Love Him with all your heart

Lent 2020 - Day 4

“God will love you, of course, even though you do not love him, but remember if you give him only half your heart, he can make you only fifty percent happy.” - Fulton Sheen (1895-1979)

Here's yet another author that can keep us company through Lent. Celebrated Archbishop and highly acclaimed radio and TV star, Fulton Sheen's writings and recordings never fail to strike a chord.

While still a parish priest, Sheen taught theology and philosophy at the Catholic University of America. Starting from 1925, he wrote seventy-three books. In 1930 he began a weekly NBC Sunday night radio broadcast, The Catholic Hour, on which he once referred to Hitler as an “anti-Christ”. In 1946, Time magazine featured him on the cover and referred to “the golden-voiced Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen, U.S. Catholicism's famed proselytizer”, whose radio broadcast received 3,000–6,000 letters weekly from listeners.

In 1940, Sheen celebrated an Easter Sunday Mass in 1940 in one of the first televised religious services. This put in motion a new avenue for his religious pursuits. In 1952, he moved to TV, presenting Life is Worth Living. It comprised unpaid Sheen simply speaking in front of a live audience without a script or cue cards, occasionally using a chalk board. Here he denounced the Soviet regime, saying, "Stalin must one day meet his judgment." The dictator died within a week.

Did Cardinal Spellman drive Sheen off the air when Life is Worth Living was at the height of its popularity? Sheen never talked about the situation; he even praised Spellman in his autobiography titled Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen (1980) and made only vague references to his “trials both inside and outside the Church.”

In 1958, Sheen became national director of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith and, eight years later, Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, New York. From 1961-68, Sheen’s final presenting role was on the syndicated The Fulton Sheen Program. Through his career, Sheen helped convert a number of notable figures to the Catholic faith. Each conversion process took an average of 25 hours of lessons, and reportedly more than 95% of his students in private instruction were baptized.

Just before his retirement, Sheen was appointed archbishop of the titular See of Newport, Wales. Two months before he died, when Pope John Paul II visited St Patrick's Cathedral in New York, he embraced Sheen, saying, "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a loyal son of the Church.”

Today, the Fulton J. Sheen Museum in Illinois houses the largest collection of Sheen's personal items and the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, Manhattan takes his name. In 2009, his shows began rebroadcasts on the EWTN and the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Church Channel cable networks. Sheen's contribution to televised preaching makes him one of the first televangelists.

The cause for Fulton J. Sheen's canonization was officially opened in 2002. He is now Venerable. And venerable is also his large body of writings and talks.