Father Patrick Peyton CSC
There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear…The opening words to the Buffalo Springfield (the band that would introduce to us the likes of Stephen Stills and Neil Young) classic song written in 1966, but released in 1967 certainly resonated to those who heard it whatever their political leanings. There was a sense even before the famous or infamous 1967 events, like the Newport Folk Festival and San Francisco’s Summer of Love that something in society was changing. The same could be said today in light of a flurry of religious themed movies that have come out in the first three months of 2014.
One could argue that the first signs of the secular sea change we have been under were first seen after the mid-term elections of 2006. By November of 2008 there was no doubt the western world was changing. However, for every action there is a reaction. It may have taken the world of faith a bit longer to react but it has. Already in 2013, the Bible mini-series caught the attention of those in Hollywood who notice TV and cultural move watching habits. The Bible mini-series, the brainchild Mark Burnett and Roma Downey literally spun off into the Son of God film which is currently one of the year’s early top grossing films.
However, it seems that what is bubbling under the current is what catches everyone by surprise, and so it is with the year’s first big surprise, God’s Not Dead. The film’s entire production budget was between 1-2 million dollars, the mere advertising budget of most medium size films. The screenwriters are faithful Catholics Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, whom I met some four years ago while giving one of my talks at Family Theater in Hollywood (founded by Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton CSC also known as The Rosary Priest.) I was impressed by Cary and Chuck, their frequent Mass attendance during the week, their fervent study and practice of the faith (as evidenced by the St. Thomas Aquinas type logic used in some of their arguments in God’s Not Dead,) and their embrace of the sacramental life, especially the Sacrament of Penance.
Both men weren’t living some fantasy of wanting to hobnob with Hollywood’s hipsters. They had been down that road successfully working and mingling with the likes of Sylvester Stallone among others. Cary and Chuck felt called to write faith based scripts. In an interview with me featured in the National Review both men spoke of the hypocrisy that the faithful have to endure in the public square.
Hartline: I think a faithful Christian, or anyone of faith, feels a lot has changed in the last five or six years. People of faith are often mocked or belittled in popular culture, and the faithful are accused of all sorts of bigotry and ignorance. We are told to get with the times, as if our consciences could really leave the truth behind. It seems the movie is addressing that underlying feeling in the faith community.
Solomon and Konzelman: Yes, that’s definitely the nerve that’s been touched. Secular humanists insist that Christians in general — and Catholics in particular — are supposed to leave their belief system at home when it comes to matters in the public sphere. So according to the rules they propose, their belief system is allowable . . . and ours isn’t. Which is a deliberate attempt to subvert the whole democratic process. As someone else pointed out: Democracy is supposed to be about more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
I then posed the question as to why some are willing to defend their faith as did the college student in God’s Not Dead, but sadly most do not.
Hartline: College student Josh Wheaton appears to be the nondescript everyman. While everyone else accedes to the professor’s atheistic rants, Josh decides to take up the challenge, even though he’s far from being a theologian. Is there a message there for most of us?
Solomon and Konzelman: It’s a question of being willing to try . . . and fail, if necessary. Mother Teresa got it right: God does not require us to be successful, only faithful. Secular humanism has really been racking up the score in the culture wars lately, largely because of the unwillingness of many Christians to counter their efforts. Unfortunately, doing nothing is doing something: It’s enabling the other side. Every time we roll over and don’t confront the challenge, our forfeit shows up as a win in the other team’s column and encourages them to push further. Continue reading
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. Continue reading