In these days when many modernist priests, bishops and cardinals are promoting the idea of "universal salvation", the concept of sainthood doesn't seem to mean very much.
I wish I could find my copy of Bishop Sheen's "Piece of Soul". What a marvelous book, by an excellent teacher and man.
One of my PhD students recently gave me a copy of his writings. I think I'll have to read it next.
I must say I remember the days of Fulton Sheen on national TV with nostalgia. Imagine the networks letting someone like that on any of the networks today! About as likely as Hollywood making a remake of "Going My Way."
I look forward to "Life is Worth Living" every Friday night at 9 on EWTN.com. Streaming video is available.
Whence Come Wars?
Address delivered on January 7, 1940
It is a joy to be back with you again, though I am sorry it comes at this time when the world is at war. But God be thanked that the air of our land can be filled with messages of peace rather than with engines of death. As we look back on the last two decades, one wonders if what we called the last World War ever ended- what we called 'Peace' may have been only an interlude between wars, and what we labeled an 'Armistice' may have been just a temporary cessation of hostilities, a kind of lull in mass suicide.
Why is it that human beings who love peace so much should be denied it? Why should those who hate war so much be marched into its bloody fields? In other words, why are there wars? This is the question we shall discuss in this initial broadcast.
From God's point of view (and this is our concern, rather than the political or the economic point of view) there are two reasons for wars: War may be either something to be waged in the name of God, or something to be undergone at the hands of God. War may be either a vindication of Divine Justice or a chastisement from Divine Justice. War may be either a crusade or a curse; either a token of man's love of God, or the fruit of man's godlessness; either a sign that men are with God, or a token that they are against Him.
Among the first kind of wars, the crusades, may be mentioned the one Michael waged in heaven as he flashed his archangelic sword against Lucifer in defense of the rights of God; or the wars on earth when nations, like Michael, unfurl the banners of the Lord of Hosts amid the battle cry 'Who is like unto God', against those who would banish His memory from the earth He has made.
But there are other wars which are not for a vindication of God's honor, but are a chastisement for man's dishonor. St. James in his epistle suggests that this is a far more general cause of wars: "From whence are wars and contentions among you? Are they not hence, from your concupiscences, which war in your members" (James 4:1)? It is worth noting that St. James here completely ignores the economic causes of wars and places the blame not on ideologies, but on men; not on politics, but on concupiscence; not on trade balances, but on sin. War is first in man, then among men. The conflict on battlefields is but the extension of the conflict within man. Man revolting against God is the miniature of the war of man revolting against his fellowman.
How often we find this cause of war written across the pages of Scripture. Turn over the pages of the Old Testament. War is often pictured as a scourge upon Israel , a chastisement for their injustices and a judgment upon their wickedness. As the Babylonians, Egyptians, Medes, Persians, Philistines, and Assyrians invade Israel to devour it with an open mouth, the prophets, like James later on, blame the wars on their forgetfulness of God; "..my people have done two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and have digged to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13 ). Then, as if writing for our times, when nations which boast they are defending religion seek to enter into pacts with anti-religious governments because their guns are many and their tanks are strong, the prophets thunder: "Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help, trusting in horses, and putting their confidence in chariots, because they are many: and in horsemen, because they are very strong: and have not trusted in the Holy One of Israel, and have not sought after the Lord..Egypt is man, and not God: and their horses, flesh, and not spirit: and the Lord shall put down his hand, and the helper shall fall, and he that is helped shall fall, and they shall all be confounded together" (Isaiah 31:1, 3)
Nor does the New Testament indicate any change in the punitive function of war. Our Diving Lord describes a war that will come in the life time of His hearers when Titus would encompass Jerusalem with an army in the year 70. As if entering into the details of modern warfare He added: "And thy enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straighten thee on every side, and beat thee flat to the ground, and thy children who are in thee, and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone" (Luke 19:43,44).
If there ever seemed a time when men might be rallied together in defense of a nation, it was then; if there was ever a moment when the cry "resist the aggressor" might find response in the soul of a people, it was then; if ever patriotism might rightfully enkindle hearts to turn back the invading armies, it seemed to be then. And yet when that moment would come, what did Our Lord tell His people to do? To take up arms? No! To flee! Flee not as before into the walled cities, but "to the mountains" (Matthew 24:16). Flee into the cold mountains without a mantle: "for these are the days of vengeance" (Luke 21:22 ). Then in one masterly stroke He gives the clue to the disaster: "Thou hast not known the time of thy visitation... [or] the things that are to thy peace: but now they are hidden from thy eyes" (Luke 19:44 , 42).
War is an evil like a disease. A disease may be due either to external causes such as the attack of a germ from the outside, or to internal causes, such as lack of rest or nourishment, or excesses in eating or drinking. It would be quite wrong to think that war is due wholly and exclusively to external causes such as the unleashing of Red and Brown barbarians bent on destroying the culture of the world. It is due to that, but it may be also of our won making. As the drunkard disturbs his equilibrium and vision by violating the law of nature, so too do nations, by violating the law of nature's God, produce out of their own bosom that disturbance of international equilibrium we call war.
What we sow, that also do we reap. If we pluck out our eyes, we become blind; if we disobey the laws of music, we produce discord; what a headache is to a man who violates the laws of health, that war may be to men who violate the laws of God- the self-inflicted chastisement of our sins. Abraham Lincoln looked upon the Civil War that way when he wrote: "The awful calamity of a civil war which now desolates our land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to our needful reformation as a whole people.. We have forgotten the gracious hand that preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior virtue and wisdom of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God who made us."
Later on in his Proclamation of July 7, 1864 , he added: "It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."
If wars may be generated out of the social order by injustice and forgetfulness of God, does it not behoove us to examine our national conscience? Are we really so righteous, so just, as to be immune from the self-inflicted punishment of war? First of all, do we really believe in God? Certainly the vast majority of people in America do profess a belief in God. But is that belief only a mental affirmation or does it involve an act of will and service? Do we realize that the failure to live up to the full implication of any truth is the factual repudiation of that truth? Could St. Paul apply to us what he said to the Romans, that professing to believe in God, they did nothing about it, never glorified Him and never gave thanks. "Wherefore God gave them up to the desires of their heart." ( Rom. 1:24) ". for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice" (Rom. 1:18 ).
Do we in America , who are so much scandalized at the godlessness of Russia and Germany , realize that 60% of the children of the United States are growing into manhood and womanhood without any formal religious or moral education? Suppose one day this godless generation chose to live out its godlessness? Would we not then move into Russian tyranny and slavery without ever leaving our shores? How many universities in our land founded as religious institutions for the propagation of a particular Christian creed, today adhere to the creeds they were founded to propagate?
Even when we do speak of returning to God, do not too many of us say we will accept Him on our conditions, not His? Do not most of us want only a "United Fronts God" into whose funnel one can pour our contradictions, unethical ethics, and diluted gospels? Do we not want a religion loose enough to permit moral holidays- one that will let us be good a little later on, but not now? While envying those who are happy in the love of all Christ's commandments, do we not prefer to pick and choose among those commandments, so that we may judge our virtues by the vices from which we abstain? Do we not want the Sermon on the Mount, but without the text "take up your cross"? Do not most of us desire a God of our own making, a God who flatters our godlessness, who smiles on our sins, who blesses our skepticism, who ignores our violations of His laws, who curses our enemies, who helps us make money, but not a God of Justice and Charity whose way to peace is the humility of the Crib and the abnegation of the Cross?
Let us admit the fact: before picking up stones to cast at the adulteress abroad, we ought to turn the searchlight into our won consciences. How many of us who protest against the destruction of churches and synagogues abroad ever go into a church or a synagogue? What is the use of the world overthrowing a Hitler or Stalin if it keeps the spirit that breeds them? To oppose a nation justly as the enemy of God we must believe in God; we may not smash its idols and keep our own. We cannot ignore God in our national life and expect Him to be with us in our international relations; we cannot revolt against God in our consciences and expect Peace in our country.
I am profoundly convinced that the majority of Americans realize this truth now as they never have in the past. The effects of irreligion and the abandonment of the Justice and Charity of God were in previous decades veneered over with a kind of humaneness which concealed their awful state. A false economic security helped also to create the illusion that we could be prosperous without being God fearing. But in the last year the masks have been torn away. What we see before us now are not mere political upheavals or economic depression, but the bold stark fact of evil . We laugh at the idea of sin when we were prosperous; but now we are humbled as the full implication of godlessness possesses one fifth of the earth's surface. We are just waking up to the old historical truth that the loss of God is the beginning of tyranny.
As the Holy Father expressed it: "Perhaps- God grant it- one may hope that this hour of direst need may bring a change of outlook and sentiment to those many, who, till now, have walked with blind faith along the path of popular modern errors unconscious of the treacherous and insecure ground on which they trod" ( Summi Pontificatus , NCWC, p. 11).
To reduce the plea for a return to God to the concrete and to avert war as a chastisement and to bring down upon our land the blessings of the Almighty, we submit to our fellow countrymen this suggestion: A rebirth of the spirit of prayer. There was once a time in our national life when the family prayed before and after meals; when men stopped in their fields and lifted their souls to God; when doctors before performing an operation, or lawyers before opening a case, invoked the Holy Spirit; when children knelt at their bedside morning and night to commend themselves to Him who became a Child that we might not glory in our greatness. This atmosphere of prayer must be revived in our country, not that we might get something but that we might become something; not that we might sugarcoat our living with a veneer of piety, but that we might abandon our natural selfish way of thinking and living and put on the mind and spirit of Christ.
To help my radio audiences I have prepared a tiny pocket prayer book which I will send free to anyone, Protestant, Catholic or Jew, who writes in and asks for it: you need not even send return postage.* In it you will find short morning and evening prayers, prayers for special intentions such as a prayer for Peace, a prayer for Truth, prayers for our country, and spiritual thoughts suitable for meditation.
I make this offer because of a profound belief that the time has come for us to decide: We will gather or we will scatter; we will be either with God or against Him. What proves it better than this question: Why is it that every person in the United States who defends Russia 's invasion of Finland is either anti-religious or non-religious? It is because having lost God they have lost all sense of Justice, Charity, and Mercy which are rooted in Him. You cannot expect a rose to bloom in ashes.
On the contrary, have you also noticed that every person who condemns the barbarities of Russia either believes in God, or has a spark of religion in his soul? To those in particular we offer this prayer book, that by a renewed spirit of prayer and dependence upon Almighty God, all of us- Jews, Protestants, and Catholics- may see our country turned from the catastrophe of war, and made to dwell in brotherly love under the Fatherhood of God.
If you say these short prayers morning and night, meditate but a minute a day upon the Divine truths expressed therein, I will not guarantee you great prosperity or worldly influence, but I will guarantee you inner happiness, the mending of your broken hearts, the joy of a good conscience, the thrill of a life grounded in its Source, and the peace which surpasses all understanding; for if God is with you, who can be against you?
Fulton Sheen's Eucharistic Attraction
Interest in His Cause, and His Work, Still Runs High
NEW YORK, DEC. 25, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Fulton Sheen has been gone for a quarter century, but certainly not forgotten.
On Dec. 9, family, friends and admirers of the Illinois-born archbishop gathered at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York for a Mass marking the 25th anniversary of his death. Archbishop Sheen is buried in the crypt of the cathedral.
The archbishop, who died in 1979 at age 84, was a pioneer in using television to educate, inspire and convert. His cause for canonization is under way.
The vice postulator for Sheen's cause, Father Andrew Apostoli, told ZENIT that the archbishop's message is still as relevant today -- and that includes his reflections on the Christmas season.
"Firstly, in his beautiful book, 'Life of Christ,' the archbishop starts by setting Jesus apart from all other religious leaders by saying that he was the only person in all of history ever pre-announced ... prepared for and awaited," Father Apostoli said.
The priest, who was ordained by Sheen, remembered that the archbishop linked Christ's birth directly to the Eucharist.
"As he said, Mary was the first tabernacle who carried Christ within her and gave birth to the One who would say, 'I am the living bread come down from heaven,'" the vice postulator said.
"In order to be our food and drink, Jesus had to become flesh and blood, and it was our Blessed Mother who provided this for him," Father Apostoli said. "So he saw the incarnation as the basis of the Lord's Eucharistic presence."
The priest thinks that Archbishop Sheen would have been delighted over this Year of the Eucharist proclaimed by John Paul II.
"He truly loved and promoted the Eucharist and used to say that all his inspiration for his preaching and writing sprang directly from what he described as his daily 'hour of power' -- an hour in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament per day, despite his very heavy schedule," Father Apostoli said.
Known for his ability to keep television and radio audiences captivated by his dynamic presentation, Sheen had been told by his teachers that there was no hope for him as a public speaker.
"When people used to praise him for his abilities, he would answer that he had absolutely no talent as a speaker," Father Apostoli explained. "He'd say: 'All my insight and power of words come from the Blessed Sacrament.' And it was before the holy Eucharist where he would faithfully prepare his talks."
There's a great revival of interest in Sheen's books and tapes today, even for those who were not alive when he was broadcasting.
Father Apostoli said that that is because "Sheen drew his inspiration from Jesus in the Sacrament; and as we know, what comes from Jesus has a perennial power to attract."
The priest told the story of a U.S. soldier, a Catholic, in Turkey who asked his unit's Protestant chaplain for something inspirational.
The chaplain responded: "The only thing that the Catholic priest left behind were these set of audiotapes of Fulton Sheen."
"The young man has since told me that after listening to those tapes, he couldn't get enough of Sheen's works!" Father Apostoli said.
Drawing inspiration from this story, the president of the Archbishop Sheen Foundation, Alan Napleton, told ZENIT of the group's new project to promote both interest and funds for the cause of canonization.
"We are currently republishing one of Archbishop Sheen's prayer books written during WWII called 'The Armor of God,' and are aiming, through this new campaign, to send them over to our men and women in the military around the world," Napleton said. "We've already sent over 500 to Iraq alone."