The Life of (The Servant of) Christ

Here we are, June 2017, and it has been a while since I added to the blog.  Today, I want to alert you to a mini-series I’ll be doing on Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s book, The Life of Christ.  The book is divided into five chapters. My dear friend and fellow book-clubber-slash-blogger, Miss Clare Whitton, will be publishing reflections here in the upcoming weeks, if you are interested in reading it!  We hope you enjoy our reflections on Christ, through the lens of one of His beloved servants, the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

A bit of background

In May of this year, I discovered some videos on YouTube – excerpts and episodes from the hugely popular television series, “Life is Worth Living”, which ran from 1952 to 1957 on national television (Yes, back when television – and the world – was black and white).  Archbishop Sheen was the host, and his show garnered as many as 10 million views a week.  His dramatic delivery and keen sense of humor won him the Emmy for Outstanding Television Personality over the much-loved Lucille Ball of I Love Lucy in 1953.

If you have some time, I strongly suggest listening one (or many) of his episodes.  Clare and I have both found them thought-provoking and engaging, good for listening to during breakfast or while taking it easy.  They can be found by simply searching “Archbishop Fulton Sheen” on YouTube, or you can go to this YouTube playlist: Popular Videos – Fulton J. Sheen.

Who is Archbishop Sheen?*

Peter John Sheen grew up in a faithful Catholic family, becoming immersed in the Church from a young age.  By eight, he was an altar boy; by twenty-five, a priest.  After being ordained, he studied at The Catholic University of America (CUA! CUA! CUA!) and then spent five years in Belgium studying philosophy.  When he returned to the United States, he lectured at CUA for 23 years.  During his time as a CUA professor, he published 34 books and kept a full teaching schedule while also eventually appearing on weekly radio shows.

There is a classroom on campus, McMahon 112, where students would crowd to hear his lectures.  It is amazing to me the number of times I must have passed that doorway, not considering the greatness that walked those same halls and taught theology and philosophy in the same classrooms where I’ve been receiving my own wonderfully Catholic college education.

In 1926, then called Monsignor Sheen (monsignor is a title for a priest who has been honored by the Pope for his service to the Church), the talented orator made his first appearance on media, recording a series of lectures for a New York radio station.  From there, his fame grew and he became one of the best-known Catholics of his time.  On Easter Sunday 1940, he appeared in the world’s first broadcast Catholic Mass.

Eventually, in 1951 he was consecrated bishop.  That same year, he began filming his famous television series, Life is Worth Living, the same one mentioned above, which I stumbled upon on YouTube earlier this year.

During the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, Archbishop Sheen worked closely with Father Joseph Ratzinger, who you probably know today as Pope Benedict XVI.

After decades of successful preaching and proclaiming the Good News in varied, dynamic, and incredible ways, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen died, on the floor of his private chapel, where he had spent many an hour with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

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Throughout Sheen’s life, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was key. It was said by his friends that from the time of his ordination to his death, the good priest never missed an appointment with Christ, spending at least an hour a day in front of the tabernacle.

(Adoration is simply being with God, and spending time in His Presence.  Catholics believe we can do this when we visit Jesus in the tabernacle at a Catholic Church.  Inside that tabernacle is the bread and wine which have become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ during the Mass.  By the witness of his life, it is clear Archbishop Sheen believed with all his heart and knew his refreshment could be found only in Christ’s Presence.)

It is said we spend our time on what matters to us most – the Archbishop spent his life for God, always making his appointment with Christ and always striving to reach more souls.  We can say with confidence that Archbishop Sheen loved God with all his heart.

And what do we love? How do we spend our time?

These are hard questions, because the answer may not be near so neat, pretty, and holy as we might like.  But Christ meets us where we are, and brings us lovingly to Himself. That, we can count on.

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About the mini-series:

The mini-series will not be formulated any specific way (unless God cooks something up that Clare and I can’t yet see).  But we just want to share our reflections and thoughts on what promises to be a good, beautiful book about the One Who loves us most deeply – Jesus Christ.  So, as you get all excited to read our thoughts, pray that this time of reflection and laughter in our cross-country book club may be fruitful for the two of us, and that the Lord may speak through us, to you!

If, after reading about the Archbishop’s life, or after reading our reflections, you want to read the book, it’s a mere $5.95 on Amazon.com. No excuses! 🙂

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Well, look out for another reflection from Clare or I soon!

God bless you and yours!

(P.S. He was born Peter John Sheen…I don’t know where the “Fulton” part comes from – does anyone know? Share your knowledge! Do it!)

*Biographical information about Venerable Fulton Sheen courtesy of CUA: http://fulton-sheen.cua.edu/bio/index.cfm

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