"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Saturday, January 25, 2020

March for Life, 2020

I went to my fifth March for Life.  The process was pretty much like previous years.  We start with early morning Mass, get on the bus and get to Washington D.C. in four plus hours, find our way to Constitution Avenue, roughly parallel with the Washington Monument.  You make your way into the crowd, proceed west toward the Capital Building, making a right onto First Street just passed the Capital, and the March ends at the Supreme Court, two blocks in from Constitution Avenue.  The distance is perhaps a mile.  This year it was so packed that we stood still for about an hour before the march started moving for us.  Once we entered the crowd, it took us about two and a half hours to reach the end, including that hour of waiting.

This year there was a special speaker.  For the first time ever, as everyone probably knows by now, the President of the United States attended in person.  No, I did not get to see President Trump speak.  Most of the speakers at the March are in the morning.  Those of us who travel that same day to Washington usually miss the speakers.  The bus from Staten Island, NY usually gets to Washington around noon time, and then has to make its way down to the Mall area.  The prominent speakers have all spoken by then. 

Every year it seems to be more packed.  I don’t know if it had to do with the President showing up, but it felt like it was the largest crowd I have ever seen the March have.  My hunch is that the size of the crowd had not much to do with President Trump attending.  He only announced it a day or two before.  People who attended had to make their plans weeks before.

OK, here are some pictures.

Let me say, there was lots of true and deep support for President Trump this year.  When Donald Trump was first elected, the pro-life movement was skeptical of him.  They voted for Mr. Trump out of expediency.  To whom else could they vote for?  No one else took our cause.  But now, Donald Trump has won them over.  The feeling across the board was of true devotion to the President.  No one cared about his indiscretions.  He is truly a Pro-Life hero.  There were Make America Great Hats everywhere.  In our very group, there was an 80-ish old Nun who went out of her way to buy a MAGA hat and wore it the whole time.  And she did it with the most pleasant smile I’ve ever seen a woman have.  There were lots of pro-Trump signs.

Oh, I should recount this too.  There was an enterprising street seller of hats who had the best sales pitch chant: “Don’t become a Democrat/Buy yourself a MAGA hat.” 

There was lots of rosary praying as you marched—the marchers had to be eighty or ninety percent Catholic—and you heard lots of marching chants:  “We Are The Pro-Life Generation” and “We love babies, yes we do/We love babies how about you.”  I always get a kick of the the chants.  For some reason I didn’t encounter as many bands and music as I have in the past, but here was a good one.

Some more photos.  Here’s a nice photo of the March heading toward the Capital. 

As you reach the top of Capital Hill, I like to look back on Constitution Ave and see the crowd behind me.  It stretches as far as you can see, and there had to be more than an hour’s worth of crowd ahead of me.

And finally the end at the Supreme Court.

How fitting someone with a MAGA hat walked by. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Notable Quote: What is Mankind from Psalm 8

“O Lord… When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?  You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.”
-Psalm 8:4-5

This is one of my favorite passages in all the psalms.  On the surface it doesn’t seem like one that would support a pro-life message, but there is God’s love for His creation throughout.  Yes, He must love His heavens, the immense burning stars and spheres that circle them and the moons that circle the planets, the comets with their flaming tails that streak across the solar systems, the harmony of their motions, the galaxies that they compose.  How beautiful He must think.  And here we are on this little planet in the corner of this immense universe, tucked away and subject to all the powerful and destructive forces, to all the corrosive and poisonous chemicals. 

And yet He has blessed us with safety, with warmth, with nutrients, just so we can flourish, prosper, and be satisfied.  He is mindful of us.  He allows us to gestate comfortably on this little world until we can be born into His greater world.  He has made us lower than the angels, perhaps, but better than the angels.  He has made us in His image. 

And what does it mean to be made in His image?  Is it like a father that looks at his newborn son and sees the physical resemblances?  Is it like a father looking at his five year old son building with Legos and Lincoln Logs all sorts of creative structures and contraptions?  Is it like a father looking at his ten year old boy chattering away about games or friends or adventures?  It is all those things and more. 

