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Book offers 50 lessons from Archbishop Fulton Sheen
The legal battle ensuing for the past few years between the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, and the Archdiocese of New York regarding the remains of Venerable Fulton J. Sheen advanced in early March, when a New York appellate court ruled 5-0 in favor of the petition to transfer Sheen’s body from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria.
Who knows whether or not resolution will be imminent, however, because in a brief statement after the March 7 ruling, the New York archdiocese said the trustees of St. Patrick’s disagree with the decision and are reviewing it carefully as they determine next steps.
The tug-of-war over Sheen’s remains sadly have interrupted his beatification cause, which has been suspended since 2014. But as we await a resolution, it is helpful to remember that the legacy of Archbishop Sheen extends far beyond what seems to be a rather petty territorial disagreement. This was brought to mind by a re-release of “Your Life Is Worth Living: 50 Lessons to Deepen Your Faith” (Image, $17), (previously “Your Life Is Worth Living: The Christian Philosophy of Life”). This edited transcription of a compilation of audio recordings, dictated in the privacy of Archbishop Sheen’s New York apartment, was, according to editor Jon Hallingstad, created to “respond to the needs of the hundreds of thousands who wrote [Archbishop Sheen] for personal direction.”
Topics range from conscience and miracles, to the divinity of Christ and the Blessed Trinity, to sin, the sacraments and a catch-all category labeled “World, Soul, and Things.”
If you’re familiar with Archbishop Sheen’s long-running television show “Life is Worth Living,” the voice and cadence of these short topical chapters also will be familiar to you. Though each of the 50 chapters is short, each is filled with rich, substantive explanation of Church teaching that is delightful and satisfying in its clarity and truth. It is evident these reflections by Archbishop Sheen reflect a man who clearly understood his task: to bring others to Christ, who is the truth, through the truth.
But rich in substance is not the same as dry. The book is filled with Archbishop Sheen’s characteristic humor, analogies and anecdotes that illustrate his arguments. Regarding sanctifying grace, for example, he says: “When we respond to grace, then we become something like a pencil in the hand. A pencil in the hand, as long as it is directed by the hand, will do anything the hand wants. We are the instruments of God, and we obey His will just as the pencil obeys the will of the hand.”
Regardless of the status of Archbishop Sheen’s cause, his work continues to bring souls to Christ — a sign that God is working through him in death even as he worked through him in life. “Your Life Is Worth Living” is a glimpse into the thought of this remarkable and unapologetic evangelizer.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of Our Sunday Visitor. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.