In the acquisition of an autographed letter, not only is the signature of importance, but also the subject matter of the content. In this letter, it is Bishop Sheen’s reference to the II Vatican Council and his participation in it that contribute to the value of this item.
This is a very gracious response to a university professor who has requested an article for a publication. In the correspondence, Bishop Sheen declines the invitation, because he is so busy with preparations for the II Vatican Council as well as with his many other projects.
Here is the text of the letter:
My dear Professor Ellis:
You have honored me by your kind invitation to
contribute an article to the December issue of the Teachers College Journal.
I am in the midst of a tremendous amount of work preparatory to the Council, as well as a series of telecasts, which co not permit me the leisure necessary for additional writing before leaving in a few weeks for Rome. In your charity I am certain you will understand and hold me excused.
Wishing you every blessing and assuring you of my prayers, I remain
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
A Quote from the Funeral of Archbishop Sheen:
Today is the Anniversary of the death of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen who died on December 9, 1979. The Homily for Sheen’s Funeral Liturgy was delivered by Archbishop Edward O’Meara. Here is the ending of that homily:
“Last Sunday at 7:15 P.M. God called Archbishop Fulton Sheen to Himself by name. It was a moment known to God, and fixed by Him from all eternity, a call to perfect life and truth and love, a call to a life he will never tire of, that can never be improved, and which he can never lose. Dear Friend, Archbishop Sheen, we are all better because you were in our midst and were our friend. We trust you to the care of your ‘Lovely Lady dressed in blue.” We pray that Jesus has already said: I’ve heard My Mother speak of you.” Bye now, Fulton Sheen, and God Love You Forever!”
Pope Pius XII once asked Bishop Fulton Sheen how many converts he had made. He answered: Your Holiness, I have never counted them. I am always afraid if I did count them, I might think I made them, instead of the Lord.
Such were the words of one of the most prominent Americans of the 20th century, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.
He was born on May 8th, 1895 in El Paso, Illinois, the child of moderately prosperous farmers whose four sons were all gifted intellectually and all expected to work hard. The family was very devout and their Catholic faith was a centerpiece of their lives. The boys attended Catholic schools and church regularly and said the rosary together daily. Sheen excelled in school where he was a skilled member of the debate team and the valedictorian of his class.
Upon graduation from college in Illinois, Sheen attended St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota and was ordained in 1919. Further studies were at the Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he earned two degrees in 1920, and at Louvain University in Belgium. While there, he became the first American ever to win the Cardinal Mercier award for the best philosophical treatise, which he then transformed into a prize winning book. Even G. K. Chesterton admired and respected this work.
Fulton Sheen was a parish priest briefly but soon became an instructor at the Catholic University where he taught philosophy and theology from 1926 until 1950. Fairly soon he was publishing both scholarly and popular books and articles that earned him praised throughout the country. In 1925 he began hosting a popular radio program, the Catholic Hour. This was the beginning of his career in the media. He was soon in demand everywhere as a preacher, retreat leader and teacher.
In 1948, Francis Cardinal Spellman of New York invited him to join a worldwide tour and be responsible for preaching. The two men admired each other’s talents. Spellman soon made Sheen the head of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Church’s principle source of missionary funds. In 1951 he was consecrated bishop at a ceremony in Rome.
Bishop Sheen will be most remembered for the series of lectures he gave on television that won him an Emmy, an appearance on the cover of Time magazine and a place on the most admired Americans list. Life Is Worth Living was presented without notes or cue cards and his humor, charm, and intelligence captivated millions. His skill at oratory is said to have brought thousands of people into the church.
A student of Freud, Sheen was critical of his psychology and presented his views on this subject in Peace of Soul. The Collection has a signed copy, which you may view with this biographical material.
A dispute occurred between Cardinal Spellman and Bishop Sheen over the distribution of funds for the Society for the Propagation of Faith. So chaotic did this struggle become that the two of them had a private audience with Pope Pius XII who sided with Bishop Sheen. The end result was that Cardinal Spellman terminated Sheen’s television series, made him a local outcast and drove him from the archdiocese. In 1966, Sheen became the bishop of Rochester.
Bishop Sheen was an active participant in the Vatican II sessions and thoroughly endorsed the reforms that followed. He was, however, unable to be the bridge between the old and new Catholicism and his sweeping reforms often alienated his people in Rochester. In 1969 he resigned as bishop. He also publicly denounced the Vietnam War and participated in political activities connected to his anti-war sentiments.
During the course of his fifty years in the Church, he wrote over seventy books and countless articles. He estimated that he gave ten million dollars in royalties to the organization he headed.
In October 1979, Archbishop Sheen met Pope John Paul II at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Pope told the eighty-four-year-old Sheen that he had been a loyal son of the Church. Fulton Sheen died on December 9th in his chapel before the Blessed Sacrament.
Fulton Sheen always believed the source of his strength were the hours of intimacy he spent with the Lord, an hour daily before the Blessed Sacrament, which he never once missed from the day of his ordination. In 2002, Sheen’s Cause for Canonization as a saint was officially opened. He is now referred to as “Venerable”.
The definitive biography of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is America’s Bishop by Thomas C. Reeves. It is published by Encounter Books.
You may view the many items connected to Archbishop Sheen on Papal History/Notable Individuals.
We honor the memory of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
Although the Archbishop’s cause for sainthood was expected to be soon, a disagreement between the Dioceses of Peoria and New York suspended his cause indefinitely despite the myriad calls for beatification. That was followed by a return of his body to Peoria, a scheduled beatification for Dec. 21, 2019, and as of Dec. 1, 2019, an indefinite delay at the request of some members of the National Council of Catholic Bishops.
We look forward to the day of his beatification.
The Diocese of Rochester appreciates the many accomplishments that Archbishop Sheen achieved in his lifetime in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ worldwide through media, thereby bringing the message of Jesus to a vast audience. His legacy in the area of communications made him a prophet in the future use of mass media to advance the teachings of Jesus, a phenomenon recognized by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
At the same time, a person’s cause for beatification must entail a review of the person’s entire life. In this regard, the Diocese of Rochester has considered the tenure of Archbishop Sheen as the Bishop of Rochester. The Diocese of Rochester, prior to any announcements of the beatification, provided the Diocese of Peoria and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints through the Office of the Apostolic Nuncio with documentation that expressed concern about advancing the cause for the beatification of Archbishop Sheen at this time without a further review of his role in priests’ assignments. Other prelates shared these concerns and expressed them. There are no complaints against Archbishop Sheen engaging in any personal inappropriate conduct, nor were any insinuations made in this regard.
The Diocese of Rochester did its due diligence in this matter and believed that, while not casting suspicion, it was prudent that Archbishop Sheen’s cause receive further study and deliberation, while also acknowledging the competency of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to render its decision. The Holy See ultimately decided to postpone the beatification.
A beatification process reminds us that we are all called to be saints to live with the Lord eternally in heaven, praying that the Lord judges us worthy to behold Him face to face in that beatific vision that brings everlasting joy. From his place with the Lord, Archbishop Sheen enjoys eternal peace and joy in the everlasting presence of God, Our Father, whom he did serve with dedication and zeal for the salvation of souls.
The Diocese will be making no further comments.