We are beloved in God’s heart, more so than just His inanimate creations, because we are made in His image.  He knew of us before we are born.  That child in the womb, invisible to us on the outside of that womb just as God is invisible to us on the outside of this cosmic womb we’re in, is made in God’s image.  Both are invisible.  Both share something very distinct.  Is it the DNA sequencing?  Is it the innate goodness?  Is it the simplicity of being?  It is all those things and more.

Abortion is wrong for many reasons: the destruction of innocent life, the negation of love, the violation of human dignity.  But those reasons are just satellites around the very core reason, that abortion violates the very image of God. 

Today, January 24, I’ll be marching in my fifth consecutive pro-life march on Washington.  Those of us who hold the pro-life issue dear in our hearts don’t wish this to be a political issue.  We don’t want to win elections on this.  We want the nation and indeed the whole world to see that child in the womb to be the nearest thing in the image of God that our little minds can conceptualize.  Pray for it to be so.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

What It Really Means to be a Priest, by Mary Pezzulo

I don’t promote other blog posts very often, but I came across this wonderful post that I think all Catholics should read.  It’s by Mary Pezzulo and her blog is called Steel Magnificat and the title of this post is called “In the  Person of Christ the Servant.”  Now let me preface this by saying that Mary and I are complete opposites when it comes to political issues and events in the news.  I have her blog on my subscription because she can really write a touching human story, either from personal experience or just in general.  Today she wrote a wonderful post on what it means to be a priest, dispelling some overly idealized conceptions of theologian or speaker and getting to the heart of the priesthood. 

Longing for an aesthetic experience at Mass, wishing to stick it to the insufficiently orthodox, loving to read and talk about theology, wanting to “be a change” in the Church, wanting a soap box to stand on, wanting to own the libs, wanting to make Mom proud, because you haven’t found a wife, because you’re good at Latin, because you like bossing people around, because you have good leadership skills and want to put them to work, because you used to be a Protestant minister but you’re a convert now and still want to preach sermons: these are all wrong reasons to want to be a priest. You should only seek the priesthood if your greatest desire is to be a servant.

You’ll have to have to go read her blog to get her entire point.  She is really spot on.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen, Part 3

Part 1 of my posts on Treasure in Clay can be found here.  
Part 2 can be found here.  

Summary, Chapters 11 thru 14

Chapter 11, “The Bishop in a Diocese”:
Sheen discusses his appointment as Bishop of Rochester in 1966, the social philosophy that had emerged in the 1960s, the challenges of being a Bishop of a diocese in those days, and of his retirement upon reaching the age of seventy-five.

Chapter 12, “The Hour that Makes My Day”:
Bishop Sheen speaks of his life-long practice of spending one hour per day in front of the Blessed Sacrament, on the reasons why he did so, and the graces one receives from the practice.

Chapter 13, “Reflections on Celibacy”:
Bishop Sheen provides his reasons why the priesthood should require the discipline of celibacy. 

Chapter 14, “Retreats”:
Bishop Sheen provides his methods of leading retreats both for priests and the laity, and tells of several anecdotes during retreats.


Bishop Sheen begins chapter fourteen, “Retreats,” by re-capitulating all his professional endeavors.  It’s worth listing so we can see them all in one place:

If I were asked which of the many activities of my life, outside of the eminently priestly privileges such as offering the Eucharist, appealed to me most, I could not answer.

Teaching would be one response because, particularly in graduate work, it enabled me not only to acquire knowledge, but also to dispense it. Every increase of truth in the mind is an increase of being. One wonders if, among all the professions open to mankind, there is any nobler and purer than that which deals with truth.

The making of converts is also satisfying because, as St. James assures us, “if we save a soul, we help save our own.”

Dedication to the missions has been equally gratifying, for it advances the Kingdom of God and it brings one in contact with dedicated souls.

Editing and writing have enabled me to communicate ideas which are bound up with the more general intention to proclaim truth.

Radio and television greatly satisfy me because they give a larger pulpit than any other activity. But they can also be the most dangerous to a priestly soul; of that I have spoken elsewhere.

