|Fr. Peyton addresses |
one of his rosary crusades.
Fr. Peyton was an Irish immigrant from a poor family who came to the United States as a young man in 1928 and worked in the coal mines. After being cured of tuberculosis through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, he decided to become a priest and spend his life working to spread the rosary. After organizing many rosary crusades in the U.S. and around the world, he decided to expand his reach through modern means of communication.
With no experience in radio or film he nevertheless began Family Theater and began producing Catholic programs on the mysteries of the rosary and other themes. He became friends with many well-known Hollywood stars and famous political figures as well. Among those featured in his films were Loretta Young, Jimmy Stewart, Don Ameche, Princess Grace of Monaco (Grace Kelly), Gregory Peck, Joan Crawford, Ricardo Montalban, Ethel Barrymore, Bing Crosby, James Dean, Roddy McDowell, Shirley Temple, Irene Dunn, Jimmy Durante, and many others. What a charismatic figure he must have been to induce some of these, shall we say, prodigal sons and daughters to appear in his films. In his autobiography, All For Her Our Lady of course) he wrote of approaching famous actors and actresses and the response he received:
My approach was very simple....I'd make a list of names, get their unlisted telephone numbers through one of my contacts, and dial them one by one. "I'm Father Petyon, a priest at the catedral residence," I would say, "and I'd like to come to talk with you." Almost always I'd get an appointment just with that opening, and when I explained what I wanted [their assistance in radio and film productions], I almost never got a refusal. I had heard and read so much about the kind of life these people lived -- the glitter and the superficiality and the selfishness. I supposed there was plenty of this, but I found real human beings in Hollywood the same as every place else I've been in the world. It's hard to discover a man or a woman who lacks a sense of moral values, or one who is not happy to make a contribution to the well-being and the uplift of his fellows. And that goes even for some whose names are bywords.Fr. Peyton's work continues today through the organization he founded, Family Theater which produces modern films with a spiritual message. Since I only realized they still exist this morning, I haven't had a chance to review any of their efforts, but their website looks great and, if I lived in Southern California, I'd make a point of going to one of their Prayer and Pasta events. Let's pray that Family Theater continues to walk in the footsteps of their founder who was recently declared venerable, the first step toward canonization. You can check out the film I watched this morning and see what you think. And, yes, if you're an oldie like I am, that is Perry Mason behind Melchior's beard. Don't miss Fr. Peyton's commentary at the end and his lovely Irish brogue.
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