St. Paul, Fulton Sheen, and the Digital Areopagus


Mass is always invigorating, but today was especially poignant. The first reading featured the Areopagus story from Acts 17, the basis for

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he grew exasperated at the sight of the city full of idols. So he debated in the synagogue with the Jews and with the worshipers, and daily in the public square with whoever happened to be there.

Even some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers engaged him in discussion. Some asked, “What is this scavenger trying to say?” Others said, “He sounds like a promoter of foreign deities,” because he was preaching about ‘Jesus’ and ‘Resurrection.’

They took him and led him to the Areopagus and said, “May we learn what this new teaching is that you speak of? For you bring some strange notions to our ears; we should like to know what these things mean.”

Now all the Athenians as well as the foreigners residing there used their time for nothing else but telling or hearing something new.

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.

The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.

For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’ as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

Since therefore we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination. God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world with justice’ through a man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead.”

When they heard about resurrection of the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “We should like to hear you on this some other time.”

And so Paul left them. But some did join him, and became believers. Among them were Dionysius, a member of the Court of the Areopagus, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Though the lectionary excludes verse 20 for some reason—”For you bring some strange notions to our ears; we should like to know what these things mean”—it still means that today, parishes and priests around the world are praying for the new site, even if, like the Athenians, they do so unknowingly.

(“For as I walked around looking carefully at your lectionaries, I even discovered a verse inscribed, ‘To an Unknown Website.’ What therefore you unknowingly pray for, I proclaim to you.”)

Today also marks the 118th birthday of Ven. Fulton J. Sheen, the patron of Strange Notions, who evangelized the digital content better and earlier than anyone else. What he did on radio and television we’re trying to do online.

So on this special day, St. Paul, Dionysius, Damaris, and Ven. Sheen, pray for us!

Fulton Sheen