"Now that the Rosary is obsolete, Father Peyton...”
Father Patrick Peyton, the Holy Cross priest who brought the family Rosary into millions of homes, wouldn't bat an eye if you put it to him that way. He's used to such banter, and to wrestling seriously with the problem of decline in devotion to the Rosary and indeed in devotion to Mary.
"I've never been so optimistic about the Rosary, or about devotion to Mary," the Irish-born priest told NC News.
"And that isn't just whistling in the dark,” he said.
"You can actually see that devotion to the Rosary is on the upswing, and that means devotion to Mary. One sign is that rosaries are much more in demand than they were. If you go into a religious goods shop here in Rome, you'll find that many more people have been asking for rosaries than last year.
"People realize they need family prayer. There is no substitute for praying together, and families know that now. Everything else has failed. Science, for all its tremendous advances, hasn't been able to help. While science leaps ahead, the family falls back.
"Families don't need preachers to teil them what state they're in. They know that family life, civil life, spiritual life, all are at a low. They know that only prayer and God will help them."
Father Peyton, who at 64 retains much of youth's gaiety and enthusiasm and vigour, was stopping off in Rome on his way to the United States from the Holy Land.
At the request of the Latin- rite patriarch of Jerusalem. Archbishop Giacomo Beltritti and the apostolic delegate there. Archbishop Pio Laghi he held Rosary Crusades in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
He had also held Rosary Crusades there last year and the year before.
Now he is launching Rosary Crusades in the United States. Father Peyton said that for the past two years the bishops of the United States have been drafting a pastoral letter on Mary.
"I've seen some of it, and it's beautiful. It's another reason why I think devotion to Mary is coming back into focus. That in fact is my whole purpose, simply to put Mary into focus, and into no other picture or context than where God Himself put her.
"Mary and the Rosary have suffered a de-emphasis, an eclipse.
"But an eclipse is temporary by its nature. When an eclipse of the moon has finished, the moon seems brighter than before." He cited the Vatican's new Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, which says: "The holy Rosary of Our Lady excels among those exercises of piety which must be jealously preserved and must be spread in families and Christian communities." Father Peyton emphasized that this directory "wasn't simply imposed on the bishops, but was composed in consultation with them."
He said that line about the Rosary, written by the Vatican in collaboration with bishops throughout the world, "crowns our 31 years of hard work."
"I plan to put out a book of first-person stories by great men about their devotion to the Mother of Christ. The articles are ready, and it's just a question of editing and publishing. "I'm hoping to put out a movie—a really authentic and deep movie—on Our Lord. Roberto Rosellini is enthusiastic about the idea, which would cap his series on the great men of history such as Socrates and Pascal.
"Then Father Charles Fidler. the superbly talented Trappist, is putting together a new book for me on the Rosary and modern problems, such as drugs."
Father Peyton explained how he became involved in his Family Rosary Crusades.
It began, he said, "a long time ago when I was a boy in Ireland. Or rather I wasn't a boy any longer, yet not quite a man. I was shaken by new and powerful feelings I didn't understand, and there was nobody in those days you could talk to easily about such things.
"What helped me more than once was hearing the family Rosary drifting across the half-door. You know what a half-door is: it lets you leave the door open when you don't want the chickens and the pigs wandering in.
"When I heard those families praying together, dedicating themselves to God, I knew they were only expressing what was already there, that the family is already dedicated to God. I knew what these new emotions of mine were for, that they were holy."
That was how it started. But how would the Rosary Crusade end?
"I must provide for the day when they bury me. I'm building not only a corps of priests and nuns but an 'All for Her' fund to perpetuate this work."
And how- long does he himself plan to remain active in the Rosary Crusade?
"As long as God gives me life and strength. And I've never felt better."
The Malaysian Catholic News , Sunday, October 14, 1973, page 10