Those of us in the world of communications are rejoicing over the news that the most famous and influential Catholic communicator of the 20th century is about to be declared “Blessed.”
Fulton Sheen will be beatified in Peoria on December 21. And the date, I think, is significant.
First, it is the feast of St. Peter Canisius. As Wikipedia reminds us:
He became known for his strong support for the Catholic faith during the Protestant Reformation in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The restoration of the Catholic Church in Germany after the Protestant Reformation is largely attributed to the work there of the Society of Jesus, which he led. He is venerated in the Catholic Church as a saint and as a Doctor of the Church.
Like Fulton Sheen, Peter Canisius was noted for his writing, preaching and teaching — and won numerous converts. He authored what was, in its time, the definitive catechism for Germans. He’s been described as the first best-selling Jesuit author, and he is a patron of the Catholic press. He was, for his day, a media sensation.
But beyond that feast, December 21 also gives us this beautiful “O Antiphon”:
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death.
As a man who is most familiar to audiences for his work on television, Fulton Sheen was no stranger to the spotlight — and used that light to bring the Gospel to millions. How many families, from New York to Peoria to Portland and beyond, watched him in living rooms illuminated by the flickering light from the television screen and experienced, perhaps for the first time, Christ’s own light? How many souls were illuminated by the message carried by cables and satellites, by the electronic wonder of television?
The priest from Peoria truly helped to shine Christ’s light on “those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”
Finally, it’s worth remembering that December 21 also marks the winter solstice on our calendar, which signifies the shortest day and longest night. In our modern era, no evangelist broke through the night as Fulton Sheen did. May he continue to do so, for all who seek God’s healing rays!
Blessed Fulton Sheen, pray for us.