Father Francis J. "Rocky" Hoffman is not only a priest, he's also the Executive Director of Catholic network Relevant Radio -- where he leads a Family Rosary Across America every weekday. So, he's the perfect person to ask about another priest famous for his work on radio and for being a tireless advocate of the Family Rosary, Father Patrick Peyton.
Father Peyton is the subject of PRAY: THE STORY OF PATRICK PEYTON, a new documentary releasing to theaters on Oct. 9, and then to streaming in 2021 (ticket and theater info at PrayTheFilm.com).
UPDATE: PRAY: THE STORY OF PATRICK PEYTON is available for digital purchase on a variety of platforms as of Dec. 18, 2020. Go to PrayTheFilm.com for details.
PRAY is the inspiring true story of a poor Irish immigrant who sets sail for America in 1928 with dreams of becoming a millionaire but, with the help of the most iconic celebrities of Hollywood, ends up spending his life championing the message, "The family that prays together stays together."
Father Rocky was kind enough to answer some email questions about the film, being a priest on radio and more ...
How do you think Father Peyton’s core message of the power of prayer will resonate with the strange world we’re in today?
According to a number of recent studies, the COVID pandemic and shutdown has led to an increase in prayer to God. The current unrest we have seen in our country has also led to spontaneous campaigns of prayer locally and nationally.
I think it has always been that way. Whenever there is a crisis beyond our control, we either turn to God or simply give up and fret. I think Father Peyton’s core message of the power of prayer will resonate with those who have experienced the power of prayer, and give hope to those who are seeking.
Critics would say that “the family that prays together stays together” is wishful thinking. How would you counter that?
The number one cause of happiness is to have a family that loves you. Everyone yearns to have their family together, and I have never met anyone who has had a negative reaction to the statement, which also is an invitation, “The family that prays together stays together.”
When we pray we open our heart to God through humility, and humility leads to charity, which is the glue that keeps families together. What a beautiful, beautiful thing it is to have the family together to pray: for themselves, for others, for the needs of the Church and the nation.
I also know, from personal experience, of many families that are united and pray the Rosary together.
As someone who leads radio Rosaries yourself, what part of PRAY had the greatest meaning for you?
I was born in 1959 and had never seen or heard Fr. Peyton, but, from a young age, I was familiar with his saying, “The family that prays together stays together.”
I am the youngest of eight. Our family prayed the Rosary together in the evening in the living room. I can’t recall if it was every night, or some nights during May and October.
So, when I actually saw Father Petyon in black-and-white on a screen, I marveled that such an apparently simple man with an Irish brogue could have such a profound impact on so many people.
Clearly, his simple but strong faith in the power of the intercession of the Blessed Mother, had a great impact on people.
What people do you think would benefit the most from seeing PRAY?
Everyone will benefit from seeing this movie. Those who have faith and devotion will be reaffirmed in their piety. Those who are lukewarm will be nudged to give prayer another try. Those who are skeptics, will want to ask more questions. Those who are opposed to religion, will wonder why these people are happy.
In a way, while Father Peyton’s message endured, many don’t know where it came from. What effect do you think reintroducing, or even just introducing, his story will have on ordinary Catholics?
I studied history as an undergrad, and regularly read history books to this day. I especially like local history, and the story of Father Peyton is “local” in the sense that it is recent, American, and Catholic.
It is very, very important to know where we came from, who we are, how we got here, why we enjoy the blessings we do. Of course, without a humble spirit of gratitude for the blessings we enjoy, that our ancestors secured for us, we will have no interest in the heroics of our ancestors, and we will become like the hard-hearted characters that Scrooge encounters in his sojourn with the Ghost of Christmas yet to come.
Father Peyton’s story will have a great impact on some, less on others. But go and sow the seeds anyway! Some will fall on ground that yields thirty-, sixty- and one-hundred-fold.
One comment I’ve heard is that Father Peyton is the kind of priest people wish all priests were. As a priest yourself, what does his witness mean to you?
Priests do best for the faithful, when their conversation sticks to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I am happiest as a priest when I am serving others and have no time for myself.
Father Peyton’s witness only encourages me in the daily Family Rosary Across America. I love saying on air each evening, “the family that prays together stays together.”
What do you most hope people take away from PRAY?
I hope they pray more.
We've been hearing from a lot of other folks about PRAY. Here's a sampling:
Bishop William A. Wack, C.S.C., Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee: I love this documentary, as it brings to light the beautiful devotion of a faithful and dynamic priest – a devotion not meant to be kept to ourselves but to be shared with our families, our friends, and everyone. I highly recommend this film to people of all ages and faiths, especially those who do not yet know this remarkable man and his desire to bring God’s peace to the world.
Father Donald Calloway: When they sent me the preview to watch, I was like, "I wonder if this is going to be good. It could be lame; it could be hokey; it could be dorky." But then I watched it, and I'm like, "This thing's awesome." That is so inspiring.
Sister Helena Burns, F.S.P: PRAY is an achingly beautiful documentary crafted by masters of the genre.
Father Thomas J. Anastasia, V.F., Tampa Bay Rays Chaplain: This is a powerful and inspirational story that most Catholics know nothing about. The release of such a film at such a time as this, when there is such division and discord, would be a tremendous blessing. All of it was positive. There was nothing that I didn’t like about it.
Lorrie Gramer, Marriage Building USA: Moving, inspiring and challenging. This message is needed now more than ever.
Father Darrin Merlino, Co-President, Catholic Athletes for Christ: Father Peyton’s story should start another crusade to evangelize families to pray together! Praying the rosary is the weapon of peace we all need!
Julie M. Dezelski, S.T.D., Assistant Director, Marriage & Family Life, Laity; Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, USCCB: ...an exceptional movie about an exceptional man, produced at an exceptional time in our history as a nation and Church.
Image: Family Theater Productions/courtesy Father Francis J. Hoffman