I have loved every work to which I have been called or sent. But perhaps the most meaningful and gratifying experience of my life has been giving retreats to priests, not only because they brought me into contact with the priesthood, but because the very review one makes of his own spiritual life in order to speak to others helps oneself too. I really wonder if the priests who made these retreats received as much from me as I did from them.

Isn’t it surprising he considers leading retreats as his most satisfying?  After all, he’s taught at a college level, he’s made converts across the world, he’s led missionaries and diplomatic affairs across many countries, he’s written books, and has been the foremost radio and television religious personality of his day.  And yet giving retreats is his most satisfying.

I don't know why I loved this chapter so much. Perhaps because I've only been to day long retreats. I've never been to a retreat that lasted several days, where you spent time over night in what in my imagination is a monkish cell of a remote monastery. I imagine it as living the life of a monk for a few days where one sings the office in commune and going to daily Mass and doing some light labor and praying and being silent. Sort of life described in the book we just read, Mariette in Ecstasy. Has anyone actually participated in such a retreat?

Here he describes his method of leading a retreat:

The method I used in preaching retreats was the same as I used in all speaking. I never sat, since enthusiasm can be shown more in a standing position. I never read or used notes, but tried, through meditation, to absorb the ideas to be communicated and then let the actual retreat be the overflow and outreach of that contemplation.  Each conference was limited to thirty minutes, except the last conference, which was a Holy Hour, and was sometimes forty minutes in length.  The number of conferences was five a day.  I need hardly say that all the conferences were in a chapel, never in a prayer hall, so that we priests would always be in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord.

He also goes on to say,

If I were asked what detail of my sixty years of priesthood I would show to the Lord as a sign I loved Him, I would point to the Holy Hours which have been made by priests in the course of their lives as a result of my retreats.

So he was really proud of work on retreats.  It’s the signature work he would present to our Lord as his dutiful servant. 


Summary, Chapters 15 thru 16

Chapter 15, “Papal Audiences”:
Bishop Sheen discusses the various meetings and conversations he held with the Popes during his lifetime.  He provides his impressions of each of the Popes.

Chapter 16, “Making Converts”:
Bishop Sheen tells of the various conversions to Catholicism he has been involved in.  He makes clear that it is the Holy Spirit who does the conversion; he is but an instrument.


Comment 1:
"All during my life, attacks against the Church have hurt me as much as attacks against my own mother."

I know exactly how he feels. I hurt that way too. Even when I was an atheist such attacks hurt me. I may not have believed but I only lacked belief because of some sort of scientific assessment, not because of any hatred for the Church. I've always considered the Roman Catholic Church to be a loving entity toward me and always felt it had my best interest in mind. That's why this priest scandal hurts so much. It undermined an image of the ideal I held.

Nonetheless, any attack on the Church hurts me, even if it's by faithful Catholics. I have complaints, especially with the current issues, but I try not to air dirty laundry or cast my complaints in disparaging way.

Comment 2:
I found this interesting his annual conversations with Pope Pius XII interesting:

Each year I would discuss with him the subjects that I would talk about on radio for the coming year.

Isn’t that surprising, that he would discuss with the Pope the subjects of radio broadcasts that were on American radio? I found it surprising. Were his radio broadcasts international? I don’t think so. Why would a Pope be interested of what was being broadcast on American radio? I would have thought it would be too parochial.

But then Bishop Sheen gives himself a back door pat on the back:

Humility forbids me to reveal all that he said about my being a “prophet of the times” and that “you will have a high place in Heaven.” Nothing that he said was infallible, of course, but his words gave me much consolation.

Ha! Humility forbids my foot. He said it!

Comment 3
Madeleine wrote: "Manny said, "Nonetheless, any attack on the Church hurts me,...I have complaints, especially with the current issues, but I try not to air dirty laundry or cast my complaints in disparaging ways."
...What do we do?"

My Reply”
What I do is tell the truth. I tell them that the percentage of pedophile priests matches the general population at large, which is a hand full of percent. I tell them that the same problems and issues occur across other religious leaders of other faiths and more importantly across the public school systems across the country. Public school teachers have the same rate of child abuse, it's just that they have not been stigmatized like Catholic priests. If they haven't noticed, child abuse and sex abuse is rampant across the entire world. And that the Catholic Church has made incredible reforms in the past number of years where we are now well below the average across the general population.

