Pope puts founder of Rosary Crusade one step closer toward sainthood

IMAGE: CNS photo/Family Theater Product


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis advanced the sainthood
causes of Holy Cross Father
Patrick Peyton and St. John Paul II’s mentor, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski.

The pope approved the decrees recognizing their heroic
virtues during an audience Dec. 18 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the
Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

The pope also recognized the miracles needed for the beatification of: Jesuit Father Tiburcio Arnaiz Munoz
of Spain; Father Jean-Baptiste
Fouque of France; and Sister
Maria Carmen Rendiles Martinez of Venezuela. He also recognized the martyrdom of Father Teodoro Illera del Olmo, a
member of the Congregation of St. Peter in Chains, and 15 companions,
who were killed during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and 1937.

Father Peyton, known worldwide as “The Rosary
Priest,” was a Catholic media pioneer in the 1940s, using radio and later television to
produce popular programs featuring Hollywood stars and other celebrities to
promote family prayer.

His ministry produced more than 600 radio and television
programs and 10,000 broadcasts. The priest also conducted rosary crusades for
millions of people in dozens of countries. He had two especially famous mottos:
“The family that prays together stays together” and “A world at
prayer is a world at peace.”

Father Peyton emigrated from Ireland to the United States
in 1928 when he was 19, with his heart set on becoming a millionaire after his
dream of becoming a priest was thwarted when a seminary turned down his
scholarship request.

He found a job as a sexton in the cathedral of Scranton,
Pennsylvania, and he and his brother joined the seminary and were ordained in the
Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1941.

Father Peyton’s first assignment was as chaplain in
Albany, New York, where he launched a project to promote praying the rosary and
family life. He had a special devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary after
attributing his recovery from tuberculosis to her intercession.

He founded Holy Cross Family Ministries, which includes
Family Rosary, Family Theater Productions, Father Peyton Family Institute and
Family Rosary International.

Father Peyton died in 1992. After the pope’s decree recognizing
his heroic virtues, in general, a miracle is needed for his beatification and a
second one for his canonization.

Cardinal Wyszynski was primate of Poland from 1949 until
his death from cancer in 1981. He was Poland’s youngest bishop when he was
installed as archbishop of Warsaw and Gniezno during the imposition of
communist rule.

Despite Vatican misgivings, Cardinal Wyszynski signed the
first church accord in 1950 with a communist government, which promised the
church protection in return for encouraging “respect for state

Although the accord was quickly violated, he defended the
intentions behind it in posthumously published diaries, compiled while he was
imprisoned without formal charges from 1953 to 1956 by Poland’s ruling

“I was of the opinion the modern world needed the
martyrdom of work, not of blood,” the cardinal wrote.

“It seemed possible, as well as indispensable, to
establish several points in a ‘modus vivendi’ if the church was to avoid a new
— perhaps accelerated and drastic — annihilation,” he wrote.

In later years, Cardinal Wyszynski vigorously defended
human rights and reminded Vatican diplomats they should secure local religious
freedoms before signing top-level international agreements.

Acknowledged by Poland’s ex-communists and
anti-communists as one of their country’s greatest modern leaders, Cardinal
Wyszynski was credited by former President Lech Walesa with laying the
groundwork for the rise of the Polish trade union, Solidarity, and the eventual
fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

Among his proteges was the future St. John Paul II. When
then-Father Karol Wojtyla was appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow, the
cardinal presented him to a group of priests, saying “Habemus papam”
(“We have a pope”).

“In the light of later events, one could say those
were prophetic words,” the pope wrote.

Cardinal Wyszynski also told him at the 1978 conclave, “If they elect you, do not refuse it.”

The newly elected Pope John Paul told the cardinal there would have
been “no Polish pope” without his “faith, heroic hope and limitless
confidence in the Mother of God.”

Among the other decrees Dec. 18, Pope Francis recognized
the heroic virtues of three priests, three religious women and one Italian

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