October 9, 2020

Documentary reveals the amazing life of the inspiring ‘rosary priest’

Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton leads a rosary rally in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, on Dec. 16, 1962. There was an estimated 1.5 million in attendance. (Photo courtesy of praythefilm.com.)

Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton leads a rosary rally in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, on Dec. 16, 1962. There was an estimated 1.5 million in attendance. (Photo courtesy of praythefilm.com.)

By Ann Margaret Lewis

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but when I heard the title of the film, Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton, I said, “Who?”

Now having seen this award-winning documentary, I am not only embarrassed but angry at myself. Surely my late parents knew about “the rosary priest” Father Peyton and mentioned him to me, but I must have let it evaporate from my memory.

I had heard the phrase “The family that prays together stays together,” but I had no idea it came from Father Peyton’s on-fire mission to encourage family prayer, enlisting Hollywood entertainers in his regular radio and television productions to this end, and touching the souls of millions to the point of overturning the rule of corrupt Philippine dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

Now I have no excuse. I know about him, and I’m glad I do.

Peyton was born in a small town in Ireland and raised by parents who valued family prayer. He was drawn to the priesthood as a youth, but was rejected by Irish seminaries because of his minimal education. He and his brother therefore emigrated to the United States with dreams of riches, but the call to the priesthood never left him. Plunging himself into study and excelling beyond anyone’s expectations, he graduated from the University of Notre Dame in northern Indiana, and after a miraculous cure from tuberculosis, was ordained a priest for the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1941.

Taking us on location to his childhood home in Ireland and sharing interviews with many who knew him while he lived, as well as those inspired by his message, Pray successfully paints the portrait of a faith-filled man who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer (in the most loving way).

The documentary is produced by Family Theater Productions, an organization originally founded by Father Peyton in the 1940s for his radio and television shows. Intended as a launch point for a new “Pray Together Now” movement, it is fitting to tell the story of the priest who led a worldwide movement for family prayer while the world was embroiled in the Second World War.

The film itself is engaging, well-written and directed. Recordings of Father Peyton’s words help those of us who’ve never heard his lilting Irish voice, giving a sense of the man’s gentleness and strength. For someone like me who knew nothing about him, I went away fully educated on who he was, and impressed by all he accomplished in his lifetime. I had no idea that millions of people would gather in stadiums to pray the rosary. Could you imagine what could happen if we did that today?

I highly recommend the film to families because it will inspire them to pick up the rosary and pray it together. Those who wish to do so can pledge to start their own family prayer time on the film’s web site.

Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton will be showing at the Parkland Theater, 6550 Parkland Ave., in Cincinnati beginning on Oct. 9. It will begin streaming online in early 2021 through on-demand services that are yet to be announced.

To view the trailer or to search for show times, go to praythefilm.com.

(Ann Margaret Lewis is executive assistant in the archdiocesan Office of Communications and the author of several books. E-mail her at alewis@archindy.org.)​ †

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