Comment 4
I really enjoyed chapter 16, on the conversions he had a hand in.  Before I get to the conversions, Bishop Sheen is quite clear up front that he’s only an instrument in the conversion process.

But the subject of making converts and saving souls is a very difficult one, for it is so easy to believe that we are the agents who cause the results, when actually all we are at best are instruments of God.

I really thought his explanation of the convert’s experience was very profound:

Conversion is an experience in no way related to the upsurge of the subconscious into consciousness; it is a gift of God, an invasion of a new Power, the inner penetration of our spirit by the Spirit and the turning over of a whole personality to Christ.

Some of the conversions are quite touching.  The way Bella Dodd, the Communist Party lawyer, broke down while in the church is one.  The atheist woman who was told she had two weeks to live and the leper in New York City are two others.  Some stories are rather astonishing.  The story of Fritz Kreisler and his wife is one.  He just happened to ring their bell at an apartment building and just asked if they would like to take up instructions for the Church, and they said yes!  I particularly liked the story of the young prostitute who entered the church to “kill time,” but refused to go to confession and left.  So Bishop Sheen stayed up all night praying for her, and she returned at 12:30 AM and went to confession.  Great story, but some of these were a little too farfetched for credulity.  How about the Jewish jeweler who converted.  Let me post the entire account:

A Jewish jeweler in New York whom I had known for twenty-five years or more was always very kind to me. When I would ask him the price of anything, he would always say: “It cost me…” Then he would check through his filing cabinet and be sure of the cost price; that would be the price for me. One year he went to Europe and during the trip at sea, as he was seated at the captains table, I sent him a cablegram which read: “This cost me $7.87.” He said he lost his soup in the reading of that cablegram.

One day he phoned me and said: “Would you like a large number of silver crucifixes?” I went down to see him, and in a little brown bag he had many dozens of silver crucifixes about four inches high. I said: “Where did you get these?” He said: “From Sisters. They brought them in to me and said they were not going to use them any more—wearing the crucifix separated them from the world. They wanted to know how much I would give them for the silver.” The jeweler said: “I weighed them out thirty pieces of silver. What is wrong with your Church?” I answered: “Just that! The contempt of Christ and His Cross which makes it worldly.” Those words became the channel of the Spirit working in his soul. I explained to him the cost of Redemption, the blood of Christ; he embraced the Faith and died in it.

Thirty pieces of silver?  Do you think Bishop Sheen is gilding the story?  Does a Jewish man just convert because he started talking to a famous Catholic personality? 

And what about the bank robber at the end of his life?

The pastor told me that he was given a gift of $10,000 to build a shrine altar to Our Lady. I expressed amazement that there was $10,000 in the entire parish. He said: “Well, it was given to me by such and such a woman.” My eye ran down that street, and it seemed that none of the houses could be sold for $10,000. I inquired where she could possibly have gotten the money. He said: “Her brother was a bank robber, and I think that she probably was given this money, and is now returning it to the Church in reparation for his soul.” I asked if he had ever tried to retrieve the robber, but he said he had not.

That afternoon, I called on the woman and her brother. He sat in an armchair, a very handsome, benign old man with a full head of white hair. I said: “How long has it been since you have been to Confession?” He said: “Seventy years.” I said: “Would you not like to make your peace with God?” “No. That would be cowardice. Do you know my record? I have robbed banks and post offices to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars. I have spent over thirty years of my life in jail, and have killed two men. Why should I now, at the end of my life, be a coward and ask God to forgive me?” “Well,” I said, “let us see how brave you are tomorrow morning. I will come here to your door at eight o'clock. I will not be alone; I will bring the Good Lord with me in the Blessed Sacrament. I am sure that you will not turn us both away.” When I returned in the morning, he opened the door. I heard his confession and gave him Communion—which proved to be Viaticum because he died the next day. He was not the first thief the Lord saved on his last day.

Well, I can believe that one.  I’m sure many people want to make amends at the end of their lives.

I do think that Bishop Sheen is insightful in his takeaway point from all these conversions.

