Patrick PeytonFATHER GEORGE W. RUTLER
It was astonishing to see thousands thronging the Jai Alai arena in West Palm Beach a few years before the death of Rev. Patrick Peyton when I helped him with a Rosary Crusade, but I should have known that by his standard it was an unexceptional number, even smallish.
No priest, unless he happened to be a modern pope, has ever addressed such crowds: 2 million in San Paolo, another 2 million in Manila, 1.5 million in Rio de Janeiro, and half a million in San Francisco, not to mention the hundreds of other congresses not much smaller. While he rode the crest of a mini-religious revival after World War II, he slogged on through the chaos after Vatican II when some benighted priests were telling the faithful to toss out their rosaries.
With the advent of television, he easily made the transition with Family Theatre Productions, giving the impression of Kermit the Frog on The Muppet Show, arranging guest stars in productions that, refracted later through a more cynical lens, were not always absent of unction or kitsch. It became obligatory in those halcyon Eisenhower years of civic religiosity for Catholics and their friends to do their duty in cameo roles: Grace Kelly, Loretta Young, Frank Sinatra, Irene Dunne, James Cagney, Margaret O'Brien, Helen Hayes, Maureen O'Hara. And they reached beyond parochial borders: Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Benny, Shirley Temple, and Ronald Reagan. George Lucas got his first film credit as an assistant cameraman for a feature with William Shatner, and James Dean made his first credited film appearance. All in all, there were 800 radio programs and 83 television specials through 1969.
Father Peyton was Hollywood's ultimate un-Hollywood personality, but the sophistication of holiness can outwit the worldly -- an alembic to disordered culture. When we preached on the same platform, I quickly learned that his art was in his artlessness. I dozed a little during his rambling hour-long discourse, punctuated with those signature phrases, "The family that prays together stays together," and "A world at prayer is a world at peace." He began with a sentimental word portrait of his father saying the rosary by the fireside in Mayo, and 60 minutes later we were back in the same Mayo cottage. Had he been a prodigy of rhetoric, what he did would be only his, but there was another inspiration at work, and soon his impressive frame seemed hidden behind his rosary. In an age of celebrity preachers with their own cults, he really meant cupio dossolvi. The requirement of his broadcasting contract that there be no doctrinal apologetic might have resulted in anodyne moralism, were it not for his transparency to higher things.
Father George W. Rutler, "Patrick Peyton." Inside Catholic (December 15, 2008).
Reprinted with permission of InsideCatholic.com.
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Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses - Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.
Copyright © 2008 Father George W. Rutler
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