It’s been said about Holy Cross Father Patrick Peyton that he had an obsession but was not obsessed. This remark was made by one of Fr. Peyton’s dearest friends, Father Arthur McCormick. What Fr. McCormick was referring to specifically was the drive and dedication with which Fr. Peyton persisted in furthering his mission of the Rosary Crusade and his ardent desire to promote family prayer. Fr. Peyton coined the phrase that has often been repeated over the decades since he began his crusade in the 1940s: “The family that prays together stays together.”

Fr. Peyton’s passion for Mary was instilled in him in his childhood. As a young boy growing up in Ireland, he learned to love the Church and the Mother of the Church. He brought the devotion with him when, as a young man, he immigrated to the United States and not long after was accepted into the seminary. His obsession, however, stems from a miraculous cure of severe tuberculosis that he received through Mary’s intercession. So great was the debt that he felt he owed her, that he spent his entire life working tirelessly in her honor.

That work took him across America and abroad promoting the family rosary and building a popular network of first radio and then television broadcasts that were top-rated. He called these productions “Family Theater,” and the success of his production company, Family Theater Productions, drew worldwide attention. In forming the “Family Theater” Fr. Peyton enlisted the help of Hollywood celebrities such as Bing Crosby, Maureen O’Hara, Jane Wyatt, Shirley Temple, Jimmy Durante, Ethyl Barrymore, Loretta Young, Irene Dunne, Pat O’Brien, Don Ameche and Maureen O’Sullivan, among others. He hurdled insurmountable obstacles and beat impossible odds to make his God-given dream a reality. He let nothing stop him from continuing the work that he was certain God had given him, always with complete reliance on the Blessed Mother and obedience and trust in God’s will. Eventually, Family Theater Productions became known as Holy Cross Family Ministries, the entity which carries on Fr. Peyton’s mission to this day. That a simple lad from a poor Irish family could defy the countless odds against him and achieve so much is beyond remarkable.

Fr. Peyton clearly had an obsession, but he certainly was not obsessed.

I learned a great deal about holy obsessions as I read Fr. Peyton’s autobiography, All for Her, recently published by Holy Cross Family Ministries. It’s a great gift from God to be given a mission that will positively affect the entire world as Fr. Peyton was. I thought a lot about that as I made my way through the book and frequently found myself in awe of this holy priest’s conviction, trust and stamina. I often stopped to thank God that there are those who have a clear, holy mission and the drive to accomplish it. I wish there were more people like that in the world so that the tide could be turned away from darkness and toward the Light. There are so many who are consumed by unholy passions, whose only concern is selfish motivations and gratification. There are also those who relentlessly pursue goals that in and of themselves are good, but for the wrong reasons. I have found myself among the latter in the past. Hopefully, I never find myself there in the future.

So, what is it that differentiates between being obsessed and having an obsession?

Through Fr. Peyton’s example, I learned that the difference lies in the why far less than the how or even the what. When we’re obsessed, we’re inwardly focused. We’ll stop at nothing to achieve what we want to achieve. But when we have an obsession, we’re outwardly focused. And, when it’s a holy obsession, we’re focused on God’s will for us and how that will affect others. Reading Fr. Peyton’s autobiography entertained me, but also led me into contemplation about where I’m at in my life and where God wants me to be. Every one of us has been created uniquely and purposefully. Every person is given a mission by God that no one else can carry out. That mission, for each of us, must become a holy obsession.