Years ago souls were brought to a belief in God by the order in the universe. Today souls are brought to God by disorder within themselves. It is less the beauty of creation and more the coiling serpents within the human breast which bring them to seek repose in Christ. Oftentimes what appears to be a doctrinal objection against the Faith turns out to be a moral objection. Most people basically do not have trouble with the Creed, but with the commandments; not so much with what the Church teaches, as with how the Church asks us to behave.

Yes, I would agree with that.  Today I think people convert not from seeing an error in their lack of belief but because the dysfunction of their lives leads them to seek solace.  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:29).  Christ is still what brings us to peace.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

In Memoriam: Sir Roger Scruton

A few days ago (January 12th) the notable British philosopher and conservative intellectual, Sir Roger Scruton passed away from cancer at the age of seventy-five.  It was certainly a sad moment, especially for those of us who consider themselves conservative, who have embraced and engaged in the intellectual progress of conservatism, and revere conservatives living and through the ages.  Sir Roger Scruton was a giant of modern day conservatism.  He was the William F. Buckley of Britain.  That is to say using the Buckley adage, “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop.” Sir Roger Scruton yelled stop against the mindless progressivism that is probably even more dominant in Britain than in the United States. 

I’m not going to list his intellectual accomplishments.  I can’t.  I’m not schooled enough in his books, but you can get a cursory overview in his Wikipedia entry.  While I compared Scruton to William F. Buckley above, that comparison was in terms of stature and public persona, not in philosophic unanimity.  Buckley over the years became more and more a Libertarian.  Roger Scruton was not a Libertarian and I believe was suspicious of Libertarians.  While conservatives may have some economic agreement with Libertarians, there is much we disagree.  Closer to Roger Scruton in philosophic outlook I believe was Russell Kirk, the person at the root of 20th century American conservatism. 

That said, let me highlight a number of tributes put out for Sir Roger on his passing.  First from an obituary in the British Daily Mail, subtitled “'Greatest conservative of our time.”  

Sir Roger Scruton, a revered conservative philosopher who cleared his name after being sacked as a government advisor over false anti-Semitism claims, has died after a six-month battle with cancer.

The Cambridge graduate - author of some 50 books on morals, politics, architecture and aesthetics - died on Sunday, with his family saying they are 'hugely proud of him and of all his achievements'.

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan tweeted: 'Very sad news. Professor Sir Roger Scruton, the greatest conservative of our age, has died. The country has lost a towering intellect. I have lost a wonderful friend.'

The conservative magazine the Spectator USA highlighted possibly his greatest achievement, setting up an underground university in communist held Europe despite the intellectual sympathies to the communists that came out of British universities: 

During the Cold War he faced an academic and cultural establishment that was either neutral or actively anti-Western on the big question of the day. Roger not only thought right, but acted right. Not many philosophers become men of action. But with the ‘underground university’ that he and others set up, he did just that. During the Seventies and Eighties at considerable risk to himself he would go behind the Iron Curtain and teach philosophy to groups of knowledge-starved students. If Roger and his colleagues had been largely leftist thinkers infiltrating far-right regimes to teach Plato and Aristotle there have been multiple Hollywood movies about them by now. But none of that mattered. Public notice didn’t matter. All that mattered was to do the right thing and to keep the flame of philosophical truth burning in societies where officialdom was busily trying to snuff it out.

Paul Krause at the online conservative magazine, The Imaginative Conservative, probably summarized the core of Scruton’s thought: 

Sir Roger had risen to some fame with the publication of The Meaning of Conservatism in 1980, a philosophical exposition of the political tradition free from the negativity and pejoratives of those who have often controlled the meaning and understanding of conservatism. In this work, Sir Roger decisively showed how conservatism is, properly, independent of the classical liberal economic dogmas that largely usurped the older, communitarian, traditional, and aesthetic spirit of conservatism, which Sir Roger saw deriving from the thought of Aristotle through that of Burke and Eliot. In his defense and exposition of conservatism, Sir Roger explained that conservatism was an organic outgrowth of unique inheritances including Common Law, property rights, and institutional justice, producing the liberty that conservatives enjoy and in which they are allied in preserving. In American parlance, Sir Roger’s conservatism is what we now call paleo-conservatism.

