Venerable Patrick Peyton: the Rosary Priest

Venerable Patrick Peyton (1909-1992) was born into a poor family in Ireland. At the age of 19, he immigrated to the United States to find employment. He found work as a janitor at the Catholic cathedral in Scranton, Pennsylvania. On one occasion, he was so inspired by a mission preached by the Holy Cross Fathers that he joined their religious community and became a seminarian. While a seminarian, he was healed from tuberculosis as a result of praying a novena to Our Lady. In thanksgiving, he made a promise to Our Lady that he would spend the rest of his life telling families throughout the world how Mary desires to help them and bringing the daily rosary into their homes. In his zeal for spreading the rosary, he became one of the greatest promoters of the rosary in the history of the Church.

After initiating a radio program in Albany, New York, that sought to spread the family rosary, he officially launched the Family Rosary apostolate in 1942. As part of his efforts to spread the family rosary across America, he wrote to every bishop in the United States and asked them to promote the family rosary in their respective dioceses. He coined the catchy slogan, “The family that prays together stays together,” and was able to mobilize some of the most famous Hollywood actors and celebrities of his time to support his rosary efforts. He even got many of these celebrities to appear on television programs and radio broadcasts to promote the family rosary.

In 1947, he launched Family Theater Productions as a further method for promoting the family rosary through the media, and, in 1948, he began the Family Rosary Crusades apostolate. During his lifetime, he organized rosary events in more than 40 countries, gathering over 28 million people to pray the rosary! He was greatly loved by many popes and was a personal friend of St. Teresa of Calcutta. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, located on the grounds of Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts.

Fr. Peyton & St. Mother Teresa.

Marian Devotion

The fervent Marian devotion of Fr. Patrick Peyton can be traced back to his formative years in Ireland. He was greatly influenced by his devout Catholic parents and the Marian devotion of the Irish people.

 

Every evening, his mother would call the family to prayer, and his father would lead the family rosary in the home.

During his time as a seminarian in the United States, after his healing from tuberculosis took place, his love for Mary turned into an apostolate. He understood his mission in life to be spreading devotion to Mary and her rosary, writing several books and addressing crowds across the world.

Mary was his princess. He was honored to bring solid teaching about his princess to every nation, and often referred to himself as “Mary’s donkey.” The famous actress Loretta Young once made the remark that she had never met a man so in love with a woman as Fr. Peyton was in love with the Blessed Virgin Mary.

His Marian devotion inspired many people all over the world to pray the rosary as a means of peaceful resistance to dictatorial regimes. For example, in 1986, during the People Power Revolution that overthrew the oppressive dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, it was the message of Fr. Patrick Peyton that gave the Filipino people tremendous strength and heroic courage sufficient to enable them to stand in front of armed tanks and pray the rosary. On the famous EDSA freeway, the people were encouraged to stand their ground and pray the rosary when they saw the huge billboards for Fr. Patrick Peyton’s Rosary Crusades that lined the street. The billboards read: “The family that prays together stays together” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace.” The rosary brought about a peaceful revolution; not a single shot was fired.

Champion of the Rosary

Without exaggeration, the efforts of Fr. Patrick Peyton to spread the family rosary are unparalleled. Truly deserving to be called the rosary priest, he not only founded major movements to promote the family rosary, but also produced 15 short films that used the mysteries of the rosary as their central themes. He was so bold in service to his mission that, in 1971, he wrote a letter to Pope Paul VI requesting the rosary’s elevation to the status of a liturgical prayer! He made such a request because he was watching entire nations turn away from the rosary during the 1960s and early 1970s. The rejection of the rosary greatly disturbed him, and he begged the Vicar of Christ to do something about it. The response from Rome came in the form of Pope Paul VI’s famous 1974 apostolic letter Marialis Cultus. Though the letter did not elevate the rosary to the status of a liturgical prayer, Pope Paul VI greatly defended the rosary, encouraged the faithful to pray it, and placed a particular emphasis on the family rosary.

