Fulton Sheen: Love and Tolerance

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The following was a college essay written by Maureen Francois. It has been edited and approved by Mary Boneno. If you have a Theology essay that you would like published that received a grade of an A- or higher, please be sure to contact us.

By Maureen Francois, Benedictine College

            The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen was a passionate, truth seeking, humorous man with a heart for bringing Christ to others, and a strong desire to rekindle His love in the lives of the Church Militant.  He fought to restore belief in truth in American culture, emphasized the importance of humility and authentic passion in teachers and professors, maintained his humor in all things, encouraged parents to nurture and be the primary instructors of their children, and clarified that our duty regarding tolerance is to tolerate all human beings while being intolerant of any falsehood.

            With specific regards to tolerance, I was somewhat struck by Archbishop Sheen’s wording.  It was confusing at first when he spoke of being intolerant of truth, but after researching the word “tolerance,” I learned a new insight: rather than being a synonym for acceptance and love, the word “tolerant” simply means to be passive and unbiased to the essence of someone or something.  In this light, tolerance has no place in how we see the fundamentals of our faith and objective truths.

            Although life can be strenuous at times, Sheen demonstrated through his humor that there is no time to forgo practicing the virtue of joy.  He found humor in everything, and never hesitated to share it, even if it was at his own expense.  By showing that even such an office as Archbishop requires a good laugh from time to time, he reminded Christian society that we are all human, and our hearts have much in common.

            Another thing I appreciated was Sheen’s dedication to the discussion of parenting, and how God calls all parents to teach their children.  I found it particularly beautiful when Sheen explained that the love of parents “‘finds fulfillment in the task of education as it completes and perfects its service of life’” (Zia, p. 11).  This made it more apparent to me that part of the vocation of parenthood is to educate the children God gives you, and it is through this instruction that parents find peace and fulfillment.  The primary goal of a parent is to raise his child for Heaven, and the first step is to instruct him in the ways of the Faith.  My parents have always been my best instructors of faith and morals, and I want to be the same to my future children.

            One of Sheen’s points that I found to be a real awakening and a compelling call to greatness was that teachers should always prepare, passionately care about, and continue to learn about what they teach.  Although a simple point, this statement has profound meaning and relevance in my life.  As an aspiring elementary teacher who has worked as a tutor, substitute teacher, and academic intervention teacher over the past few years, I have already, as young as I am in my career, had many days when my students have suffered from my lack of enthusiasm and preparation.  Sheen is frustrated by the common instructor’s habit of teaching through “‘communication of the notes on the professor’s yellow pages to the white pages of a student’s notebook, without passing through the minds of either’” (Zia, p. 8).  As a teacher, he combatted cultural sloth by spending six hours in preparation for every hour he taught.  The vocation to teach requires a zeal for the subject matter, and just like any other vocation, it demands a commitment from the onset strong enough to endure through periods of lukewarmness and indifference.

            As Catholics living in the modern world, we are challenged by the temptation of conformity.  In America today, the mentality of tolerance is heavily pushed upon us by our peers, and many of us prefer to blend in rather than speak out.  In resistance, Archbishop Fulton Sheen invites us to tolerate and extend God’s love to all human beings, while having unapologetic firmness in our Faith’s teachings.  A more subtle trap that Sheen observes Catholic parents frequently falling into is the neglect to be the primary teachers of their children.  He warmly encourages them to be present and active in their children’s education, whether it be academic, cultural, or spiritual.  He especially supports mothers in staying at home with their children, being the heart of the household, and surrounding them with the motherly affection that reflects the love of Christ through the Church.  With current feminist movements aggressively pushing for women to distance themselves from their children, supposedly equating their roles to those of their husbands, Sheen’s message is a powerful reminder of the motherly charism in the home.  For those called to the career of teaching, especially college professors, Sheen demands a consistent pursuit of excellence in both the instructor’s understanding of the subject and his passing of this understanding on to his students.  But no matter where we are in life or what our vocation is, the principles of Archbishop Fulton Sheen still ring true in our lives.  We are all called to greatness through caring for God’s children, taking a stand for His truth, and living authentically for what He calls us to every day.

            As a champion for truth, an apostle of evangelization, and a channel of the love of God, Venerable Fulton Sheen is truly a hero of the times.  In the midst of Christian struggles in American culture, his voice lives as a reminder of who we are, what we stand for, and for Whom we are living.

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