Krause, who had studied under him, characterized him summarily: 

Contrary to the leftwing media’s portrait of him, the Roger Scruton that we all came to know was a gentle and humorous man, a man who wouldn’t harm a fly and who was open to all people. Like moths attracted to the flame, students from all continents came together to discuss everything from music and aesthetics to politics and metaphysics with Sir Roger, who seemed to be the incarnate flame of wisdom. His encyclopedic knowledge allowed him to help all in our respective pilgrimages. He was our Virgil through hell and purgatory, and he left us at the top of the mountain, pointing to the light that lay beyond. Befitting a man of such humility, he once revealed to us that instead of being remembered as the world-class philosopher he was, he wished to be remembered as the organist for the small Anglican parish of which he was a member.

The Imaginative Conservative also published Sir Roger’s final speech titled, “A Thing Called Civilization.” A couple of quotes: 

Now, I myself have obviously got into an awful lot of trouble through defending Western civilization. It seems a strange feature of our times that the more you’re disposed to defend it, the more you are regarded as some kind of narrow-minded bigot. But the people who make that accusation are the real ones with the narrow mind. They’re people who do not see exactly how large and comprehensive our civilization has been and still is.


And I feel that now is the time, through institutions like ISI especially, to bring courage and conviction again to young people who know that there’s something wrong with this activist witch hunting of the old curriculum. The time has come, it seems to me, for people like me and the older generation of teachers to give courage to young people, to say: Look, you have a civilization and inheritance which helps you to understand these things. Giving way to activism of this kind, activism which excludes whole realms of human knowledge, is not doing yourself a favor. It’s not bringing to you the things that you actually need in the world into which you’re going to progress.


Let’s leave aside the idea of Western civilization. After all, it depends which way you’re going around the globe whether it’s West or East. Look instead at the idea of civilization. What is it? What is a civilization? It is surely a form of connection between people, not just a way in which people understand their languages, their customs, their forms of behavior, but also the way in which they connect to each other, eye to eye, face to face, in the day-to-day life which they share.

This is something which has ordinary dimensions in the workplace and in the community, in our day to day. But also it has a high culture built upon it, works of art, literature, music, architecture, and so on. These are our ways of changing the world so as to be more at home in it.

I think that is the distinctive feature of Western civilization, that it is a comprehensive civilization constantly giving us new ways of being at home, ways of being in relation to each other, which bring peace and interest as the primary bonds between our neighbors.

As a philosopher, Sir Roger was known for his philosophy of aestheticism, that is, what makes beauty. His contribution I think was answering the question as to why beauty is even needed.  Here is a BBC documentary, titled “Why Beauty Matters,” that he wrote and produced explaining why beauty in the modern world matters even more so than in the past.  It’s almost an hour long, but it will be worth your while to watch it in its entirety.

Finally I wish to include in this In Memoriam a quote from Sir Roger that I think captures the core of what his conservatism was all about. 

"Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation slow, laborious and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false."
-Sir Roger Scruton

That my friends is the essence of conservatism, that "collective assets," by which he means cultural touchstones, are derived from a historical past and cannot be replicated without generations of experience.  They should be nearly sacrosanct in value and handled with loving care.

May the Lord grant Sir Roger Scruton eternal rest in peace with God’s beautiful light shining on him in eternity.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen, Part 2

Part 1 of my posts on Treasure in Clay can be found here.  

Let's start with an episode from his television show, titled "How to Improve Your Mind."

Summary, Chapters 5 thru 8

Chapter 5, “Teaching and Lecturing”:
Bishop Sheen provides some of his 25 year history as a teacher, passes on some of his experience he gained, and some of his teaching methods. 

Chapter 6, “The Electric Gospel”:
Bishop Sheen describes his transition to radio and television, his preparation techniques, and how his American audience embraced him.

Chapter 7, “Communism”:
Bishop Sheen describes the rise of communism in the middle decades of the 20th century and some of his encounters with communists. 

Chapter 8, “Desiring the Episcopacy”:
Sheen provides details on how he became a bishop from being director of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith and he provides some insight to into the life and workings of bishops in general.


