Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
THINK RIGHT, LIVE WELL
Daily Reflections With Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
Edited by Bert Ghezzi
Our Sunday Visitor, 2017
381 pages, $19.95
Quiz time: Which 20th-century Catholic preacher was seen and heard by 30 million people a week between the years 1951-1957? Which one was sometimes called the new John Chrysostom? Which one came in on one list of most influential 20th-century Catholics right behind Sts. John Paul II, Teresa of Calcutta and Padre Pio, in that order? And which one heard Pope John Paul II tell him in public, “You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus. You have been a loyal son of the Church!”
Answering “Archbishop Fulton Sheen” to each one gives you a perfect score. Such an eloquent, magnificent preacher was he that, during the years of his Life Is Worth Living TV series, he became the top draw on television and won an Emmy award his first year out, and then again, both for “Most Outstanding Television Personality.” Life Is Worth Living remained popular in reruns and still finds a weekly home on EWTN television.
Archbishop Sheen’s gift was heaven-sent. He was able to connect with each listener as if he were speaking to him or her alone. His words cut to the core and reached into the heart because they came from his heart. He had an extraordinary “way with words” — a gift to put something complex into concise ways that reached a person’s understanding and heart at the same time.
He wrote more than 65 books, too. From such a wealth of material comes a new book, a compilation called Think Right, Live Well: Daily Reflections With Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
In this calendar-style book, each page contains an insightful Sheen quote. All are fairly short — a few sentences each.
A quick riff through the pages spills out numbers of jewels of wisdom, making it difficult to know where to start, or when to stop. You want to read all of them at once. In other words — pardon the cliché — this is a treasure trove.
Reading calls for a bit of discipline to slow down and focus only the page for that particular date, keeping a wee bit in check to enjoy every morsel, every syllable, but especially every saintly pearl of wisdom. The purpose is to read that quote, think about it, and see how it applies to one’s life. It’s the same setup Marian Father Donald Calloway used in Marian Gems: Daily Wisdom on Our Lady. It’s a proven way to really stop, mull over, absorb and put into practice the thought for the day.
To whet your appetite, here are a few samples. All entries have a title that summarizes each quote’s theme.
From February, “The Assurance of God’s Mercy”: “Oh, what greater assurance is there in all the world of the mercy of God? Lost sheep, prodigal sons, broken Magdalens, penitent Peters, forgiven thieves! Such is the rosary of Divine forgiveness,” from The Seven Last Words.
From July, “The Climb”: “Heaven is a city on a hill, hence we cannot coast into it; we have to climb. Those who are too lazy to mount can miss its capture as well as the evil who refuse to seek it,” from The Seven Capital Sins.
From June, “Undying Love”: “There are only two words in the language of love: ‘you’ and ‘always.’ You because love is unique; always because love is enduring. No one ever said, ‘I will love you for two years and six months.’ All love songs have the ring of eternity about them,” from Three to Get Married.
From August, “The World’s in Mortal Sin”: “The world is in a state of mortal sin, and it needs absolution. Vain platitudes and ‘regeneration,’ ‘the Constitution’ and ‘progress’ are not going to save us, even though we go on shouting them louder and louder. We need a new word in our vocabulary — and that word is: God,” from The Prodigal World.
From Dec. 8, “Immaculate Mary”: “If a ship is sailing on a polluted canal and wishes to transfer itself to clear waters on a higher level, it must pass through a device which locks out the polluted waters and raises the ship to the higher position. … Mary’s Immaculate Conception was like that lock … [T]hrough her, humanity passed from the lower level of the sons of Adam to the higher level of the sons of God,” from Go to Heaven.
Each entry concludes with a short one- or two-sentence prayer.
The only thing missing seems to be more examples of his great, sharp wit that make the point indelible.
But reading and thinking about these day-to-day insights from the good bishop will also make you think about reading one or more of Fulton Sheen’s complete books, or begin watching or rewatching the timeless reruns of Life Is Worth Living. The beloved bishop-communicator is one of the finest spiritual guides you can have every day.