Bulletin Column – July 28, 2019
Many saints and blesseds were active in the media. St. Francis de Sales, for example, is the patron saint of writers and publishers for his frequent use of pamphlets and brochures to reconvert Protestant lands back to their Catholic Faith (he was so successful that 40,000 of the 60,000 Calvinists in Switzerland returned to the Catholic Faith through his door-to-door evangelization). He also wrote one of the most famous spiritual books ever, Introduction to the Devout Life, which was a revolutionary book in that it was the first spiritual book ever written specifically for the laity.
Many other saints were effective in the media, as well. Pope St. John Paul the Great had a tremendous media presence, even releasing a CD in 1999 of his a cappella singing set to beautiful music (check out “Abba Pater” on iTunes!). Certainly St. Thomas Aquinas was such a prolific writer that he could often work on six books at once (with the help of six scribes who sat at the ready!).
But despite all of the great saints and their work in the media, there had never been a saint who won an Emmy…until now.
With great joy, the Church has declared that Venerable Fulton J. Sheen will be beatified (named a “blessed”, the last stop before sainthood) within the coming year. Wow! Many of you who are part of an older generation remember his popular TV program, “Life is Worth Living” which was beloved by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. At its peak, it was watched by thirty million Americans every week, even though it competed in a time slot with Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra! Every week, Bishop Sheen would gently explain the teachings of the Catholic Faith to Americans, using humor and down-to-earth examples. He was often nicknamed “Golden-Voiced” for his even-keeled, strong voice. Even before this, he had a 20-year-run as the host of “The Catholic Hour” on the radio, reaching four million people each week. All this was done while serving as the auxiliary bishop of one of the biggest and busiest diocese in the world (New York)! He even managed to find time to pound out seventy-three books in his lifetime. As a college professor of mine once said, “He never had an unpublished thought!”
Sheen was such an influential person that many came into the Church through his influence. In fact, the actor Martin Sheen changed his last name in admiration for this great man (Martin’s original name was the unwieldy “Ramón Gerard Antonio Estévez” – I see why he wanted to change it!).
As with all blesseds and saints, there had to be a miracle attributed to the holy man or woman after their death. In the case of Bl. Fulton Sheen, the miracle consisted in a boy who was born dead in 2010. For sixty-one minutes this boy did not breathe and showed no vital signs – far beyond any reasonable medical hope of resuscitation. But the family prayed unceasingly to Bishop Sheen all during this horrifying sequence of events, and to the shock of the doctors, the boy spontaneously revived. He suffered no brain damage and is now a healthy eight-year-old boy. On two separate occasions, the doctors were interviewed by the Vatican, and they were unanimous in their belief that this was a true supernatural miracle.
So, as our media seems to spew mostly filth and crass commercialism, it is helpful to remember that it also hosted a saint – Bl. Fulton J. Sheen, who was one of the greatest evangelists our country has ever known!