I really loved Chapter five on his teaching and methods. I was surprised by a number of things: that it took 25 years of his life, that he taught in England for a while, that he was friends with Fr. Ronald Knox, who has published many a book and is one of the important Catholics of the 20th century. I particularly liked how he extensively researched and read beyond the necessary to be fully informed. I had never heard of a theandric action.

A theandric action is one in which both the divine and human nature of our Lord is involved.

Fascinating. I thought that advice he got from Cardinal Mercier was excellent:

“I will give you two: always keep current: know what the modern world is thinking about; read its poetry, its history, its literature; observe its architecture and its art; hear its music and its theater; and then plunge deeply into St. Thomas and the wisdom of the ancients and you will be able to refute its errors. The second suggestion: tear up your notes at the end of each year. There is nothing that so much destroys the intellectual growth of a teacher as the keeping of notes and the repetition of the same course the following year.”

On the first piece of advice, again that modernist/traditionalist split that keeps popping up. Clearly Sheen is in the traditionalist camp. As to the second piece of advice, I’m not a teacher, but I don’t think I could ever do that. It’s probably a good idea, but too much work goes into a year’s worth of notes.

I was surprised when Nikita last week mentioned that Bishop Sheen was a Lay Dominican. Perhaps this had something to do with it:

For many years our dean in the School of Philosophy was Father Ignatius Smith, a Dominican, who was not only a brilliant teacher, but also a renowned preacher. My class every afternoon was at four o’clock. Before going into the classroom which immediately adjoined Dr. Smiths, I would go in and visit with him for ten minutes. He would walk out of the office with me and tell me a funny story as I was on my way to the classroom, so that I would enter the classroom laughing. My association with Dr. Smith which lasted for years, was one of the happiest of my life.

Does he mention in the autobiography that he is a Lay Dominican? I don’t recall seeing it but this moment would have been an ideal spot to mention it.

I thought this was a particularly insightful note on education:

I felt a deep moral obligation to students; that is why I spent so many hours in preparation for each class. In an age of social justice one phase that seems neglected is the moral duty of professors to give their students a just return for their tuition. This applies not only to the method of teaching but to the content as well. A teacher who himself does not learn is no teacher. Teaching is one of the noblest vocations on earth, for, in the last analysis, the purpose of all education is the knowledge and love of truth.

Yes, a teacher does have a moral obligation toward their students.

Here is one of his observations that I don’t believe is true any longer.

I have been invited to secular universities several hundred times, many more than I have been invited to talk in Catholic universities. I have found that too often some in religion want to be secular; but on the other hand, I found the secular want to be religious. In talking in universities, I realized that the more divine the subject, the greater the response.

Secular universities have about eliminated any reference to religion, and frankly Catholic universities, except the few that are strongly traditionalist, have also tampered down religious thought. That unfortunately is the state of religion in this day and age. I don’t think Bishop Sheen would recognize today’s universities if he were alive. Of course that anecdote about the talk on chastity he mentions toward the end of the chapter to ten thousand college students runs counter him not recognizing today’s universities. But I still believe that. Maybe it’s because I’m more cynical since I live in NYC, one of the Liberal capitals of the country, but I do think conditions have gotten exponentially worse since his day.


Summary, Chapters 9 thru 10

Chapter 9, “Missions and Missionaries”:
Bishop Sheen describes how he became National Director for the Society for the propagation of the Faith, the philosophical conflicts he encountered there, and goes on to delineate a fair number of evangelical trips he made across the world.

Chapter 10, “In Journeyings Often”:
Bishop Sheen further describes his evangelizing techniques as he traveled across the world.  The key advice he provides to evangelize as St. Paul did at Ephesus, where you use the culture of the host country to enlighten the nature of Christianity.  Sheen provides more anecdotes of his experiences in China and Japan.


Excuse me from being absent the last few days.  I’ve been under the weather. 

You guys have hit on many of the points I would have made.  I think there is a lot packed into this paragraph from Chapter 9.

