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A way out of the grave

I seem to have become a de facto Catholic blogger this week--now there's a wonk's wonk--and will make a trilogy of it by descending joyfully into a crypt. 


This one, actually, below the altar of St. Patrick's Cathedral, where yesterday I visited the tomb of Fulton J. Sheen on the 30th anniversary of his death. (No, I didn't take this shot; I forgot my camera, and was relieved of the temptation to be tacky enough to whip it out in such a holy site.)

Yesterday's mass, for the cause of Sheen's canonization now under study in Rome, was a gorgeous affair; the entry procession featured 3 cardinals, at least a dozen bishops, and amid the mitres, some sparkly crowns and other exotic regalia from bishops belonging to, perhaps, the Vulcan or Romulan Catholic rites. You would think after my prior two posts (scroll down for tears and gall) that this showboating magnificence aswirl in incense would have, er, incensed me, but no; I delighted in it, especially the beaming presence of our new New York archbishop Timothy Dolan. The guy is a rock-star, he's like the Ghost of Christmas Present, beaming light around; it's as if the dour and arrogant Egan had created a dark-matter vaccuum just for his successor to fill.

"Fulton Sheen wanted to get to heaven, and he wanted us all to go with him," preached Dolan, to a huge congregation that included Sheen's niece. (More of Dolan's backstory with Sheen here.) The ultimate rock star, Sheen inspired countless souls to convert to Catholicism, among them my own father. My dad was drawn into the magnetic young radio preacher's circle by two fan girls, my mother and my aunt, who attended Sheen's "Catholic Hour" broadcasts live in the 1940s and often got the charismatic monsignor to sign one of his books for them (see his quip, above).  

In hunting down that inscription to share with you, I found another tiny miracle, one of hope and healing after this week's awful news reports. The book, The Divine Romance, was published in 1930 but Sheen's words could have been penned yesterday to ease the pain of our post-abuse scandal, atheist-ascendant Zeitgeist:

“…The world should profit by experience and give up expecting the Church to die…The notice of her execution has been posted, but the execution has never taken place. Science killed her, and still she was there; History interred her, but still she was alive. Modernism slew her, but still she lived… in fact, she is constantly finding her way out of the grave because she has a captain who found His way out of the grave. The world may expect her to become tired, to be weak when she becomes powerful, to become poor when she is rich, but the world need never expect her to die…She is reborn to each new age, and hence is the only new thing in the world…She will go on dying and living again, and in each recurring cycle of a Good Friday and an Easter Sunday her one aim in life will be to preach Christ and Him Crucified.”

And in the very next paragraph, only halfway through his life, Sheen writes his own epitaph:

"...if any single word of mine has lifted up but one soul to a nobler understanding of Christ, or fanned a single spark of love for His cause into a flame, or induced the tendrils of a single heart to entwine about the Heart of Hearts, then I shall believe that my words and my life shall not have been spoken or lived in vain."

And now, Advent is calling: time to leave the crypt and hang the lights.

Posted on Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 01:37PM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | CommentsPost a Comment

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