In the mind of Fr. Peyton, the rosary is the Psalter of Redemption because it lovingly intertwines two most beautiful prayers: the Our Father and the Hail Mary. He considered the rosary a method of evangelization and a catechetical tool; for this reason, he always emphasized the importance of reciting the Creed at the beginning of the rosary. Like many others, he expressed a desire for additional mysteries to be associated with the rosary so that people could learn to meditate more frequently on the public life of Jesus. Several of the mysteries he proposed would later be incorporated into the rosary by St. John Paul II. Echoing the words of Bl. Pope Pius IX, Fr. Peyton informed everyone in attendance at his events that when they held the rosary in their hands, they were holding the “single richest treasure in the Vatican.” He was convinced that praying the rosary as a family would make virtue and good works flourish in both the home and in society. To further encourage people to pray the rosary, he promoted the 15 promises of Our Lady to those who pray the rosary.

Due to the effectiveness and popularity of his Family Rosary Crusades, Fr. Peyton received personal invitations from bishops all around the world to visit their countries and spread the family rosary. In 1961, more than 550,000 people attended his rosary rally in San Francisco. This event was proclaimed by the archdiocesan archivist the most important event in the history of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In 1962, he gathered more than one million people in Colombia to pray the rosary, and in the same year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he gathered over 1.5 million. In 1964, he gathered 2 million people in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and in 1985, he gathered well over 2 million people in the Philippines to pray the rosary.

Rosary Gems

From my earliest memories, I saw my father with the rosary beads in his hands and my mother holding hers.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

The rosary can bring families through all dangers and evils.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

I want to get ten million families to pray the rosary every day.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

Because of the daily family rosary, my home was for me a cradle, a school, a university, a library, and most of all, a little church.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

It is the rosary prayed by families that will keep the lights of faith glowing in the days of darkness of faith, as it has done in the past.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

Countless families the world over invite Mary to their homes through the family rosary. She comes. They sense her presence. They solve their problems because where Mary is present there is Christ, her Divine Son.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

What a blessed thing it would be if we could pray the rosary over nationwide radio and bring Our Blessed Mother into every home in America.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

We must hold fast to the treasure of the rosary, the gift of Our Blessed Mother.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

We must never forget the rosary and its meaning, the very embodiment of our Christianity.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

Like all the works and events in the Church, the rosary has the power and touch of the Holy Spirit upon it.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

Starting on their wedding day my parents knelt each evening before the hearth to say together the family rosary, that God and Mary might protect and bless their home and fill it with the laughter of children.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

Throughout history the friends of Our Blessed Lady have devised ways and means of asking for her power and intercession, and the most outstanding means is the rosary.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

The one thing I want to do with my life is to devote every minute of it to restoring the family rosary.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

What is so good about the rosary is that it goes all the way in telling the whole story of Jesus and Mary and ourselves.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

It’s in that school, in that sanctuary, in that holy home of the rosary, that I discovered Mary! And in discovering Mary, I discovered a protector. I found a friend. I found a mother that would never die. I found a mother filled with affection for me, filled with concern for my welfare, lavishing upon me her strength, her prayers, her guidance, her protection. I’m speaking to you of Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ. And thanks to the family rosary, this is the greatest fruit that it gave me.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

When combined with the pure contemplative prayer of the rosary meditations, the Hail Mary becomes the most powerful weapon ever placed in the hands of man — a weapon which, through God and his most blessed Mother, will someday change the face of the earth.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

When you look at the rosary in your hand it appears very simple, that little string of beads, yet how far that short chain reaches, what a cosmos it encircles, how closely it binds us to God and to Mary. You hold the power to change your lives.
~ Venerable Patrick Peyton

26 Champions of the Rosary

Editor’s note: Learn more about Fr. Peyton and other champions of the rosary in Fr. Calloway’s latest book, 26 Champions of the Rosary, which you can find at FatherCalloway.com.

Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC

By

Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, has been a priest for 15 years and currently serves as Vicar Provincial and Vocation Director for the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. He is the author of eleven books, a popular speaker at conferences, and frequently leads pilgrimages to Marian shrines around the world. To find out more about his books and pilgrimages, go to www.fathercalloway.com

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