Many have heard the term, The Family That Prays Together Stays Together. Yet, how many are familiar with the life of Father Patrick Peyton, his rosary rallies which drew millions, and Family Theater which he started in Hollywood in 1947 and is still going strong today? How many are aware that Father Patrick Peyton drew over 1,000,000 people to several rosary rallies in the 1950s. He even drew over 550,000 to a 1961 San Francisco Rosary Rally, six years before the city became a focal point for the 1960s counter culture revolution and subsequent 1967 Summer of Love. As you can see, when we turn our back to faith, we find ourselves going down a very slippery slope. Yet, Father Patrick Peyton was a true visionary. He saw the slippery morals in tinsel town long before the 1960s and knew he needed to do something to counterbalance what was going on. He knew of Hollywood’s bad influence and moral collapse long before most realized it, and yet he truly believed that Family Theater would one day bring faith back to Hollywood and all who are influenced by her.
Who was this Renaissance man, a man of wealth and privilege, a man of many letters? Hardly, Father Patrick Peyton CSC came to the US during his teen years, penniless, uneducated and according to the world’s precepts harboring little potential. However, before he left the docks of Ireland his mother told him in no uncertain terms that with the Blessed Mother’s aid, he could do great things. After doing manual work for the Holy Cross Fathers he was allowed to enter the seminary at Notre Dame. Yet, shortly before he was to be ordained, he received a dire medical prognosis and it appeared that not only was his ordination in question, but his life itself was in peril. He did the only thing he could, pray unceasingly. His prayers were answered and he thanked the Blessed Mother along with St Joseph, both of which he had a strong devotion. He along with his brother was ordained in 1941.
Obviously 1941 was a dark year in US History. The nation was thrust into World War II, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Ever the visionary, Father Peyton realized that with so many fathers gone to war, family life would not be easy. Juvenile delinquency and crime was on the rise and Father Peyton sprung into action instituting his famous saying, The Family That Prays Together Stays Together. The theme continued long after the war, as it took time for families to readjust once the father of the home came back from the battlefield.
In 1947 Father Peyton founded Family Theater. Though at the time of his arrival he knew no celebrities, he quickly sprung into action securing a radio show on the Mutual Broadcast System. The stars came in abundance to both his newly found radio show and fledging movie production unit. By the 1950s stars like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ronald Reagan, Helen Hayes, Grace Kelly (the future princess of Monaco) and a young James Dean and William Shatner would join the stable of Family Theater stars.
Yet, this was only the start for Father Peyton. His worldwide Rosary Crusades and Rallies were turning out crowds into the millions. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, during stops in Bogota, Sao Paolo and Manila, crowds were estimated between one and one half million and two million. Crowds well into the hundreds of thousands were seen in the US and Canada. As late as 1961, 550,000 came to pray the rosary with Father Patrick Peyton in San Francisco. Father Peyton was very alarmed by the spread of Communism and militant secularism, especially in the Third World. This angered many on the Left, some went so far as to accuse him of being a tool of the CIA. (If this subject interests you, perhaps you would like to read my article, If Want The Left To Run Governments, Look At What It Has Done To Religion, Left It In Tatters.)
By the time of his death in 1992, it has been estimated that nearly 30,000,000 people saw Father Peyton during his rosary rallies. By the time of the 100th anniversary of his 1909 birth, a cause of sainthood was underway. On a personal note I have had the privilege of speaking twice at Family Theater, having been asked to discuss my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism. The faithful and optimistic role of Father Peyton lives on in those at Family Theater. Father Willy Raymond CSC, the current head of Family Theater has been leading the group for some 11 years. Many young actors and actresses, along with those behind the camera have come of age and had their faith sharpened at Family Theater.
One need only look at the pictures of those who have plied their talent at Family Theater to see a literal who’s who of famous stars. I am sure most of them were no different than those whose current spiritual home is Family Theater, they have a deep abiding faith and any stardom is far from their minds as they spend their time growing closer to Christ and His Church while in fellowship at Family Theater.
Like all saints causes, the one currently underway for Father Peyton, which was opened in 2001, is shining light on his good works and the legacy of his priesthood, which can be seen in the faithful pursuits of those at Family Theater. Perhaps we can help his cause through prayers and in reading more about the life of this heroic priest. We are the Church Militant and one of our responsibilities is praying for these causes, so that more will come to understand the lives of these potential saints, and in so doing help spread the message of Christ, to the ends of the world and into the depths of our hearts.