Fulton Sheen was born in 1895 and witnessed the rise of emerging medias such as the radio and tv. The thing is, he recognized its potential for evangelization and was able to harness its faculties. Fulton Sheen is widely known for his radio program, the Catholic Hour, which boasted a listening of 4 million people. He moved to television in 1951 with his show Life Is Worth Living, scheduled for the undesirable Tuesday night at 8pm slot. The producers were just a little shocked when 30 million people started tuning in. He also beat Lucille Ball the year that he won an Emmy for his airtime.
Fulton Sheen died in 1979 as an archbishop, and his cause for canonization opened in 2002. He is currently a venerable. His life is a powerful example of what can happen when one can salvage the good from media and below are ten points that prove it.
- Fulton Sheen never copied any of his material. After his talks, tv shows, or homilies, Venerable Sheen would throw out his writings in order to never become repetitive and boring. (Thankfully, many of his radio shows and tv scripts exist today, available in book format). We also value original content, and it's always healthy to continue cultivating growth in our own lives, as well as one's 'viewers.'
- He wasn’t afraid to take a stance against the evils at the time. In fact, one of his best remembered presentations on his tv show was when he called out the brutality of Joseph Stalin. Sheen gave a dramatic reading of the burial scene from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, replacing character names with famous Soviet politicians. He ended with “Stalin must one day meet his judgement.” A week later, the dictator was dead.
- Because of brave outspoken nature, many in the communist party labeled Fulton Sheen as Public Enemy Number 1.
- But he is credited for saying, “Evil will have its hour. But God will have His day.” Boom.
- It wasn’t just on the air that Fulton Sheen became the voice of America, but also in the cornfields. He would take time to approach farmers out in the fields for one-on-one discussions, never overlooking the power of heart speaks to heart.
- Fulton means ‘war’ and Sheen means ‘peace’ in Gaelic, and he certainly had his fair share of both in his life when in the public eye so much.
- He authored more than 60 books. His prose inspires us daily and proves that the Catholic Church does not need romanticizing; the faith itself is a language of Love. (Our favorite book of his? God’s World and Our Place In It.)
- Two months before his death, Saint Pope John Paul II said to him, “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You are a loyal son of the Church.”
- We are fairly certain that if he were still around today, he would encourage one to observe a holy hour above all else, and that he would choose to say “God love you” were he only allowed three words. Read his autobiography Treasure in Clay and we think you’ll agree.
- He was truly a pioneer in Catholic media, and as Pope Francis urges us to venture out into the peripheries, and as Saint Pope John Paul II encouraged us to find new means to do so, we need only look to Fulton Sheen as the example.
Want to learn more about saints? Check out our recently redone booklet, SAINTS, available here.