Venerable Patrick Peyton
Rev. Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., was born January 9, 1909, in Attymass, County Mayo, Ireland, and for 51 years he dedicated his life and ministry as a Holy Cross priest to Mary, the Mother of God. He is known as the “Rosary Priest” who tirelessly promoted the powerful prayer of the Rosary. Across the globe, many of his Rosary rallies attracted hundreds of thousands, including several in the Philippines and South America that drew over a million people.
At the time of his death, Peyton had preached to more people in person – an estimated 28 million – than any other Catholic. It was he who first proclaimed the phrases "The family that prays together stays together" and "A world at prayer is a world at peace.”
Peyton’s faith was first nourished in the family. Both he and his brother Tom, who also became a Holy Cross priest, were dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by their father and entrusted to the care of Our Lady by their mother when they departed Ireland for America in 1928. Only after joining the Congregation as a seminarian did Peyton discover that all Holy Cross priests are consecrated to the Sacred Heart.
Peyton settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he eventually found work as a janitor at the Cathedral, in part because his sisters had mentioned to the rector that their brother had earlier expressed interest in the priesthood. It was at the Cathedral in the spring of 1929 that he first met priests of the Congregation who had come to preach a parish mission. Immediately, he felt called to join the Congregation to be a missionary, and that fall, on August 20, he and his brother Tom entered the minor seminary at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana.
When the two were in their second year of theology at Catholic University in Washington D.C., Peyton was stricken with tuberculosis. He languished for a year, having been transferred back to Notre Dame's infirmary. During that time, Rev. Cornelius Hagerty, C.S.C., told Peyton that he needed to pray to Mary the way the Irish always prayed – with great faith. Peyton prayed his Rosary and at the end of a novena, declared himself cured by Mary’s intercession. The doctors eventually confirmed it.
On June 15, 1941, Peyton and his brother Tom were ordained together. Grateful to Mary for saving his life, Peyton dedicated himself to spreading the practice of the family Rosary, which he had first learned in his own home back in Ireland.
Assigned to Albany as Chaplain to the Holy Cross Brothers, Peyton began the Family Rosary Crusade, getting volunteer students and brothers to assist him writing letters to bishops asking their help to organize a Rosary campaign. Radio broadcasts of the Rosary followed.
Soon Peyton was realizing his dream of being a missionary. In 1948, beginning in Canada and then Ireland, he traveled around the world, hosting Rosary Rallies. A rally in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1964 and another in the Philippines in 1985 both drew over two million people. His message always was to draw people into a deeper relationship with Mary and family prayer.
To get his message out even more broadly, Peyton became a pioneer in harnessing the power of the media for the sake of the Gospel. His Rosary rallies were broadcasted around the world via radio. He convinced celebrities such as Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and James Cagney to lend their fame to the promotion of the Rosary through radio, television, and film.
By the time of his death, he had helped produce over 600 television and radio shows. He had also overseen the production of three feature-length epics on the life of Christ, divided into the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.
Peyton was a man with hope to bring. He labored with the rich and the poor, the famous and the ignored, to promote prayer in our world. This continues today through Holy Cross Family Ministries, which includes Family Rosary, and Family Theater Productions.
In June of 2001 the formal Cause of Canonization was introduced at the Holy See, and Fr. Peyton was declared "Servant of God." A formal investigation into his life then began, the results of which were presented in April 2015 to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in Rome.
On December 18, 2017, Pope Francis approved the Decree of the Heroic Virtue of Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., thus bestowing on him the title of Venerable. The declaration of “Venerable” is the last step before beatification, which requires that a miracle attributed to the person’s intercession.