"Rosary Priest" Fr. Patrick Peyton

Rosaries in the snow

By —— Bio and Archives--December 26, 2008

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imageNorth Easton,Ma.- There were lots of deer tracks but no living soul on our arrival at the walled cemetery where “Rosary Priest” Fr.  Patrick Peyton is buried.  There was only the lonely sound of the wind sighing through the pine trees, which are so common in the beautiful state of Massachusetts.  The snow, more than shin deep, had covered the dozens of grave markers of the priests and brothers of Holy Cross Church. 

Had it not been for the tiny American flags blowing in the wind, we would have missed the grave markers covered in snow.  Half of the brothers and priests buried in the red brick, walled off cemetery had served their country in the Korean and Second World wars. Only the flags recognizing their service, stood out in the snow. With no map for guidance, finding Fr. Peyton’s grave was not going to be easy.
A cold New England rain fell as Canada Free Press (CFP) manager Brian Thompson, patiently brushed snow from each of the markers. 
We were going through this process when a young family arrived to visit the grave of a relative.
Hearing the details of our mission, a beautiful lady who told us her name was Robin and her teenage daughter stayed behind when her husband and son returned to their van.

With no umbrellas protecting them from the icy rain, Robin and her daughter joined the snow brushing brigade.

Robin had heard of Fr. Peyton and understood that people who had driven for nine hours to visit his graveside were not likely to give up, driving sleet and rain not withstanding.

Almost every grave marker had been brushed and still no “Rosary Priest”. Our mission was beginning to look as bleak as the weather.

“There are a lot of rosary beads on this one!” Robin shouted.

Brian began brushing the snow off the marker, and there was the name, “Fr. Patrick Peyton, CSC”. It was the last marker to be uncovered!

I came sloshing through the snow to the graveside to touch the marker and to say some fervent prayers.

Remembering the fresh water pearl rosary in my coat pocket, I gave them to Robin, who did not want to take them. In an instant, two strangers meeting on Christmas Eve became friends in a lonely graveyard.

You may wonder why I found myself so far from home, in a forlorn cemetery in icy rain on Christmas Eve morning.

I wanted to say fervent prayers for a longtime friend who is gravely ill. I wanted to walk the beach at Cape Cod with my little dog Kiko. And, of course the idea of Christmas in Cape Cod had its own appeal.

Given what is going on in the world, I wanted to make Christmas 2008 really matter.
But I wanted most to be in close proximity to “The Rosary Priest”,  whose message to Christians everywhere was “The family that prays together stays together.”
It was back in 1947 when the man who came out of the church onto the streets of America as the “Rosary Priest” opened human hearts with a message of hope.

Knowing that his words would never fly without the help of what was then new technology, this humble parish priest founded Family Theatre Productions, which, with the help of Hollywood stars of the day, was to become a rousing call to prayer.

Loretta Young, Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby Perry Como and Lucile Ball appeared on his television shows, which Fr. Peyton made sure always ended with the words, “The family that prays together stays together.”
Fr. Peyton died in 1992,  but his phrase, trademarked by his ministry keeps his spirit alive.  Even 61 years later the many rosary beads under the snow on his grave marker, are silent testimony to a phrase that never died.
Just last month the Archdiocese of Baltimore celebrated a special Mass to mark the beginning of the investigating process to make Fr. Peyton a saint.
“Then, three priests from the archdiocese will spend the coming years, reviewing documents and examining witnesses who say they were healed after praying to Peyton.  The results will be reviewed by a commission at the Vatican.” (FoxNews, Nov. 19, 2008).

The path to Fr. Peyton becoming the Rosary Priest goes all the way back to Ireland where he was raised by a family that turned daily to the Rosary and the Virgin Mary “for strength”.
How proud his Irish family would be knowing that a humble lad carried his belief in the Rosary into adulthood,  and that Fr. Peyton as an ordained priest, remained loyal for life to his belief that the centuries-old tradition could help struggling families of the day.
“He was always thinking of Mary and always promoting the rosary,” said Rev. John Phalen, President of the Holy cross Family Ministries, which carries on Fr. Peyton’s life’s work.  “If you ever went in the car with him, you prayed the rosary with him.”
The prognosis was grim and doctors had little hope for Fr. Peyton when it was discovered that he suffered from tuberculosis. 
But Fr. Peyton said Mary would provide a miraculous cure for the tuberculosis and he believed that She did.
“That story is the one he told wherever he went,” Phalen said.  “Doctors said he’d better try prayer because they couldn’t do anything for him, and it worked Peyton told people.

In books and art, saints are often depicted with a halo over their heads.  People fortunate enough to meet Fr. Peyton in life described him as “glowing” and “holy”.
Fr. Peyton’s first Christmas of hope came 61 years ago.
With the dark times we live in today, his message that “the family that prays together stays together” couldn’t possibly be more meaningful.
Meanwhile, it’s Christmas Day 2008 and Christ is the Lord.


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Judi McLeod is an award-winning journalist with 30 years’ experience in the print media. A former Toronto Sun columnist, she also worked for the Kingston Whig Standard. Her work has appeared on Rush Limbaugh, Newsmax.com, Drudge Report, Foxnews.com.

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