Those looking for literary payback need to look elsewhere. (Spellman is even praised!) Instead, what follows is a singular autobiography, one that is more an internal portrait of a man than an external one. And what a man Bishop Fulton Sheen was.
Pope Pius XII once referred to Sheen as “a prophet of the times.” He engaged all facets of the culture in a dazzling way. An author of more than sixty books and a columnist, he used his well-trained mind to touch the common man. Explaining the Gospel with true innovation, he often appealed to poetry, philosophy, history, architecture, song, and art to drive home his message.
But perhaps he is best known for his broadcast work. Before Mother Angelica, Pat Robertson, and Joel Osteen, there was Bishop Fulton Sheen. In his magenta cape and zucchetto he was a media trailblazer who often beat Milton Berle and Frank Sinatra in the ratings. For more than fifty years he transformed rarefied theology into the idiom of the masses, using radio and then television to bring a message of hope to people of all faiths and those of none at all.
This autobiography would be Bishop Sheen’s last treasure. It is at once an exploration of an apostle’s journey and a history of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century. A participant of the Second Vatican Council, Sheen offers a stinging critique of the failure to properly interpret the Council documents.
This book was written during a period of intense physical suffering for Sheen. Starting in 1977, he underwent a series of surgeries that sapped his strength and even made preaching difficult. He must have known this would be his final work because one senses an urgency on these pages, an eagerness to impart these lessons, particularly those dealing with the spiritual bounty found in pain. The last chapters crackle with the same zeal and determination as a final homilies from the late 70s: they are prophetic and impassioned, free from the gilded edges of the past.
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