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Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

John W. Pinkerton


Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was one of my heroes when I was a kid.  Yeah, I know that’s weird; I guess I was a weird kid, and, no, I didn’t think he was a superhero because of his cape. 

I became aware of Bishop Sheen via his television show Life Is Worth Living.  1955 was the first year we had television in my home town, and it was my first year in high school, and I guess I was looking for role models.  Bishop Sheen was certainly that.  His messages were presented clearly and with a sense of humor.  Yep, that’s who I want to be…minus the cape.  I don’t think I ever thought of it as a religious broadcast; although, of course, it was. 

My paperwork said I was a Methodist, and on Sunday mornings, I was.  But I was also a part-time Baptist attending Sunday evenings and Wednesday evening services at a nearby Baptist church, and, I guess, I was a part-time Catholic when I listened to and watched Bishop Sheen.  Even though I realized that he was a Catholic, that certainly didn’t slow down my appreciation of Bishop Sheen.

Bishop Sheen’s Life Is Worth Living came on the TV at 8:00 pm on Tuesdays.  His show was up against Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra, but it did surprisingly well against these giants.

Berle, who was notorious for using old material, commented that Sheen, “…uses old material too.”

Sheen, who was unpaid for his efforts, would walk on the set before a live audience without a script or cue cards and delivered his message sometimes employing a chalkboard.

Admiral was the sponsor which paid for the production costs in exchange for a one minute commercial at the beginning and end of the show.  When
Time and Life ran features on Bishop Sheen and his show, the stations carrying the show jumped from three to fifteen in two months; fan mail poured in at the rate of 8500 each week; and he won an Emmy Award for his efforts.  He acknowledged the award by saying, "I feel it is time I pay tribute to my four writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John."  The show ran from 1952 through 1957 and had a weekly audience of around 30 million folks.

Bishop Sheen also hosted a nationally syndicated show, The Fulton Sheen Program, which ran from 1961 through 1968 which employed a format similar to his earlier program.

Archbishop Sheen got into a dispute over money with Cardinal Francis Spellman, and Spellman exiled him to the Diocese of Rodchester in 1966, and he retired in 1969 and turned to scholarly work and writing.

Just two months before his death in December of ’79, John Paul II embraced Sheen and declared, “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus.  You are a loyal son of the Church.”

The Vatican resently bestowed the title of “venerable” to Archbishop Sheen, and  the church is presently in the process of determining if he will be declared a saint---not bad for a kid from Peoria, Illinois.

Of course a man’s life cannot be summed up in a few quotations, but they can paint an impression:

Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service? Show me your heart. Have you left a place for divine love?

Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.

The proud man counts his newspaper clippings, the humble man his blessings.

Pride is an admission of weakness; it secretly fears all competition and dreads all rivals.

Love is a mutual self-giving which ends in self-recovery.

Life is like a cash register, in that every account, every thought, every deed, like every sale, is registered and recorded.

The big print giveth, and the fine print taketh away.

Baloney is flattery laid on so thick it cannot be true, and blarney is flattery so thin we love it.

Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.

If you are interested in his television broadcasts, go to this bookmark for a variety of choices.  If you are interested in books by or about Archbishop Sheen, go to Amazon.