By now, you already know I’m a fan of classic movies, and the stars of the old Silver Screen. Glamour, drama and humor were the usual fare, so when I first saw this clip of crooner Bing Crosby on a movie set saying “true peace must come from God…prayer, and especially the prayer of the Rosary, can lead us back to God,” I was intrigued. What inspired this call for divine intervention from a pair of glamorous Hollywood stars? Turns out, it wasn’t inspired by something – it was inspired by somebody. You can catch a glimpse of that person at the very end of the video, sitting quietly at the table where Bing delivers his plea.
His name was Father Patrick Peyton and he’s truly a worldwide legend. He coined the timeless phrases “The family that prays together stays together” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace.” At the time of Father Peyton’s death, he had preached his message of prayer to 28 million people around the world!
Father’s catchy slogan “The family that prays together stays together” touched a nerve with millions across the globe who were struggling to stay close and keep the faith in a world that wanted to tear the family apart. New ideas, radical and harmful ideas in fact, were poisoning society and threatened the family unit that still reeled from the devastation and social changes of the Second World War. What could bring peace and harmony to the family? And to the world?
PRAYER, said Father Peyton, with unwavering confidence. Where did this conviction come from? Here’s his story in a nutshell. (There’s also a new film about his life – more details on that below!)
Prayer was His Life
A poor Irish immigrant whose close-knit family gathered every day for communal prayer, Patrick Peyton had come to America as a young man planning to marry and make his fortune. But before he left County Mayo, his father knelt with him at home before the image of Christ, urging his son to “stay faithful to God in America.” Those words were burned into his heart ever after. In America, the only work that Patrick could find was as a janitor at a cathedral; this eventually led him to enter Holy Cross Seminary.
But the priesthood suddenly seemed like an impossibility when the tall, seemingly strong Irishman began coughing up blood and was diagnosed with advanced tuberculosis. In those days, it was incurable. For a full year he was bedridden at the Notre Dame infirmary, and his condition worsened to the point that doctors could offer only two options – a risky surgery with a low success rate – or prayer. His friend, Father Hagerty, visited one day and reminded Patrick of his rich spiritual heritage: “You have the Faith, Pat,” he urged, “but you’re not using it. You brought it with you from Ireland. Your mother gave it to you, just as her mother had given it to her.”
And so Patrick abandoned himself completely to God and His mother. In his own words, he cried out on his sickbed “Mary, I believe you’re alive, that you have eyes that smile. That you have eyes that shed tears. Mary, since I could open my mouth I’ve said to you that the Son you bore is my God. I love you, and now I’m in need. I need you, Mary, I need to be a priest. I want to be one. Deliver me from this crippled body and this sickness!”
The physical change was almost immediate, as was a sense of peace. His medical doctors ran x-rays again and the patches in his lungs were completely gone. “No one should be living after what you’ve been through!” they said.
Patrick at the infirmary with sister, Nellie and brother Tom. Courtesy FatherPeyton.org
A Clear Mission
It is no surprise that after being brought back so miraculously from the brink of death, the newly ordained Father Peyton would dedicate his life and newfound health to a single purpose – promoting the power of prayer, especially to the Lady who’s greatest desire is to bring us to Christ.
His sincerity and faith easily convinced big stars like Loretta Young, Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Jimmy Stewart to promote his Rosary and prayer crusades. Even President Harry Truman joined Father Peyton for a radio broadcast to encourage prayer for peace in the world and in families.
Efforts were not limited to America, however, for Father Peyton became quite a globe-trotter. His prayer crusade in the Philippines, drawing an unprecedented crowd of 2 million people, was pivotal in bringing down the cruel Marcos regime. The Filipinos literally conquered tanks with rosaries!
Amazingly, this humble and kind priest that not only prayed for but ministered to the afflicted, was sometimes accused by the “social justice warriors” of his time for elevating prayer over practical solutions to problems like poverty and racism. In response, Father Peyton would rightly insist that social action without prayer and reference to God will eventually lose its soul. Do we not see that very reality today? So many initiatives, starting with good intentions, have devolved into violence and destruction, harming the very people they claim to be helping.
During these troubled times, I hope you’ll be encouraged and inspired by this film as I was! Last week I was given the privilege of screening Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton, and it was a poignant reminder that prayer is both powerful and necessary. Visit this link for info on tickets and showings:
It’s coming to select theaters the weekend of October 9th. Pray is in documentary format and run time is about 1 hour and 10 minutes. While suitable for the whole family, it might not hold the attention of younger children.
You can follow the hashtag #PraytheFilm on social media.
Hope you’ll go see it with your family!