Eighteen years ago, an elderly priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles took me aside and told me about Father Patrick Peyton’s first night in Hollywood. He said Father Pat stayed in his rectory as a guest. Peyton asked this young priest to drive him to Good Shepherd Church in Beverly Hills for an evening Service of Benediction and the Rosary. He said, “I told Father Pat to call me when he was ready to return and I would come pick him up. Instead, at around 9:30 PM the rectory doorbell rang and there was Father Peyton. I asked him how he got home and he said a young woman had offered to give him a ride. When I asked who she was he disclosed that her name was Loretta Young.”
Loretta Young was the first in a long line of A-list luminaries in mid-twentieth century Hollywood to fall under the gentle but irresistible influence of now Venerable Patrick Peyton of Carracastle, County Mayo, Ireland. The names include Catholics, Protestants and Jews: Bing Crosby, Maureen O’Hara, Raymond Burr, Ann Blyth, Lucille Ball, Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny, Ricardo Montalban, Bob Hope, and many, many others.
Away from Hollywood, Father Peyton led a most impressive campaign for family prayer and the Rosary that resulted in forty massive Rosary rallies. At these rallies, Father Pat was the featured attraction and profoundly blessed, live and in person, more than twenty-eight million persons around the globe on all continents except Antarctica.
Who was this man and why did so many millions hunger to hear his message?
Father Patrick Peyton, in his autobiography, All For Her, says:
“My getting to know Mary began in that little home in the West of Ireland where I was born and raised, and learned to pray the Rosary. I was born on January 9, 1909 in a picturesque valley of County Mayo. On one side were the Ox Mountains and on the other the Atlantic Ocean.”
“From my earliest memories, I saw my father with the Rosary beads in his hands and my mother holding hers. My older brothers and sisters and I knelt around them, praying. My father began with the Sign of the Cross, then the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Fathers, the Hail Mary’s, the Glory Be’s. What impressed me most was the voice of my mother talking to Mary: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen!”
“For the first nineteen years of my life this was our daily practice as I grew from childhood, to boyhood, to my teens. In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in poverty and hard work, we ended each day speaking to Jesus and His Mother, offering them the greatest tribute that could possibly be given, making the greatest act of faith, and honoring Mary above all the angels and saints. 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.”
“In May 1928, my brother and I emigrated to Scranton, Pa, to join our three sisters. A day or two before we left him forever, my father asked me to kneel before a picture of the Sacred Heart. He addressed Our Lord with an intensity from his heart as he entrusted me completely to His care and protection. Then he said words, which were engraved on my heart: ‘Be faithful to Our Lord in America.’ At the railway station I saw my mother for the last time. She waved her handkerchief until the train disappeared from sight. My heart was crushed with sorrow, and tears blinded my eyes.”
“Not in our wildest imaginings did my parents or my brother or I dream what Our Lord had in store for us in America. He called my brother to the priesthood from the coal mines of Scranton Pennsylvania. He called me from being the janitor in Saint Joseph’s Cathedral. In the fall of 1929 we entered the seminary at Notre Dame, Indiana. There we continued the family Rosary with our new family, the priests and seminarians of Holy Cross.”
“Two years before my ordination I was stricken with a serious illness. I was forced to leave the seminary.”
Young Patrick was informed by medical professionals that he had between four and six months left to live.
“In the infirmary I deteriorated until the doctors said, ‘Try prayer, our remedies are useless.’ One of my former teachers heard the bad news and hurried to visit me. He saw me at my worst—discouraged, depressed, hopeless. His words were the most important ever spoken to me. ‘Mary is alive,’ He said. ‘She will be as good to you as you think she can be. It all depends on you and your faith.’”
“That night, he activated my dormant faith. It was like setting a match to a haystack sprinkled with gasoline. Thanks to the family that always prayed the Rosary, I had come to know who Mary was and that Jesus Christ, her Son, had entrusted me to her love and care. I asked her with all my heart and soul to pray to her Son for my cure.”
“Like the dark night that is replaced by dawn and the dawn by the sun, she brought me back to life. I was certain our Blessed Mother was taking part in my healing. I am not describing a miracle. I am giving witness to the power of Mary’s intercession and the quiet, unsensational way she works. I begged the doctors to examine me once more and received their report in a letter. Like a prisoner waiting for the verdict of the jury, I opened the letter and saw my freedom, my new lease on life, my second spring.”
“The first words I spoke were, ‘Mary, I hope I never disgrace you.’”
Father Peyton served Mary and the families around the world as a priest for 51 years. When he died on June 3, 1992 at the home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in San Pedro, CA his final words were, “Mary, My Queen, My Mother.”
“The family that prays together stays together”-Venerable Patrick Peyton, C.S.C.
“A world at Prayer is a world at Peace.”-Venerable Patrick Peyton, C.S.C.
Each weekday, the homily from Daily Mass at Holy Cross Family Ministries is shared online. Visit Family Rosary: World at Prayer and sign up to receive notifications of each day’s homily.
Copyright 2018 Fr. Willy Raymond, C.S.C.