In 1948, Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote: “It is a characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unconscious of the tragedy. Only those who live by faith know what is happening in the world... the great masses without faith are unconscious of the destructive process going on because they have lost the vision of the heights from which they fell.”
Could he possibly be talking about the America of today some seventy-three years later? Look at the divide in our nation. Many people are so clueless or fed up with everything that they are falling into the condition that Bishop Sheen predicted would happen. How could have developed these two groups? For this answer, I will offer three main reasons.
First, just as Bishop Sheen predicted, Americans have turned away from the Church. Any visible statistic would show that Church attendance as a percentage reached its peak in the United States with Post-War Baby Boom Generation in the late 1950s. Today no less than a 300% decrease has been experienced by the Church since those days in the late 1950s and one of the best-kept secrets in the Church today is, if it were not for the immigrants who have been coming to the US for economic or political reasons- the Church attendance would not be as high as it is even today.
Second, the materialism of the 1950s turned in greed in the 1980s and a real sense of self-entitlement or self-power in the 2000s. The mantra is that we do not need God-he needs us. We do not have to wait for the Kingdom of Heaven; we will obtain our Kingdom here on earth- right here- right now. In effect, we created a long term mortgage on a mobile home. We have a debt that lasts longer than our life. Then the other problem here is that the people are so wrapped up in their life that they can not see what they traded away was much more precious than what they got. On May 24th, 1626, Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan for the equivalent of $24 worth of beads and trinkets. Both sides were very satisfied. Minuit thought he had a great deal because he bought all of this land for practically no money. The Native Americans thought that they had gotten a great deal of money from Minuit. How come such a great difference you might ask? The answer is simple. The Native Americans believed that only God owned the land. We did not own anything. We are here on borrowed time. We can use the land but after we are gone- we leave the land. Only the land and God stay past us. Therefore, to get money for something they did not own- was a very good deal. This story is an excellent example of what is going on in the world today. We have people who are so short-sighted that they are giving up on God just to seek the treasures of this earth. They will find out that this bargain was not in their favor soon enough.
Third, in 1948 Bishop Sheen wrote, "As Western civilization loses its Christianity it loses its superiority." Superiority here is not a physical superiority but a spiritual one. We have protection from the wages of sin with the help of God. However, when society turned its back on God, what happened? According to Bishop Sheen, "It is a characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unconscious of the tragedy. . .Only those who live by faith know what is happening in the world... The great masses without faith are unconscious of the destructive process going on, because they have lost the vision of the heights from which they fell."
He could so many people be fooled by this? Bishop Sheen answered that when he explained this, ”The Antichrist will not be so-called; otherwise, he would have no followers...he will come disguised as the Great Humanitarian; he will talk peace, prosperity and plenty not as means to lead us to God, but as ends in themselves...He will tempt Christian(s) with the same three temptations with which he tempted Christ... He will have one great secret which he will tell no one: he will not believe in God. Because his religion will be brotherhood without the fatherhood of God, he will deceive even the elect. He will set up a counter church ... It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content. It will be a mystical body of Antichrist that will in all externals resemble the mystical body of Christ.”
Now what? With society in a place that we have never seen before in the US what will happen? These are serious problems plaguing our society today and a question that is on the minds of many people today. What will happen? Now is the time now is the place, and now we will see what will come next for our society and country.
In conclusion, what does Bishop Sheen predict will happen to us during these times? Carefully consider these words he wrote back in 1948, "Thus does a society which lost its faith in the authority of a Church sneak authority back into society through the door of the counter church... Once inner faith is lost, a dictatorship becomes imperative to reestablish some kind of order by force."
Bishop Fulton Sheen was born in the 19th century, he wrote in the 20th century, yet his writings are as fresh today as they were in 1948. Why? Maybe because he was much more turned into the Lord at that time than we are today, could that be the case? If it is the case, I ask you right now, what if anything are you going to do to correct that today?