Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

By Judie Brown

When I read the news reports about why the beatification of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen had been put on hold, it disturbed me more than words can say. The nuanced announcements were many, but the one that sums it up best is this:

“It has now been revealed that the inexplicable delaying of the beatification of beloved American Archbishop Fulton Sheen was triggered by Rochester, New York Bishop Salvatore Matano as a precautionary measure while that diocese sorts through more than 70 recently filed sex-abuse lawsuits.”

In other words, Matano and his allies, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, and Cardinal Blasé Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, aligned under the guise of concerns over possible sex-abuse charges regarding priests who allegedly served under Archbishop Sheen to temporarily halt the beatification. But the actual facts contradict these assertions.

Monsignor James Kruse, JCL, vicar general of the Peoria diocese, knows the facts and has written a lengthy op-ed about this situation entitled “The Actions of Rochester Diocese: Caution or Sabotage?” It is well worth a read.

This entire situation is tragic on every level and for many reasons, but rather than dwell on the negative, we will concentrate on the man who is being considered for eventual sainthood.

After all, dirty laundry created from rotting cloth eventually falls apart, and so it will be the case with the beatification of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. This is why we believe that Peoria’s bishop, Daniel Jenky, CSC, announced a novena on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12) with the intention of advancing the Sheen cause for beatification.

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Archbishop Sheen was ever the teacher who challenged his listeners to be better, holier, and more committed to Christ. In a Good Friday sermon some years ago, Sheen said:

If Jesus Christ thirsted for souls, must not a Christian also thirst? If He came to cast fire on the earth, must not a Christian be enkindled? Has He not called us to be His apostles and His ambassadors, in order that His Incarnation might be prolonged through the continued dispensation of the divine through the human? . . . A Catholic who does not strive to spread his faith is a parasite on the life of the Church.

His words—profound, inspiring, and at times unsettling—brought only God knows how many souls to Christ. He did this with a twinkle in his eye while being loving and being in love with his vocation.

In 1980, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith published Archbishop Sheen’s autobiography, Treasure in Clay. In that book, which I revisit whenever I need a shot in the arm, Sheen wrote about his story—his life—saying his

autobiography is the crucifix—the inside story of my life not in the way it walks the stage of time, but how it was recorded, taped and written in the Book of Life. It is not the autobiography that I tell you, but the autobiography I read to myself. In the crown of thorns, I see my pride, my grasping for earthy toys in the pierced Hands, my flight from shepherding care in the pierced Feet, my wasted love in the wounded Heart, and my prurient desires in the flesh hanging from Him like purple rags. Almost every time I turn a page of that book, my heart weeps at what eros has done to agape, what the “I” has done to the “Thou,” what the professed friend has done to the Beloved.

He loved being a priest, an evangelist, and a leader. But more than anything, Sheen loved, worshipped, and lived for Christ.

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And with this wisdom he wrote in his autobiography: “Neither theological knowledge nor social action alone is enough to keep us in love with Christ unless both are preceded by a personal encounter with Him.”

Let us pray that Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is beatified soon. His life truly was a song of love, and today his detractors affirm that holiness is never found in the petty, but only in the humble.

Fulton J. Sheen, pray for us.