I was thrilled to learn this morning that the Pope has authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promote a decree confirming the heroic virtues of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. That means he is just one miracle away from beatification and two miracles away from formal canonization. An investigation of one alleged miracle has already been completed, awaiting the Holy See's ruling on whether it may be credited to Sheen's intercession. (Note that beatification and canonization do not make a person a saint in heaven. Rather, they acknowledge that God has shown, by answering prayers through a soul's intercession, that the soul is already a saint in heaven.)
As a new Catholic, I adopted Sheen as a personal intercessor. His writings, particularly Calvary and the Mass, helped me to understand how the hidden wounds I carried did not separate me from God's love. On the contrary,—as I now write to people who, like myself, have suffered childhood sexual abuse—even the wounds that have yet to heal become sanctifying when brought to the light of the wounded and resurrected Christ.
When I wrote about Sheen on this blog five years ago, reader Brenda of Flatbush responded with a personal account of how his ministry, witness,and great holiness enriched her life:
I had the prodigious blessing of hearing Sheen preach during a brief period of renewed activity here in NYC before his death. In college, in the depths of depression, I heard him preach his famous Good Friday homily, and the experience literally reshaped my soul. I also had a chance to meet him briefly several times.
And here's what you won't learn from Wikipedia, or even the unconscionably bad video record of his preaching: He was--is--one of the great saints of the 20th Century. Perfect, no, but that is the point of sainthood, the surmounting of deep flaws. He radiated a quality--one that I call, after Chesterton, "cosmic mirth"--that I have encountered in only one other adult, the Dalai Lama. Tragically, he may yet go down in newsclip amber as a Cold Warrior/TV novelty act, an artifact of Fifties American Catholicism rampant who was "kicked upstairs" in a late-life in-house ecclessial power struggle. Or worse yet, be remembered merely as the glib and charismatic guy who drew angels on a blackboard and beat Uncle Miltie in the ratings.
In fact, he was a mystic of the truest kind (no mere "theologian," "original" or otherwise), and his famously hypnotic eyes burned with some interior suffering that only he knew. To touch his hand was to be in the presence of electrifying grace, not mere charisma. His "dated" topical commentaries on the evils of Communism and the pitfalls of modernity have stood the test of time to become astonishingly prophetic. And his gifts as a communicator--which he could dial up or down in sophistication with no loss of mastery depending on his audience--have brought countless souls into the Body of Christ, including my own father,who was introduced to the young Rev. Sheen in the 1930s through the "Catholic Radio Hour." I grew up in a house with many of Sheen's autographed books (each autograph preceded by "God Love You"), and pray daily for his canonization. The bio that does him justice has yet to be written. But he's waiting to hear from you as a powerful intercessor, and given his gifts as a media master, I nominate him for Patron Saint of the Internet.
St. Fulton Sheen, pray for us!
Here are the compelling final minutes of the homily Brenda says reshaped her soul:
As you watch the video, listen to Sheen's description how Jesus will judge us by whether we have wounds to match His own, and you'll hear part of the inspiration for my book My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. He says:
"He said He would come like a thief in the night, and when He comes, He will have not wounds but scars—scars on hands and feet and side. And that is the way He will judge us.
"Show me your hands—Have you a scar from giving, a scar of sacrificing yourself for another?
"Show me your feet— Have you gone about doing good? Were you wounded in service?
"Show me your heart— Have you left a place for divine love?
"And that’s the way he will know His own."