Preacher to the World

Today marks the 30th Anniversary of the death of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, and I am honored to be the principal celebrant and homilist at the Mass to commemorate his life.  A large gathering of priests, bishops, and cardinals are expected to attend.  What a marvelous tribute to this devoted, tireless, holy son of the church whom Pope John Paul II called “Preacher to the World” in the Sanctuary of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the very place I will be preaching tonight.

Earlier today I recorded my weekly radio program for the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, and had as my guests Bishop Daniel Jenky, Bishop of Peoria, which was Archbishop Sheen’s home diocese, Monsignor John Kozar, national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith which Archbishop Sheen headed for years, and Monsignor Hillary Franco, one of Archbishop Sheen’s close collaborators and friends, and currently pastor of one of the great parishes of the Archdiocese, Saint Augustine’s, in Ossining, New York.  The program will air Thursday, December 10 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, and then various times throughout the weekend.

In my homily, I relate this story of a chance encounter I once had with Archbishop Sheen.

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It was a damp winter day in 1973 when I was walking through St. Peter’s Square, then a seminarian at the North American College, only to see a small but excited crowd near the obelisk.  Over I went only to see in the middle of the dozens of excited people himself, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.  Among the handshakes, flashbulbs, and autographs, someone shouted,

“What are you doing in Rome, Archbishop Sheen?”

“I just came from an audience with Pope Paul VI,” he replied.

“What did the Holy Father say to you?” inquired another in the crowd.

Archbishop Sheen blushed a bit and replied, “The Holy Father looked at me, took my hand, and said, ‘Fulton Sheen, you will have a high place in heaven’.”

“What did you say back?” pestered another.

“Well” responded our man with that familiar sparkle and grin,” I replied, ‘Your Holiness, would you mind making that an infallible statement?’”

Which I propose to you is the key message of Fulton J. Sheen: He wanted to get to heaven; he wanted to bring the world with him.

You can read the full text of my homily here.

UPDATE: Emily Marlow, producer of “A Conversation with the Archbishop,” forwarded me some photos from yesterday’s taping.

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With Rob Astorino and Monsignor Hillary Franco of Saint Augustine’s in Ossining, NY

Bishop Daniel Jenky, Bishop of Peoria

Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria

Monsignor John Kozar

Monsignor John Kozar, National Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith

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Msgr. Franco, Msgr. Kozar, Bishop Jenky, me, and Rob Astorino

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3 Responses to “Preacher to the World”

  1. anne bender says:

    Excellent homily! Thank you for sharing it!

  2. This little rat from the Brooklyn Diocese swam across the river and was overjoyed to be part of the glorious celebration. The daughter of a “Fulton Sheen convert,” I was privileged to hear him preach at the very end of his life, and feel his intercession deeply to this day. And it was a delight to encounter our city’s warm and loving new shepherd. I hope you will forgive me for referring to you as a “rock star” in my account on my own blog.

    And by the way, your Excellency, you are doing a fine job blogging, or if you are being “ghost-blogged,” your ghost is capturing your presence nicely! Welcome to New York and to the blogosphere, and thank you for the healing and hope you represent!

  3. William A. Borst says:

    Thank you for your memories of the late Fulton J. Sheen. He taught me a good deal of what I know and understand about our faith. I have read all of his books in print—some a few times. I keep looking for some of those published before I was born to be reprinted.

    Every time we visit your wonder Church—we were just there last Thursday through the 8th, I kneel outside of Our Lady’s Chapel and pray the prayer for his canonization. The comment you recounted was so typical of what I have learned from him—I have most of the videos of his old shows and it is amazing how insightful and prescient he was. Perhaps in your new ministry you could revive an interest in this truly great Catholic—probably the smartest Catholic of the 20th century.

    Keep up the good work. You are the perfect foil for the culture of death influences that now control my “former” hometown. Oddly enough, my current address is your native St. Louis—we have been hear since the Mets won their 1st WS in 1969. Still can’t pull the trugger for the Cards, though I really like Tony.

    My Best, Bill Borst, Birthright Board Member and Mindszenty Report writer