Nearly three decades after his death, Father Patrick Peyton still receives fan mail.
People from all over the world submit letters and electronic notes - intercessory prayer requests and stories of prayers answered in the name of Father Peyton - to the desk of Father David S. Marcham.
Marcham, who is now vice postulator for the Cause of Venerable Patrick Peyton and director of the Father Peyton Guild, first discovered the many prayer requests and gratefully triumphant notes during a chance visit to Holy Cross Ministries in Easton, Massachusetts. The prayerful notes inspired him to join the effort in spreading Fr. Peyton’s message by advancing his cause for sainthood.
“Fr. Peyton has the ability through his message and through his intercession to work on the level of our individual families, but also to work worldwide,” he said.
Father Patrick Peyton (1909-1992) was a dynamic advocate for family prayer and a trailblazer in radio broadcast and televised evangelization.
Like many Irish families, Peyton grew up praying the Rosary. His devotion to Mary deepened when he was healed of advanced tuberculosis with no explanation, shortly after his ordination. He credited the intercession of the Blessed Mother for his recovery, and became committed to spreading the importance of prayer through Mary.
In doing so, he caught the attention of Hollywood.
After World War Two ended, Peyton began a radio show to pray in thanksgiving for peace. His show reached wide audiences with his passionate calls for family prayer, and it featured prominent public figures, from President Harry Truman to New York’s Archbishop Spellman. A strong proponent of the Rosary and a firm believer in its power, Peyton had each guest pray the Rosary for the world to hear.
However, executives of the radio station wanted to explore the idea of bringing in Hollywood stars. Peyton ambitiously called Bing Crosby, who had just seen his big break in Going My Way--a movie about a priest who created a church choir to help a group of boys reorient their lives.
“After Father Peyton explained what he was doing, [Bing Crosby] said, ‘Of course I’ll be on the program!’” said Father Willy Raymond, the current Holy Cross Family Ministries president and previous director of Family Theater Productions, both of which Father Peyton began.
“With [Crosby’s] name on it, it really got the nation’s attention,” Raymond added.
Family Theater Productions continues Peyton’s legacy in the film industry, providing a community for Hollywood Catholics and producing spiritual content. One of its most recent efforts, The Dating Project, was recently released in April, and the program Catholic Central provides short, informative films geared toward young people.
Along with promoting prayer in his shows, Peyton held “Rosary Rallies” around the world - from Peru to the Philippines to Papua New Guinea - earning him the title that he still bears to this day of “The Rosary Priest.”
Last December, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtues of Fr. Peyton, declaring him “Venerable.” The priest’s information is currently under review for further advancement toward canonization.
An event celebrating the declaration of Fr. Peyton as Venerable drew a crowd of around 700 people to Holy Cross Family Ministries in North Easton, Massachusetts earlier this month.
Attendees - families, notable Catholic figures and international dignitaries alike - took part in the festivities. Auxiliary Bishop Arthur Colgan of Lima, Peru, celebrated the June 10 Mass. Raymond Flynn, former mayor of Boston and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, was also present, along with Shane Cahill, Irish Consul General in the U.S., and Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, N.Y.
Included in the celebration were three key parts of Father’ Peyton’s faith-based daily routine: a Eucharistic Procession, a celebration of the Mass and the praying of the Rosary.
“Every day, no matter how busy he was, Father Peyton prayed the Rosary many times during the day… he always made a holy hour with Eucharistic Adoration as a part of his day,” said Fr. Marcham. “And he also, every day, celebrated the holy sacrifice of the Mass.”
Everyone present at the June 10 prayer event was given a blessed Rosary, and many took Rosaries for their loved ones who could not make it, said Marcham. Each family was also provided with a Rosary prayer kit.
Marcham was inspired by the turnout at the event. He said many attendees found it “spiritually uplifting to hear that Father Peyton’s cause is progressing… they also found it was spiritually uplifting to be part of it.”
The sweeping commonality that “every one of us comes from a family” - along with the late priest’s zeal for holiness - is what still draws people to Fr. Peyton, said Marcham.
Many, he said, speak of the “realization of how something is going on in every person’s family - even the ones that look like they’re perfect from the outside.”
“Father Peyton offers a way for us to have God’s grace help us to reconcile, to heal, to move through challenges.”
Like the families of the post-World War era, modern families face difficulties, said Marcham.
“We basically have schedules and structures of life today that have family members going in all different directions,” he said, adding that many modern families struggle with high divorce rates, opioid addictions, misuse or overuse of technology and a demanding corporate culture.
“Making sure that God is welcome in the home is absolutely essential to give meaning and purpose to people’s lives,” Fr. Raymond added. When a family is rooted in prayer, he said, children “grow up knowing and trusting that God is real, that he’s present, that he loves them, and he’s going to be with them through thick and thin.”
Both priests recalled Fr. Peyton’s popular saying, “The family that prays together stays together.”
“We need the biggest promoter of this message we could get, and he’s the one,” Father Marcham said.
Marcham and his colleagues’ mission is “not to glorify Father Peyton,” he clarified. “It’s to make people aware of him and his holiness and his efficacy of his intercessory prayer. And really, the purpose of all this is to draw all of us and invite everyone to join...in this to grow closer to our Blessed Mother and our Lord.”
“I’m encouraging everyone and inviting everyone to join me.”