A local couple related to Ven. Patrick Peyton say a new documentary about the “Rosary Priest” is more timely than ever.
“Father’s life connects with our contemporary crisis in many ways,” said Susan Reynolds, a member of Presentation B.V.M. Parish in Cheltenham.
Along with her husband Charles, Reynolds — a first cousin of Father Peyton – enjoyed an advance screening of “Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton” ahead of its nationwide release in October.
A mix of archival footage and contemporary interviews, the film (currently showing at Montgomeryville’s Water Tower Cinema) surveys the life and mission of the beloved Holy Cross priest, who is best known for promoting the family recitation of the rosary.
Born in 1909, Father Peyton emigrated from his native Ireland while a young man to seek his fortune in the U.S., arriving in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where several family members had already settled.
Yet a nagging call to the priesthood followed him across the ocean, and after a number of setbacks, including a near-fatal bout of tuberculosis, he was ordained. Soon afterward, he embarked on a lifelong mission to spread devotion to Mary (to whose intercession he attributed his miraculous cure) through the rosary, garnering the support of millions, from Hollywood stars to Pope John Paul II.
Father Peyton also championed the use of modern media in communicating the Gospel. In 1947, he founded Family Theater Productions, a Hollywood-based producer of family-friendly media for television, radio and, nowadays, social media platforms.
The company designed “Pray” to be “more than a movie,” aiming instead to launch “a prayer movement,” said Holy Cross Father David Guffey, the film’s executive producer and the national director of Family Theater Productions.
That’s a message the Reynolds family has long embraced, particularly over “the last eight years or so,” said Charles.
For a number of personal reasons, the Reynolds began praying the rosary together each night, remembering “special intentions for family and friends,” said Susan.
While they never had the opportunity to meet Susan’s famous cousin in person, the couple have long made an annual pilgrimage to Holy Cross Family Ministries, a Massachusetts-based center that continues Father Peyton’s legacy through the family rosary initiative (now active in 17 countries) and a number of associated outreaches. Among the newest of these is the Peyton Institute for Domestic Church Life, which provides original research on and support for the practice of Christian faith in the home.
As active members of Holy Cross Family Ministries, the Reynolds said they pray daily and diligently for the canonization of Father Peyton (declared “Venerable” by Pope Francis in 2017), who popularized the maxim “the family that prays together, stays together.”
The “Pray” movie accurately presents the priest their extended family recalled as “a man of deep prayer, love for Mary and a passion for spreading devotion to praying the rosary,” said Susan.
And at a time of pandemic, social unrest and economic uncertainty, those qualities are more needed than ever, she added, citing another favorite insight of Father Peyton: “A world at prayer is a world at peace.”
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