The Rosary Priest and the Family Rosary

Patrick Peyton was born in a little cottage in Carracastle, Ireland, on January 9, 1909, the sixth of nine children. He considered it a great grace to have lived with his family for the first nineteen years of his life because his home was a “home of prayer,” a home of the Rosary, as he later says in his autobiography.

Since the day they got married, John and Mary Peyton knelt and prayed the Rosary daily, and they continued to pray the family Rosary every night with their children.

“In all the years of their married life, they [his parents] never once failed to gather the family every evening for Mary’s centuries-old prayer…If there was one inflexible rule in our home, it was that every one of us had to participate in the family Rosary led by my father. It didn’t matter how hard or how long the day’s work—digging potatoes, cutting turf, or repairing a road. Often one or another would drop to sleep on his knees. But he was always brought back into the prayer, kindly but firmly. It was the entire family praising God, asking Him through His Mother to protect it, to guide it to the destiny He had intended for it. That nightly scene constitutes my earliest memory and the most abiding. From it I derive the entire pattern and purpose of my existence.”

Father Patrick Peyton, All for Her, Chapter 1

Even as a young boy Patrick wanted to be a priest, a missionary, but in God’s providence, circumstances prevented him from entering the seminary in Ireland. Patrick set aside his desires, thinking they were a foolish dream. It was not until he came to the United States to Scranton, Pennsylvania at the age of nineteen, with his brother Tom, that the desire to be a priest was re-enkindled in his heart. He was working as a janitor in the Cathedral, where he was constantly in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Through a providential meeting with a priest from the Congregation of Holy Cross, Patrick and his brother Tom applied to this Congregation and were accepted.

Shortly before Patrick and Tom were to be ordained priests, Patrick began coughing up blood. He was admitted into a hospital and diagnosed with advanced Tuberculosis, a devastating disease for which there was no cure at the time. Months later, he was transferred to the infirmary of his religious congregation, and then given the choice between surgery, which would leave him handicapped, and trusting in God and the power of prayer.

Tears poured down his face as he realized that he might never become a priest.

Father Cornelius Hagerty, his favorite professor, visited Patrick. He told him that Patrick had been given the gift of faith. It had been instilled in him by his mother, but he was not putting it to use.

“Many beautiful things Father Hagerty said. But what really captivated me was the way he summed up his entire thinking in three brief statements. ‘Mary is omnipotent in the power of her prayer,’ he said. ‘Mary is omnipotent in the power of her intercession with her Son. Mary can do anything that God can do.’ Then he went on to explain the meaning of these three statements. ‘The difference is not in what God can do and what Mary can do. The difference is in the way they do it. God wills something and it happens. Mary prays to Him for something and He does it. He will never say no to her.’”

Father Patrick Peyton, All for Her, Chapter 5

Patrick’s path was clear. He would not have the surgery, but rather he would trust in God and pray to Him through Our Blessed Mother, and She would heal him. And She did. Our Blessed Mother healed him, miraculously, completely, and Patrick was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ, with his brother Tom, in 1941—within two years of his healing.

Fr. Patrick Peyton

Father Peyton, with deep gratitude to Our Blessed Mother for giving him the gifts of life and the priesthood, said he would thank Her by giving all the energy of his body and soul to tell the world how great She is. He spent the next fifty years tirelessly preaching about Our Blessed Mother, Jesus, and the family Rosary. Father Peyton wanted to impart to the world what he himself received in his family, what he had experienced. The nightly family Rosary had made his home a home of prayer, made his family a holy family.

His initial goal was to get ten million American families to pray the family Rosary. By the end of his life, it was estimated that he preached his message live to over 28 million people in four continents. Father Peyton began by preaching parish missions, which so many people attended, that eventually he organized Rosary rallies which hundreds of thousands of people attended. In Manila, in 1985, an estimated two million were at his Rosary rally. The rallies were intended to get people to love Our Blessed Mother more and to pray the family Rosary in their homes.

His message was always the same: The family that prays together stays together—pray the family Rosary. Look into a home of the Rosary, he would say, where a husband and wife love the Rosary. Witness the love and the blessings.

It was from his own experience praying the family Rosary every night before the hearth that Father Peyton drew the inspiration for his entire mission, and thus he preached his message with a fiery conviction. Let us return to these words quoted above from his autobiography: “That nightly scene constitutes my earliest memory and the most abiding. From it I derive the entire pattern and purpose of my existence.”

Father Peyton prayed and prayed and prayed the Rosary. He prayed with his helpers before work, during work, and after work. He lived with a Rosary in his hands, preached with a Rosary in his hands and died with a Rosary in his hands. He lived what he preached and, because of this, is known as “The Rosary Priest.”

As he lay dying, he prayed the Rosary constantly, and prayed silently moving his fingers along the beads when he could no longer say the words. On June 3, 1992, his last words were: “Mary, my Queen, my Mother.” Father Peyton gave his life to Our Blessed Mother, and it can be summed up in three words, the title of his autobiography: “All for Her.”

She never failed him, She made him a saintly priest, and She made his life and his priesthood fruitful beyond measure for millions of people across the earth.

The Holy Father recognized the heroic virtues of Father Peyton in 2017, and he is now Venerable Father Patrick Peyton.

His message, “the family that prays together stays together—pray the family Rosary,” is for the entire Church, for every time and place. It is a clarion call especially for our time, when wars are being waged against the family, when wars are raging within the family, and when the family is disintegrating, as Pope Saint John Paul II said in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae. Every family would do well to heed this message.

The family is the future of the Church and of society. Fifteen minutes spent praying the family Rosary will make the home a home of the Rosary, of prayer; a home where God’s love, peace, unity, purity, and humility reign. They will make the home a home where Christian virtues flourish and where God’s will is fulfilled. The family Rosary is a “simple solution,” as Father Peyton said. May we pray the family Rosary in our homes and spread the family Rosary to others’.

Author’s Note: This information for this article is drawn from the 2020 documentary “Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton” by Family Theatre Productions, and from Father Patrick Peyton’s autobiography “All for Her.” Both the documentary and the autobiography will inspire every family to embrace Venerable Father Peyton’s message.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash


After a number of years trying to become a nun, which was my ardent desire, I submitted to God's will and returned to the world! I live a quiet contemplative life in the world, spending many hours a day at my parish in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, assisting at the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, praying Rosaries and writing. It is my great desire to make Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph more known and loved, and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament...He is really present in our midst, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist. My writing can be found at my blog,

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage