The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

On June 28, Pope Benedict officially recognized Archbishop Sheen as someone who had lived a life of “heroic virtue,” and declared him “Venerable.” The devout priest from Peoria who became the first televangelist, commanded a weekly audience of 30 million, and appeared on the cover of Time, is now just one step away from beatification, and a second from sainthood, pending two respective miracles. The Vatican is already studying the case of a stillborn child who—having shown no vital signs for 60 minutes—astonishingly came back to life, after his mother prayed for the Archbishop’s intercession.

The advance of Sheen’s cause has elated his many supporters, especially three priests who’ve had a special devotion to it.

Monsignor Hilary Franco, who served as the Archbishop’s assistant when he headed the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in America—and is the only surviving member of his New York household—told me how thankful he was for the announcement: “I am a living witness to Archbishop Sheen’s holiness.”

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Advent poem – from the inside out


ADVENT

I live my Advent in the womb of Mary.

And on one night when a great star swings free

from its high mooring and walks down the sky

to be the dot above the Christus i,

I shall be born of her by blessed grace.

I wait in Mary-darkness, faith’s walled place,

with hope’s expectance of nativity.

I knew for long she carried me and fed me,

guarded and loved me, though I could not see.

But only now, with inward jubilee,

I come upon earth’s most amazing knowledge:

someone is hidden in this dark with me.

Submitted by Joan V.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Catholic Media’s Greatest Star


By Thomas Reeves

When Sheen went on television in February 1952, his Life Is Worth Living programs became extremely popular, competing effectively against shows starring “Mr. Television,” Milton Berle, and singer-actor Frank Sinatra.

As 1999 ended, there was speculation about who had been the greatest, most popular, most significant, or most influential Catholic of the preceding 100 years. When it came to the world, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa scored high on virtually every list. In the United States, names such as Francis Cardinal Spellman, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Al Smith, and John F. Kennedy received considerable attention. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen received little notice.

It is my contention that Sheen was the most influential Catholic of 20th-century America. Indeed, it could be argued that his impact was far superior to others receiving more attention in polls and in the media.

In the first place, he was the most popular public speaker in the Church, and arguably the best. Millions listened to his Catholic Hour radio programs from 1928 to 1952. Millions also received printed copies of these talks. In 1949, Gladys Baker, a noted journalist, observed that Sheen was “the name priest in America.” She added, “By members of all faiths, Monsignor Sheen is conceded to be the most electric orator of our times.”

When Sheen went on television in February 1952, his Life Is Worth Living programs became extremely popular, competing effectively against shows starring “Mr. Television,” Milton Berle, and singer-actor Frank Sinatra. A television critic exclaimed, “Bishop Sheen can’t sing, can’t dance, and can’t act. All he is…is sensational.” In his first year on television, Sheen won the Emmy for Most Outstanding Television Personality, winning over media giants Lucille Ball, Arthur Godfrey, Edward R. Murrow, and Jimmy Durante. After winning, he was featured on the covers of Time, TV Guide, Colliers, and Look. The journalist James Conniff stated, “No Catholic bishop has burst on the world with such power as Sheen wields since long before the Protestant Reformation.” By early 1955, his programs were reaching 5.5 million households a week.

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