Saints Be Praised- Just Not Yet
The beatification of late Catholic Archbishop Fulton Sheen was postponed early in December, marking the latest setback on the road to sainthood for the beloved television and radio preacher. This was a shock to many of us who were counting on this event happening.
This was a personally upsetting event for me. I grew up listening to Bishop Fulton Sheen on the television. I enjoyed his artful style of communication and I quickly realized that in my lifetime no other single Catholic person would touch as many souls as he did. I was excited. Unlike many people who become Saints in our Church, I truly felt I knew him and was touched by his ministry.
Indeed, Bishop Fulton Sheen was a rock star of the Catholic Church for most of his life. Sheen was a media hit as a form of evangelization in the United States. This was in every media that he was in at the time and the funny thing is now he has become popular on streaming media- the simple truth is people cannot get enough of him or his messages. Bishop Sheen regularly appeared on “The Catholic Hour” radio program from 1930 to 1950. After becoming a bishop, he launched his successful “Life Is Worth Living” television series in 1951, attracting millions of viewers. His market share was amazing. Today even the highest-ranked TV shows would get only a mere fraction of his 30% market share audience. Having a cleric as a pop icon of the 1950s really may describe why many of us call that era-¨The Happy Days.¨
Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria announced the postponement in a news release on Tuesday (Dec. 3), saying the Vatican informed him that Sheen's beatification — one of the last steps before a person is canonized and declared a saint — had been delayed “at the request of a few members of the Bishop’s Conference who have asked for further consideration.”
Sheen, who died in 1979 at age 84, was originally scheduled to be beatified on Dec. 21. No specific reason was given for the postponement, although the news release appeared eager to dispel any notion that Sheen is connected to the resurgent Catholic sex abuse crisis.
“There has never been, nor is there now, any allegation against Sheen involving the abuse of a minor,” the release said.
Now, I would like everyone who has ever heard Bishop Fulton Sheen, watched his videos on TV, or heard his homilies rebroadcast on the radio to do something right now. I would implore you to get on your knees and pray for the Church. That is right, now is time to pray. Pray for the Church leaders to come to their senses and pray for this postponement to be postponed itself. Bishop Fulton Sheen has done much more for the Catholic Church and promoted God. He needs to become a Saint. Very few if any other human may have touched more people in their life than Fulton Sheen. Very few if any people live so much of their life and devoted it so many others. Through his thoughts, words, deeds, books, and now his videos we see the wit, humor, and amazing style that this man possessed. He was and is a saint in my book, now let us make him a Saint in their book as well.
In a very Sheen approach to this, I think we should begin to apply his highly prophetic words on this very subject as he talks about the Church in troubled times.
1.“[Satan] will set up a counter church which will be the ape of the [Catholic] Church … It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content.
2. We are living in the days of the Apocalypse, the last days of our era. The two great forces – the Mystical Body of Christ and the Mystical Body of the anti-Christ – are beginning to draw battle lines for the catastrophic contest.
3. The False Prophet will have a religion without a cross. A religion without a world to come. A religion to destroy religions. There will be a counterfeit Church.
4. Christ’s Church the Catholic Church will be one, and the False Prophet will create the other.
5. The False Church will be worldly, ecumenical, and global. It will be a loose federation of churches and religions, forming some type of global association.
6. A world parliament of Churches. It will be emptied of all Divine content, it will be the mystical body of the anti-Christ. The Mystical Body on earth today will have its Judas Iscariot, and he will be the false prophet. Satan will recruit him from our Bishops.
7. The Antichrist will not be so called; otherwise he would have no followers. He will not wear red tights, nor vomit sulphur, nor carry a trident nor wave an arrowed tail as Mephistopheles in Faust. This masquerade has helped the Devil convince men that he does not exist. When no man recognizes, the more power he exercises. God has defined Himself. as “I am Who am,” and the Devil as “I am who am not.”
8. Nowhere in Sacred Scripture do we find a warrant for the popular myth of the Devil as a buffoon who is dressed like the first “red.” Rather is he described as an angel fallen from heaven, as “the Prince of this world,” whose business it is to tell us that there is no other world. His logic is simple: if there is no heaven there is no hell; if there is no hell, then there is no sin; if there is no sin, then there is no judge, and if there is no judgment then evil is good and good is evil. But above all these descriptions, Our Lord tells us that he will be so much like Himself that he would deceive even the elect–and certainly, no devil ever seen in picture books could deceive even the elect. How will he come in this new age to win followers to his religion?
Maybe, just maybe the problems of that Bishop Fulton Sheen are not caused by what he did or believed but are caused by people who are lacking the full understanding of the outstanding service this man performed for his fellow believers. His words today are as crisp and correct as they were seventy years ago. His homilies stand the test of time and I defy this to be said about those who are fighting this honor? Just listen to him for five minutes. His homilies are as fresh and delightful today as they were seventy years ago. Some of the books he wrote are approaching almost ninety years since there were published but they are as sound today as they were written back then. You may ask, why? The answer is simple- they spoke the truth and a responsive chord with the public then who were seeking the truth? Are we not all supposed to be seeking the truth and helping others get there? Are we not always supposed to strive to seek the truth? Does it stand to reason then, the truth is truth eternally?
One hundred years from now, others will look back at this point and time and reflect upon this time and this place to be a turning point in the Church. We can make this to be a time a positive one by simply going through and taking out the postponement. If not now, when? If not now, why? If Fulton Sheen is not a Saint, who is? This political fuss has not stopped the truth. It is now our job to make sure that we ask for the help of the Almighty in this battle and change the hearts of the leaders of Church. We need to make sure they hear our prayers and make one of the finest American homilists and one of its greatest writers, Bishop Fulton Sheen, a Saint of the Church that he loved so much.