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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Archbishop Fulton Sheen Declared Venerable

In 1974, just a few years before he died, I had the opportunity to attend a Mass at which Archbishop Fulton Sheen, the great evangelist and churchman, received the Patronal Medal awarded jointly by The Catholic University of America and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  At the time, I had a vague notion that Archbishop Sheen was an important figure in the history of the Church in America and a noted public speaker, but I could never have anticipated the power of his presence, his words and his continuing influence.  After years of Catholic education in which the fullness of the Catholic faith, devotions and piety had been suppressed following the Second Vatican Council, the powerful sermon on the Blessed Mother he delivered that April afternoon  was like a long, gentle rain on parched fields; it changed my life.  The videos, audio tapes, scores of books, particularly his Life of Christ and his autobiography, Treasure in Clay, continue to change lives and win souls for Christ.

Archbishop Sheen was the first televangelist, a brilliant scholar and a professor for a quarter of a century at my alma mater, The Catholic University of America.  He brought thousands to the faith, including Bella Dodd, a lawyer for the Communist Party, the brilliant conservative writer and Congresswoman, Clare Boothe Luce, automaker Henry Ford II, Communist writer Louis F. Budenz, theatrical designer Jo Mielziner, violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler, actress Virginia Mayo and agnostic author Heywood Broun.  

Archbishop Fulton Sheen has been called the most important Catholic of the twentieth century.  His life, his priesthood were completely surrendered to the service of Christ and His Church.  His heart will continue to speak to hearts for centuries to come.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has approved the heroic virtues of U.S. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, clearing the way for the advancement of his sainthood cause.

The announcement June 28 came just over 13 months after Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria, Ill., presented Pope Benedict XVI with two thick volumes about the life of Archbishop Sheen, whose home diocese was Peoria.

The decree from the Congregation for Saints' Causes, signed by Pope Benedict, said Archbishop Sheen heroically lived Christian virtues and was "venerable." Before he can be beatified, the Vatican must recognize that a miracle has occurred through his intercession.

Archbishop Sheen, who was born in Illinois in 1895 and died in New York in 1979, was an Emmy-winning televangelist. His program, "Life is Worth Living," aired in the United States from 1951 to 1957.

Last September, a tribunal of inquiry was sworn in to investigate the alleged miraculous healing of a newborn whose parents prayed to the intercession of Archbishop Sheen.

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