Archive for the ‘Bp. Fulton Sheen’ Category

Ten Things Catholics Don’t Believe

June 15, 2014

The Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.”e

Mending the mistaken notions of our non-Catholic friends and relatives about what we actually believe is both a spiritual work of mercy and an important step in the reunion of all Christians. Below is a list of ten common misconceptions paired with what the Catholic Church really teaches:

1. Catholics don’t believe that Mary is a goddess, but that she is the holy mother of God and of all Christians.

2. Catholics don’t worship statues, but images help us connect with our friends in Heaven.

3. Catholics don’t believe that the pope is sinless or inerrant about everything, but that he is the successor to St. Peter and can teach infallibly on faith and morals.

4. Catholics don’t believe that people shouldn’t read Sacred Scripture, but that we won’t interpret it well apart from Sacred Tradition.

5. Catholics don’t believe that we are “saved by works,” but that we must cooperate with God’s saving graces.

6. Catholics don’t believe that Jesus is re-sacrificed every Mass, but that the Mass re-presents (makes present) his one sacrifice and applies its power here and now.

7. Catholics don’t believe in cannibalism, but that the Eucharist truly is the real, living person of Jesus Christ.

8. Catholics don’t believe that married couples must have as many children as humanly possible, but that it is harmful to separate what God has joined in the marital embrace.

9. Catholics don’t believe that purgatory is a second chance or “temporary hell,” but that God perfects us to be in his holy presence in Heaven.

10. Catholics don’t believe that all non-Catholics will go to hell, but we want everyone to come into full communion with us in Christ’s one Church.

Strive to Enter — 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

September 2, 2010

The Emmy-winning Servant of God, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, once said that in Heaven we will have three surprises: 

  1) We’ll see people there that we didn’t expect to see…

  2) We won’t see people there that we did expect to see, and…

  3) We’ll be surprised to see ourselves there!
 
 
In today’s gospel, someone shouts out from the crowd, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” Jesus answers Him, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Instead of giving the man a figure, Jesus gives him more valuable counsel, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for whether or not you will be saved depends (in part) on you.” Yet we are still left wondering, “Will the number saved be many, or only a few?”

On the one hand we have John’s eyewitness testimony from the Book of Revelation. When he say the worship of the saints in heaven he saw  “a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” (Note that this ‘countless multitude’ is much larger than 144,000 which had just been counted.) It is as the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah in our first reading, “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.” Based on this we can say that many will be saved.

On the other hand, in the Gospel of Matthew, in the parallel passage to today’s gospel, Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” The ‘few’ who find the narrow gate certainly sounds like less than the ‘many’ who don’t. Based on this we can say that many will not be saved.

My purpose in raising this topic is not to frighten you, for Jesus said, over and again, “Do not be afraid.” But I believe it is with Jesus’ heart that I urge you not to be complacent. To be complacent is to be self-satisfied and unaware of possible dangers. Jesus urges us to, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate” for many will not be able.

There is no way to know, but something in me suspects that the man who called out to Jesus assumed his own salvation to be a certainty; he was merely curious if many others would be joining him.  Jesus warned him not to be presumptuous, and this gospel has come down to us today because it’s a message meant for us too.

All of us come to church, and that’s a very good thing, but coming to church every Sunday does not guarantee our salvation. In the parable that Jesus told, the master of the house arises like the judge of our world at the end of time. People knock on the locked door and say, “Lord, we ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.” We eat and drink in Jesus’ company too, and he teaches in our streets. We eat and drink with Him here, at the Eucharist, and whenever the Scriptures are proclaimed, Christ speaks. Being a disciple of Christ, a true friend of Christ, means more than just coming to church.

We must strive to enter the narrow gate. We must pursue and embrace holy discipline for our lives, as we heard from the Letter to the Hebrews: “…Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines…. At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.  So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.”

What in your life needs holy discipline? Do you pray every day, or is God only a bedtime afterthought? Do you pray with your spouse and your children, besides at mealtimes? Do you read and watch things that feed your soul? Do you fast and give alms? Do you treat every Friday as a day of penance and every Sunday as a day of joyful rest? What good habit do you need to begin? And what persistent sin do you need to fight, like a life-threatening cancer, for indeed it is. If you were to look back on your life someday from your deathbed, what would you most regret having left undone?

