IN 1942, Father Patrick Peyton, a newly ordained priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross, couldn’t bear to hear another news story about the lives being lost in World War II. Families were being devastated and communities destroyed, with no end in sight.
Then, Father Peyton had an idea to bring lasting peace. He recalled the great Battle of Lepanto in 1571, when an outnumbered Christian fleet rallied to defeat a threatening array of Ottoman warships. Pope Pius V turned to the rosary, joined in prayer by the sailors aboard the ships. Together they implored the help of the Virgin Mary, and the Ottoman forces were miraculously defeated.
Father Peyton firmly believed that the rosary could again play a key role in bringing peace to the world. He had been taught the importance of family prayer back in Ireland, kneeling with his parents and eight siblings every night to pray the rosary. He also believed that the Blessed Mother had healed him from tuberculosis while he was a seminarian, and he had made a vow to spread her love to all the world.
However, the young priest knew he needed help. Wanting to reach as many people as possible using modern technology, but without any background or connections in mass media, he went to New York City and convinced a woman from the Mutual Broadcasting System that the nation needed a Catholic radio program. She gave Father Peyton a chance, on one condition: He needed to enlist the help of Hollywood stars.
Father Peyton nervously called Bing Crosby and, somehow, was able to win him over. The radio show hit airwaves May 13, 1945, and featured Crosby, Archbishop Francis Spellman of New York, President Harry Truman and members of the Sullivan family — whose I've sons had been killed in action in 1942 — leading the rosary. Father Peyton ended the program with an appeal for families to pray the rosary together for peace.
The show was a resounding success, leading to the creation of a regular radio program and the establishment of Family Theater Productions in 1947. Many of Hollywood’s biggest stars were eager to support Father Peyton in his work, and his new company would go on to produce more than 800 radio programs and 83 TV specials.
During this time, Father Peyton became known as the “Rosary Priest” and popularized the phrase “The family that prays together stays together.” A new “crusade” was born, a “Crusade of the Family Rosary” that would take Father Peyton to hundreds of massive Rosary Rallies around the globe, bringing millions together in prayer.
The Knights of Columbus supported Father Peyton’s mission from the beginning. In 1944, the Supreme Council adopted a resolution to “endorse and recommend the program of the Family Rosary.” The Order also supported Father Peyton’s radio broadcasts, helping him get airtime on local radio stations. In 1956, the Supreme Council named Father Peyton an honorary Fourth Degree Knight.
Father Peyton continued his work spreading family prayer until his death in 1992. Family Theater Productions continues that work now and recently produced a powerful documentary film about his remarkable ministry — Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton. An associated campaign, called “Pray Together Now,” invites families to commit to praying together daily.
“The greatest thing a child can get,” Father Peyton said, “is spiritual leadership in his mother and in his father, a leadership that never takes their eyes off God.”
There is a tremendous need for families to answer Father Peyton’s call today. Our world may not be in the midst of a world war, but family life is in crisis. Now is the time to lead another “crusade” of prayer, giving hope to the world when it needs it the most.
At his final Rosary Rally in 1985 in Manila, Father Peyton had a special message for fathers. “Don’t be afraid to kneel beside the wife that’s yours and let those precious innocent children hear your voice, as I heard my father’s voice,” he said. “Lead the family and make that little home a small little church.”
To watch Pray and join the “Pray Together Now” campaign, visit praythefilm.com.
PHILIP KOSLOSKI, a member of Msgr. Reding Council 1558 in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., writes for Aleteia.org. He is the author of the comic book The Tale of Patrick Peyton (Holy Cross Family Ministries, 2019).
Logos & Emblems
Fraternal Leader Advisory
Knights in Action
Share your Knights in Action News
Please contact the
Knights of Columbus News Bureau