On Friday, Dec. 18, PRAY: THE STORY OF PATRICK PEYTON is available for digital purchase, one more step on the unlikely journey of a remarkable film coming out at the end of a singular year.
The biography of media evangelist Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., founder of Family Theater Productions and popularizer of the phrase "the family that prays together stays together," landed in theaters on Oct. 9 and has continuously been on the big screen in different parts of the country ever since.
Now, all viewers need to do is head to PrayTheFilm.com to learn how to buy the movie, which will be sold through various platforms (iTunes users can pre-order now at the site, where PRAY has been doing brisk business).
Take a look:
Who Is Father Patrick Peyton?
Once people started to learn the story of Father Peyton through reviews and interviews with the film's producers, interest grew in this humble but passionate priest.
Born to a poor family in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1909, Patrick Peyton came to America in 1927, determined to make his fortune.
Instead, his childhood dreams of the priesthood were re-ignited, then nearly derailed when he came down with tuberculosis as a seminarian. Crediting his fervent prayers for Mary's intercession for his healing from the disease, Father Peyton dedicated his vocation and his life to spreading the message of the power of prayer, especially the Rosary.
This he did, starting in the late 1940s, through radio, film and huge Rosary rallies around the world, enlisting some of classic Hollywood's biggest stars for his pro-faith, pro-family mission
What Is PRAY's Message?
PRAY Associate Producer Tony Sands explains, "This is really a story about faith, a story about reaching for the impossible while trusting in God, and it’s a story about prayer. It’s a story about each of our prayer lives and the prayer life of the family.
"By talking about prayer, the film really touches on the relationship each one of us has with God. It is a direct invitation to tap into the unfathomable power of prayer, especially pray with you family or with those you love.".
How Was PRAY Received?
Visitors to Family Theater Productions' offices on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood have often been amazed to hear Father Peyton's story and to see the stars' photos that line the walls, but no one quite knew how the larger world would react.
"What did surprise me," says Sands, "about the reception of the movie by the press and the theatergoing audience is how many non-Catholic and non-religious people really connected with the film. We had everything from Evangelicals to Buddhists expressing how touched they were by the movie and Father Peyton’s amazing story.
"Another pleasant surprise was the range of ages and cultures of people who both watched and loved the film."
PRAY Finds Theatrical Success Despite 2020 Shutdowns and Restrictions
Sands, who's been part of the ongoing effort to distribute the film to independent theaters and chains, says, "This would be absolutely the most chaotic time I have ever experienced for theatrical distribution in my over 20 years in the entertainment industry."
The COVID-19 pandemic posed immense challenges, such as rolling theater closings in different cities and states, and restrictions on audience numbers even in those theaters that were open.
Also, PRAY is a faith-based film about an Irish-born Catholic priest who died in 1992, and whose signature phrase outlived his once-global celebrity. Most theaters aren't exactly lining up to book one of those.
Says Sands, "Every theater wants a superhero movie, and it can be harder to convince them to take a documentary about a priest."
Now You Can PRAY for Christmas
Originally, it was thought PRAY: THE STORY OF PATRICK PEYTON wouldn't be available for digital purchase until January, but changing conditions moved that up to Dec. 18.
Asked what it means to have PRAY in homes in time for Advent and through Christmastide, Sands says, "While we truly believe it is a powerful experience to see the film in a theater, we are very happy to know that the film is now accessible to the huge audience of the faithful and to the many, many people who expressed interest in seeing the movie, but who either could not or would not go to a theater.
"Now, there is no barrier between the fans of Father Peyton and those interested in the film being able to experience the movie for themselves in the safety of their own homes."
The Future of PRAY
First, people could see PRAY in theaters, and, now, they'll be able to buy it to watch at home. But there's more coming in the future, including a DVD release, a possible international release, and perhaps even a TV showing.
And, as the pandemic permits, it'll be made available for parishes and church groups to license to show to their members.
"Whether people can meet indoors," says Sands, "or have to turn the church parking lot into a drive-in, we want to help churches license the film and create parish prayer nights, using PRAY as a means to inspire people to a closer union with God and each other, especially those in their families."
Image: Family Theater Productions