Jesus says to us in this present age, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Are you asking, are you seeking, are you knocking? Strive for holiness while the door remains unlooked, and be encouraged, for Jesus is also striving after you. In Revelation He says, “Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”

Jesus knocks on the door of our hearts, minds, and souls; in our feelings, thoughts, and deepest desires. If we open our doors and welcome Him now, and strive with Him for holiness, Jesus will open for us the door to Heaven and welcome us inside.

A Veiled Beauty — The Assumption

September 2, 2010

Consider this reflection by the servant of God, Bishop Fulton Sheen:

“Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting. Furthermore, suppose that you had the infinite power to make your mother anything that you pleased, just as a great artist like Raphael has the power of realizing his artistic ideas. Suppose you had this double power, what kind of mother would you have made for yourself?

Would you have made her of such a type that would make you blush because of her unwomanly and un-mother-like actions? Would you have made her exteriorly and interiorly of such a character as to make you ashamed of her? Or would you have made her, so far as human beauty goes; the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you but even to your fellow men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood?”

Now if you who are an imperfect being and who have not the most delicate conception of all that is fine in life would have wished for the loveliest of mothers, do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother? If you who hate selfishness would have made her selfless and you who hate ugliness would have made her beautiful, do you not think that the Son of God, who hates sin, would have made His own mother sinless and He who hates moral ugliness would have made her immaculately beautiful?”

Fulton Sheen thought that Mary was, in every respect, the most beautiful woman who had ever lived. However, if we had been travelers walking through the small town of Nazareth during the reign of Emperor Tiberius, I’m not sure that we would have recognized God’s greatest creature as we passed by her. I imagine that her face may have looked quite ordinary, apart from her beautifully, loving smile. Her Son, was the all-beautiful God become man, yet it seems that Jesus was not the most handsome man alive. As the prophet Isaiah says of Him, “There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.” (Is 53) Perhaps Jesus and Mary had ordinary physical features on earth because having extraordinary appearances would have impeded their missions.

Yet now, invested with heavenly glory, Jesus and Mary possess a beauty greater than anyone in history. The perfection of love, goodness, purity and virtue within them shines through their exterior in a way that captivates those who behold them. Jesus told St. Faustina to commission a painting of how He appeared to her. When Faustina saw the artist’s quality work she dissappointedly lamented, “[Jesus,] Who will paint You as beautiful as You are?” The young visionaries at Fatima and Lourdes we struck by how very beautiful the mysterious lady was. And when St. Bernadette visited the grotto for the last time she remarked, “I have never seen her so beautiful before.” There is more to a beauty of this kind than natural appearance.

Why does the Church celebrate Mary’s Assumption? Because this solemnity not only celebrates her, but points to Church’s future. Virgin Mary is the icon, the image, of our Church. Jesus Christ’s Church is Marian. What she did, we are called to do; and where she has gone, we are called to follow. What Christ has done for Mary, He shall do for His Church on the last day. My previous reflections on the ordinary, appearances of Jesus and Mary probably had on earth only goes to show that external appearances can veil the true reality of things. 

Men judge by appearances, and they often misjudge. Many will drive past this building this hour without realizing the wondrous beauty of what is happening here inside. Many fail to see the beauty of Christ’s one, Catholic Church, for which this world was made and through which this world is saved. Many people see the beauty of exterior flesh, but not the beauty of the soul. Yet after the Last Judgment, everyone will see the most homely saint become radiant with beauty, and the most attractive sinner become repellant.

Mary is the first and greatest member of Jesus Christ’s Church. At the end of her unassuming life on earth Jesus lifted up her up body and soul into Heaven and gave her a beauty unmatched in history. He will do the same thing for His Church someday, and He desires to do the same for each of us. You and I are called to follow Mary in following Christ; to imitate their love, goodness, purity and virtue. Despite any appearances to the contrary, in this veiling and deceptive world, we are called to share in a beauty and glory like theirs.


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