The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

“The only thing that shocked me was how short he was!”

I dropped by Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s blog this morning, and he had some wonderful pictures from the installation of Archbishop Dolan. The good cardinal seemed to agree with the assessment that in Dolan, the American Church has another gifted communicator in our midst. Cardinal O’Malley also mentioned that he has became a member of the episcopal board of advisors for the beatification cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

He then offered his own memory of the legendary television star and preacher:

It was my privilege to have known Archbishop Sheen. When I was a child he would visit our parish regularly and I would often serve Mass for him. In those days, of course, the Masses were in Latin and ordinarily there was no preaching during the week — preaching was on Sunday — and then the lessons were in Latin. However, when Archbishop Sheen was at the parish during the week, the church would be standing room only. He would preach every day of the week, which was very, very unusual at the time.


Later on, in 1975, I organized a preaching seminar for the Holy Year at Catholic University, in the Hartke Theater and we had about 600 priests come to it. The two speakers I had invited were Father Avery Dulles and Archbishop Fulton Sheen and, of course, they were both spectacular. Archbishop Sheen, at that time, must have been in his 80s, but he had not changed, he looked like he always did on television and was still playing tennis everyday.

The only thing that shocked me, having not seen him since I was a child, was how short he was! But, he was a huge personality and a very important figure in the history of the United States.

No one did as much to break down prejudice against the Catholic Church as Fulton Sheen. I always say that John F. Kennedy could never have been elected president of the United States had it not been for the television program and radio programs of Archbishop Sheen.


He made thousands of converts during his life by his preaching. Of course, his main job was supporting the missions as head of the Propagation of the Faith. He did an extraordinary job at that.

Archbishop Sheen was a very holy priest, and I think that his role in the history of the Church in the United States was a very important one. It would be wonderful to see him elevated to the altars.

We have a new archbishop in New York who is also a great communicator and we hope that his ministry there will be like Archbishop Sheen’s that attracted so many people to the Church.

Below is a classic bit of the good archbishop, from his TV show “Life is Worth Living”.

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posted April 19, 2009 at 10:40 am

We in the Western Pennsylvania Diocese have a new bishop-elect, who according to our priest, is 6’7. We will certainly have the tallest bishop in the OCA, and possibly, in all Orthodoxy.Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down Death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

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posted April 19, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Thanks for this post Dcn. Greg. I can never get enough of Bishop Sheen. One of my earliest childhood memories is of my dad ordering Sheen’s “multi colored rosary beads”, via Sheen’s Propagation of the Faith (I looked it up, Sheen designed it in 1951). He would make me and all of my siblings go to the living room after dinner and pray the rosary. I hated it, was always bored, but my dad always reminded me that even though I didn’t understand it, it REALLY REALLY mattered.Consequently, I left the church upon adulthood for over 20 years. When I finally came back, it was largely by Sheen’s catechism, prompted by a trivia question on a cruise ship that my dying mother INSISTED that I take (I’m sure it was providential, and also that the priest on board was a great lover of Sheen). Even more so, a year after my conversion, I rec’d a call from my brother who told me he just found dad’s “Sheen rosary” in his attic (after 30 years). I took it as a “sign”/ reminder as to how important that rosary really was; subsequently, many in the family followed my lead and learned the faith from Sheen’s catechism (now on line, FREE). I never doubt that my return to the faith was greatly facilitated by Bishop Fulton Sheen, (in addition to) devout parents who never gave up on me, and last but not least, the Holy Rosary. One of my nephews even entered a monastery largely because of the Sheen Catechism. He was as blown away as I was. God Bless Bishop Sheen! Between the teachings of Bishop Sheen, and the “family rosary”, it truly brings home Father Patton’s “The Family That Prays Together Stays Together.” I would only add, “In Christ.”p.s. It’s pretty hard to find anyone outside of JPII who loved the Blessed Mother as much as Sheen. He dedicated EVERY one of his books to her!p.p.s. I know I posted a similar post a while back; decided to tell the story again just in case even one person is inspired to learn the faith via Bishop Sheen’s on line free catechism.

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posted April 19, 2009 at 1:52 pm

The Holy Father also appears to be a very short man, unless all the bishops around him are unusually tall.

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RP Burke

posted April 20, 2009 at 9:34 am

I remember being astonished, as was Cardinal O’Malley, when I met Leonard Bernstein — another major 1950s TV star from New York — and seeing how short he was.

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