Here at Family Theater Productions, we partner with lots of other folks to promote our own projects and others'. One of them is Catholic PR pro and evangelist Alexis Walkenstein, who just got the best Christmas present -- news of a Dec. 21 date for the beatification of Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
She said on Facebook:
OMG OMG OMG OMG
I know where I will be on Sat Dec 21st!!!
Sheen was a pioneering Catholic media evangelist, who spread the Gospel on radio and TV starting in the 1930s, winning two Emmy Awards and being featured on the cover of TIME magazine. He died at age 84 in 1979.
His sainthood cause launched in 2002. In 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI named him Venerable (the first step toward sainthood). In July, Pope Francis approved a miracle that happened through Sheen's intercession, clearing the way for the next step, beatification, in which he gets the title Blessed.
Sheen was interred at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City for four decades, but, after a protracted legal dispute, it was announced in June that his body would be moved to the diocese of Peoria, Illinois, where he is revered as a native son, and where his sainthood cause began.
From today's (Nov. 18) press release from Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C., of the Diocese of Peoria:
Confirmation of Sheen’s Beatification date was received with enthusiasm, and plans for the Beatification are already underway. The Beatification Ceremony will be held at 10:00 a.m. (local time) on December 21, 2019, at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, Illinois.
This is the same Cathedral where Sheen was ordained a priest 100 years ago on September 20, 1919. It seems entirely fitting that the Beatification will take place at the end of this 100-year anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. The Cathedral is also the current resting place for Sheen, who is entombed in a marble vault next to the altar where he was ordained.
In 2018, Walkenstein compiled Ex Libris -- Fulton J. Sheen, a collection, published by Pauline Books & Media, of Sheen's wit and wisdom. It also included descriptions of Sheen's work and discussion questions.
She gave me an interview at the time. Here are some excerpts:
The truth is, I never imagined I would be compiling a book on the spirituality of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Ever. But I can honestly say that Heaven pressed me into service and kept me at my word.
This book is a fulfillment of a promise I made before God and Venerable Fulton Sheen 10 years ago. When I prayed inside the crypt where Sheen is buried at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York a decade ago, I asked him to intercede for five intentions.
Again and again, I am astounded by how thin the veil is between heaven and earth, and how responsive Venerable Sheen is to me personally, in the manner in which specific prayers are answered like live scenes from theater and in strategic, methodical ways.
On a concrete level, Sheen was the big force in heaven behind my move to Hollywood. I had lived in many other cities, including Atlanta, New York and Palm Beach, where I was introduced to Sheen, but three years ago I was back in Boston working in the mainstream at a public relations firm tailored to the business sector. My dad had been very ill, and it was good to be back at home at this particular time, and it seemed that’s where I would stay.
The mainstream job just didn’t satisfy. One day I heard God say, “Today’s the day you leave.” I said, “If that’s really you, God, make it the worst day ever.” It became the worst day ever, and I quit my job on the spot without notice. I called on Sheen’s intercession to assist me in pursuit of the roots I wanted to plant in work and in life.
Sheen matters in the modern world because Truth matters. Our world would like to drown Truth out. Our world would like to convince us that we don’t need God, and we can do things our own way. Yet, people everywhere are sin-sick and in bondage to things that separate them from the freedom they crave – a freedom that can only be known in Jesus who is Truth itself.
People are looking for solutions to problems and seeking false power for quick fixes. Sheen matters in today’s world because he shows us that Love has a name, and that name is Jesus, and he shows us the power source that connects us to this Love in the Sacramental life of the Church.
Contacted for comment today, she offered an update on those five intentions:
Four of those five have been answered, and I know, by faith, my last intention is tied to this timing of Sheen’s beatification. He’s kept me working for him, ever mindful of his powerful friendship and intercession -- not just for me, but for the entire Church.
As for today's news, she said:
The Advent and Christmas season brings extraordinary hope, and now as our beloved Bishop Sheen’s Beatification is set to take place on December 21, the entire Church celebrates together this saint-to-be who intercedes for the American Church and the worldwide Church.
Sheen is truly a model for priests and for the laity, as one who calls each of us to consider our vocation of love -- be it priesthood, religious life or marriage.
Blessed Sheen shows us a "life worth living" is a life fully lived in a vocation of love in imitation of Christ. May his beatification bring an outpouring of renewal on the Church worldwide to respond by grace to how the Lord is calling us.
If you're not familiar with Sheen, there's plenty of him on YouTube.
As a start, Bishop Robert Barron, one of Sheen's successors in media evangelization, included an episode about him in his current Catholicism: The Pivotal Players series, called Fulton J. Sheen: The Communicator (click here to buy the series).
Here's the trailer:
And here's Bishop Barron telling a story about Sheen inside the cathedral that will host the beatification ceremony, and where Sheen is now interred:
Sheen was also an insightful commentator on current events. So, lastly, a 1970 episode of PBS' Firing Line, with Sheen and fellow Catholic William F. Buckley Jr.:
Image: Wikimedia Commons; courtesy Alexis Walkenstein, Pauline Books & Media
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.