Another model for the Year of Faith is Archbishop Fulton John Sheen (1895-1979), recently proclaimed “Venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI in the process for his canonization. Venerable Fulton Sheen’s message for us is a call to a daily period of personal prayer. As a seminarian he decided that he would observe a daily holy hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and he was faithful to that pledge during his entire life.
While not all may be able to spend an hour of prayer each day before the Blessed Sacrament, each of us can definitely make the effort to spend a small period of time daily in conversation with God. The current Year of Faith calls us to a daily period of prayer, because prayer is the faith prayed.
Archbishop Sheen had determined that his daily holy hour was essential to his life as a priest, and likened it to “an oxygen tank that revived the breath of the Holy Spirit.”
Born and educated in the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, Venerable Fulton Sheen went on to study for the priesthood and earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Louvain in Belgium. After a brief term as a parish priest, he became a noted professor of philosophy at The Catholic University of America for a quarter century. God blessed him with a special gift of preaching, a talent which he used most effectively to evangelize on radio’s The Catholic Hour for 25 years and on television’s Life Is Worth Living for five seasons. Some credit him as the originator of television evangelism. After becoming head of the Propagation of the Faith he was made a bishop and served with distinction in raising the consciousness of American Catholics regarding the material and spiritual needs of the Church’s missions. Over the years he authored a number of popular books, and directed countless retreats, especially for priests. His reputation for leading converts, many of whom were prominent citizens, into the Church was exceptional. After his death he was buried in the crypt of New York City’s St. Patrick Cathedral, where he had frequently preached.
How was Archbishop Sheen able to succeed in his pastoral ministry? He attributed his achievements to the power of prayer, to “the hour that makes my day.” In his autobiography he explains that “We become like that which we gaze upon. Looking into a sunset the face takes on a golden glow. Looking at the Eucharistic Lord…transforms the heart in a mysterious way.”
Venerable Fulton John Sheen encouraged the practice of a daily period of prayer – before the Blessed Sacrament when possible. That heritage endures today in the lives of many and in parishes that have introduced adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Spirit, the teacher of prayer, is clearly present in the prayer life of the Church. Prayer is the faith prayed.