I came into this office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith at just the moment when the Church was beginning to sense a conflict between divine salvation and human liberation, between working for personal salvation of those in a parish or in a community and having a concern about their social welfare. God never intended that individual and social justice should be separated, though they very often were divorced.  In the sixties, in particular, youth developed a passionate interest for social justice in restricted areas, but they showed very little concern for individual justice, that is to say, their own relationship to their parents and to God.

I think he is highlighting a change in the culture, a change in the Church, and a change in the way religious approached their sense of obligation.

As to the culture we know of the sexual revolution of the sixties, the counter culture, and an intellectual deconstruction of tradition.  As to the Church, Vatican II, rightly or wrongly radically changed the nature of the liturgy.  Changing from a Latin Mass where the priest faced the apse but now faced the congregation and spoke in the vernacular must have been hugely disconcerting.  As to religious obligation, it’s a little more complicated to articulate.  There were always two sides to religious duty: contemplation and activism, prayer and works.  They were always in a balance, but somewhere in the sixties the contemplative side was minimized and an emphasis was placed on works.  Not that works are bad, quite the contrary, but the unbalance creates a distortion.  It tells people that the God in the sky is less important than your neighbor.  Everything became societal and little spiritual.  And so we get this quote from Bishop Sheen:

There it was that I saw the balance between the personal and the societal, between the vertical and the horizontal, between the human and the divine.

Is it any wonder then that there has been a loss of faith?  If we only look to the horizontal, then we lose our sense of the vertical.  So all three, the culture at large, the changes in the Church, and the culture within the Church, all has brought this decline we have seen since the sixties.


There wasn’t much else in these two chapters that could be a point of discussion, but I did think there were some good quotes.  Here’s a few.

Because of the many sufferings of our missionaries under Communist rule, there should be in the catalog of sanctity a new type of saint. “Wet” martyrs are those who shed their blood for the faith. But since the Communists did not always kill, though they tortured, a new kind of martyr arose: the “dry” martyr. What they agonized through a period of years far exceeds in pain what other martyrs suffered in a brief interval.  Each day, hour, and minute was a profession of Faith.

In Tokyo, a dinner was given to the Cardinal and his party by General Douglas MacArthur. He always looked you straight in the eye when he talked and gave the impression of authority and power. I personally believe that he was one of the greatest characters that America has ever produced. Among the reflections he offered at dinner were these: he wished he had eight hundred Catholic missionaries for every one now working in Japan to bring that country to Christianity. The world struggle, he said, is not economic or political but religious and theological; it is either God or atheism.

The more I familiarized myself with the Far East, the more I saw that the Western mind knows the world better than it knows man, but the Eastern world knows man better than it knows the world. Our Western world can tame nature, the Eastern world learned to tame itself. The former is an extrovert and produces a technological civilization; the latter is an introvert and seeks to develop wisdom through contemplation. The Western world regards the head the localization of wisdom, but the Eastern world often makes it the navel.

I have always contended in talking to missionaries that we are not so much to bring Christ to peoples as we are to bring Christ out of them.

Sometimes, the only way one can understand the poor is not by writing a check but by direct contact. I was reminded of the meaning of the Incarnation. God did not remain aloof to the agonies, pains and injustices of this world, but took a human nature like ours, in all things save sin, to prove that true love is identification—not just in the flesh, as in marriage, but in hunger and need.

Thirty years of His life He spent obeying, three years teaching and three hours redeeming.

That was the day perhaps more than any other that I learned that humility is not something that is directly cultivated; otherwise one becomes proud of his humility It is a by-product; the more Christ is in the soul, the less the “I” weighs it down.

Great quotes all.  Let me give you a thought on this quote: “Sometimes, the only way one can understand the poor is not by writing a check but by direct contact.”  I have proposed in other places that the government instituted welfare system is a sure fire way to eliminate the faith.  Government institutions and administrative practices lack a divine element.  They are sterile.  There is no God in the transaction.  True charity requires human contact.  True charity requires people helping each other, not administrative paperwork.  “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." (Mat 18:20).  Notice throughout the Gospels how many times Christ actually touches a person to cure them.  The sterility of the welfare system, necessary as it may be, does not promote faith, it extinguishes it.  I’ve been posting that for a number of years now.  It’s good to see that Bishop Sheen had a similar insight.