|The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J Sheen|
(source: A Catholic Life blog)
The now Venerable Fulton Sheen was an extremely popular pastor, radio broadcaster, television preacher, and entertainer from the 1930’s through to his death in 1979. In fact, his shows still have a considerable following on YouTube. His humorous yet serious, extravagant yet humble, style was, and still is, infectious – making him one of the Church’s greatest educators and preachers, as well as one of humanity's great raconteurs and story-tellers.
Like so many others, I really enjoy watching old Bishop Sheen programmes, such as Life is Worth Living. When my faith is despondent or I happen to be caught by the noonday demon, 10 or 20 minutes spent watching the Venerable Fulton Sheen can work wonders! All the information he was able to cram into a short presentation, as well as the odd joke, or theatrical recitation of a poem or a tale, which often peppered his shows, can still inspire and challenge a soul in a way that most preachers could only dream of. Truly, Sheen had a gift, not only for oratory, but also for holiness, apparent in his simple nobility of soul.
One of the things that really fascinates me the most about this new Venerable is the fact that he was raised to the dignity of Archbishop whilst still Bishop of Rochester, New York. For this purpose, he was named Titular Archbishop of Newport – that is Newport in Gwent, Wales! This see was suppressed and the territory renamed the Archdiocese of Cardiff in 1916, but had originally (as the Diocese of Newport and Menevia) covered the land now under the jurisdiction of the Dioceses of Cardiff, Wrexham, and Menevia (known as the Province of Wales and Herefordshire). The Diocese of Newport and Menevia was erected in 1850, this was split in 1895, and by 1916 the Diocese of Newport was effectively elevated and renamed Cardiff.
Seeing that Wales has always had – even during its pre-Reformation Catholic days, before the non-conformist masters of the pulpit – a reputation for good preaching and theatrical orators, it strikes me as particularly apt that Pope Paul VI chose to link the great Fulton J Sheen to this principality in such a special way. Seeing that Fulton Sheen would often visit St Patrick’s Soho Square, London, during his lifetime, I wonder whether he ever crossed Offa’s Dyke from time to time, to see the land of his titular see?
As my way of celebrating the fact that Bishop Sheen’s heroic virtues have now been recognised, and that he has taken a step closer to sainthood, I thought I’d leave you with this, one of my favourite clips from a talk of his entitled Wasting Your Life: -