Being Wholly Holy with Venerable Fulton Sheen

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The following was a college essay written by Maureen Francois. It has been edited and approved by Aidan McIntosh. 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 second chapter of The Enduring Faith and Timeless Truths of Fulton Sheen visited the universal call to holiness, God’s invitation to all of us to pursue His friendship, in order to ultimately share in the eternal bliss of Heaven.  It also highlighted some of the obstacles in enriching our Christian spiritual lives, such as the atheistic culture and the distraction of worldly pursuits, and it discussed how to combat them with God’s grace and love.

Something new that I learned in this chapter is that the human person “becomes most human when he becomes most divine, because he has been destined from all eternity to be conformable to the image of the Son of God.”(25)  God created us all to be saints, and the more we pursue sainthood, the more we explore and reflect the goodness of our Creator, the more we are in touch with our identity as His sons and daughters.

In reading the chapter I became more familiar with the reality of spiritual growth, especially when I read that “if we do not move forward in the spiritual life, we will go backward.”(22)  Just as a farmer constantly plows and maintains his fields to avoid weeds, so must we constantly tend to our souls.  If we do not stay in touch with God, praying and examining our consciences regularly, we put distance between ourselves and Him.  We have to grow spiritually in order not to shrink.

I was also particularly struck by the quote from Venerable Fulton Sheen, that “Christianity does not begin in comfort but in catastrophe.”(17)  In the current times of scandal and hurt in the Church, this is when we finally learn what it means to be a Christian.  To follow Christ means to suffer, sometimes even at the hands of those whom we trust the most.  We must be strong when others are weak.  When it feels like the Body of Christ is falling apart, it is our duty to our brothers and sisters to uphold it.  We emotionally and prayerfully support the ones who are suffering, and we also pray and fast for those who face temptation.  We are all human, and our times for trial and temptation will come to us.  But since we are all one body, no one faces them alone.  Even Jesus was tempted by Satan, but rather than succumbing to the lures of evil, He showed us an example of prayer and fasting for the sake of others.  And by dying on the cross, He showed us that to truly love is to suffer redemptively and selflessly.

Another point that I found compelling was Sheen’s insight that “when we deny God as the foundation of our rights, we shall no longer have rights.”(25)  Our unalienable human rights are endowed by our Creator.  If we take away our Creator, we also rob ourselves of all that He has bestowed on us.  We do not have the basic right to life, for example, without the One who gave us life to begin with.

With regards to the personal spiritual life of an American college student in 21st century, there are many relevant points from this chapter to consider.  How can we seek deeper sanctification in our daily lives?  Saint Josemaria Escriva once said, “Do not say, ‘this person irritates me.’  Say, ‘this person sanctifies me.’”  Whether we are in the home, at school, or in the workplace, there will always be someone who we don’t get along with.  By disconnecting the little annoyances of our day from our spiritual life, we are essentially picking up a cross, and carrying it away from Calvary.  This type of suffering is pointless.  But when we walk with Jesus and unite our sufferings, however small, with His, we are entering into a deeper intimacy with Him.  Saint Therese of Lisieux became a Doctor of the Church by writing about her “little way” to holiness.  She sought sanctification through simple sacrifices such as putting others before herself, offering up the discomfort of  a headache to God, and acting with patience and charity toward a fellow nun with whom she did not get along well.

Father Mike Schmitz, a college chaplain at the University of Minnesota Duluth, encourages people of all ages to pursue holiness through loneliness.  This method of self-sanctification may sound odd at first, but it is truly a means of self-denial.  After he describes the push in our culture to fill the ache of loneliness with television, drama, and other forms of entertainment, he invites us not to run from our periods of loneliness but to dive into them.  We all experience loneliness, and as social beings, we do not like the feeling.  But when we allow ourselves to enter fully into our pain of solitude, we encounter God in a new and profound way.  We spend time alone with Him, learning to allow Him to satisfy our hunger for unity, love, and belonging.

According to Venerable Fulton Sheen, we are called to pursue holiness at all times throughout our lives.  We can do this through prayer and fasting, and through the large and small sacrifices in our everyday lives.  As beings made in God’s image and likeness, we are invited to an intimate unity with Him, and as members of Christ’s Body here on earth, we are called to be supportive of our brothers and sisters who suffer.  As Saint Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” (Confessions, Book I, chapter I). Our ultimate destination is union with God in Heaven, finally seeing His splendor with our eyes.  Until then, we can spend our pilgrim journey on earth alleviating the restlessness of our hearts by knowing, loving, and serving God, and by knowing, loving, and serving our neighbor.

References

Zia, Mark.  The Enduring Faith and Timeless Truths of Fulton Sheen.  Cincinnati: Servant books, 2015.

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