On this day, October 7, the Roman Catholic Church honors Our Lady of the Rosary in both the new and the traditional calendars, and this month is dedicated to the Holy Rosary. So it’s a good day to remember Father Patrick Peyton, the famous “Rosary Priest” of the mid 20th century. Especially since a new documentary film about his life is being released to theaters in a few days.
In retrospect, it may be hard to imagine such an enormous turnout considering the present world view of the City by the Bay, but in San Francisco, on October 7, 1961—fifty-nine years ago—a scant few years before Golden Gate Park became a happening counterculture spot for hippies and acid rock concerts, Father Peyton addressed five hundred and fifty thousand people (“the largest crowd in the history of San Francisco” according to a newsreel at the time) at a Family Rosary Rally there at the Polo Field. He spoke movingly to the crowd in his charming Irish brogue, dressed in his black cassock and roman collar, and he led the crowd in praying the rosary while holding a black rosary in his hand.
When Father Peyton had been a young priest in the late 1930s, he had been cured of TB after praying a novena asking for Our Lady’s intercession. For the rest of his life, he campaigned to help as many people as possible learn the power of prayer, using popular media and recruiting Hollywood stars to speak and act in family-friendly dramas on radio and TV, and he led Rosary events in countries around the world.
Many are still around who remember the half-a-million-strong San Franciscans rosary rally. Father Lawrence Goode, San Francisco Legion of Mary Spiritual Director, and pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Church in East Palo Alto, recalled in a phone interview today that he was a seminarian at Saint Patrick’s when he attended Father Peyton’s rally, two years before he was ordained in 1963.
Father Goode was quoted as saying in an article in 2011 when the Legion of Mary began to hold rosary rallies again in San Francisco, “You know, it was Fr. Peyton who popularized the phrase ‘the family that prays together stays together.’ His idea is even more relevant today than it was then.”
On October 9, a new documentary “PRAY: THE STORY OF PATRICK PAYTON” is being released to theaters. Father Donald Calloway, M.I.C., wrote an early review here. As he wrote in his review, Father Calloway has written six books on the Rosary, where he gives Father Peyton a lot of credit. But he was a bit skeptical that the film would do Father Peyton justice. He wrote, “I kept thinking, when they sent me the preview to watch, ‘I wonder if this is going to be good. It could be lame; it could be hokey; it could be dorky.’ But then I watched it, and I said, ‘This thing’s awesome.’”
PRAY: THE STORY OF PATRICK PEYTON will be shown in a few theaters on Friday. Plans are for a later release of DVDs, parish screenings, and digital downloads in early 2021. For the latest theater and ticket info, visit PrayTheFilm.com.
Since the film is not yet available, I could only watch the trailer, and I agree with Father Calloway’s assessment. From what I saw on the trailer, it looks great!