathered together each evening to pray the Rosary. The prayer gave them strength and consolation.
Later, as the siblings moved away to find work, many of them to United States, Peyton found that prayer sustained the unity of their family across great distances. He had a foundation of faith and love wherever he found himself. He knew he was not alone, and that he was loved. He wanted others to know that, too.
So, he started a national campaign to promote family prayer, especially the Rosary.
Not even five years ordained, and he had written every bishop in the country about his project. They responded enthusiastically. When offered radio time on a local station in Albany, New York, Peyton grabbed the chance. The response was overwhelming.
Peyton realized that the way to reach people was over the airwaves with mass media. In 1946, Father Peyton turned to Bishop Fulton Sheen, who advised the young priest on how to proceed. Within three years, Father Peyton had come to Hollywood and started a national radio program on the Mutual Broadcasting Network.
When searching for a tag line for his radio show, Peyton enlisted the help of ad writer Al Scapone. They came up with the slogan, “The Family That Prays Together, Stays Together,” now known all over the world. Peyton and the staff at Family Theater Productions produced radio plays with stars like Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Loretta Young, Kirk Douglas and Gregory Peck.
Radio led to film and TV projects, books and massive public prayer rallies in cities around the world, on six of the seven continents. (Sorry Antarctica.)
Here is an excerpt from a TV special, in which he prays the Rosary with Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta …
Father Peyton died in 1992 in San Pedro, California, cared for by the Little Sisters of the Poor. He had remained in California, so that to his end here on earth, he could continue his work at Family Theater, inspiring and encouraging families through media. His last projects were TV specials and a series of stories for teens.
As I write this, I am sitting in the very office that Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., worked in for the last 32 years of his life. I am sure that if he were here today he would be working with our production team making videos, posting messages on Facebook and photos on Instagram.
He would be doing it for the same reason our team here does it today. We see a world filled with violence, families torn apart, a pace of life that makes it increasingly difficult for individuals to find time to be with people they love the most.
We believe in the presence of God, the compassion of Mary the Mother of Jesus, and the goodness of people. Authentic prayer will lead to peace.
Father David Guffey, C.S.C., is the Head of Production for Family Theater Productions on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California.