"Mother Teresa’s hand in my left, Fulton Sheen’s hand in my right…."
How many people can say that they prayed with two saints at the same time? One who can is Fr. Ed Thompson, my spiritual director and parish priest. Fr. Ed shared some of his stories with me last year in a video. Most of the tales were about his encounters with Archbishop Fulton Sheen, whose unofficial feast day is today.
But one story stood out.
Fr. Ed recalled an episode from his time as vocations director in Philadelphia where he was tasked with arranging a dynamic prayer service. Looking for help, he decided to call on the two holiest people he knew--Mother Teresa and Archbishop Sheen. Sure enough, they both agreed to come, and Fr. Ed had the rare privilege of praying hand-in-hand with two spiritual giants.
Listen to the story below:
(This is just one clip from a longer movie that we filmed. You can hear all the other fantastic stories in the full version at the bottom of this post.)
I love Mother Teresa, but Archbishop Sheen is one of my greatest heroes--especially when it comes to preaching and evangelizing. He was a master orator who understood rhythm, story, and stage presence better than any Catholic preacher I know. He knew how to connect with people at a deep level and was absolutely magnetic on the stage. When he preached, according to witnesses, you felt like you were listening to one of the apostles.
In my mind, Sheen was the most influential American Catholic of the twentieth century. He was certainly the most renowned evangelist, dominating the airwaves and attracting larger audiences than guys like Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra.
Yet sometimes his warmth and charisma overshadow his brilliant mind. In his time, Sheen was a renowned (and prolific) theologian. His Life of Christ is a sure classic and many of his other works has been loved by priests, laypeople, and even popes--John Paul II claimed to watch Sheen's television shows to brush up on his English.
Today, many young Catholics are unfamiliar with Sheen; they may know his name, but they haven't seen him in action. For a good introduction to Sheen's work, I suggest you start with his books--Life of Christ or Three to Get Married are great starting points.
You can also learn more in the following ways:
- Watch Archbishop Fulton Sheen: Servant of All. This new two-DVD package includes five episodes from Sheen's popular TV program and an hour long look at his life. You see his entire journey from young altar boy to worldwide evangelist and hear many fascinating anecdotes along the way. One of my favorites comes from a family member, who explained how Sheen was notorious for living with an open hand. If you walked into his house and complimented a lamp, he would make you take it--no arguments allowed. People slowly learned never to praise anything Sheen had or else they'd be forced to leave with it. That sort of generosity characterized the rest of his life.
- Listen to some of Sheen's talks. The Fulton Sheen Audio Library has a ton of archived content. There you can read many of Sheen's writings, stream several MP3 talks for free, and also view YouTube videos of Sheen preaching.
- Learn more about Sheen's cause for canonization. After a few hiccups, his journey toward sainthood seems to moving along. If you know anybody that needs a miracle, consider asking for Sheen's intercession; it just might help him become the first American-born saint.
- Follow Archbishop Sheen through social media. No, he's not posting tweets from the grave. But you can stay on top of Sheen's cause and other related news by 'Liking' the Fulton Sheen Facebook page or following them on Twitter.
Here's the full version of Fr. Ed Thompson's spiritual recollections, which includes many more stories about Archbishop Fulton Sheen: