Monday, July 26, 2010

Becoming an Apostle for the Cause

The first time that I saw Archbishop Sheen, he was a bishop, he was much older than I, and he was in black and white. Unfortunately, I was not alive at any point during the life of Archbishop Sheen, but I have the ability to see the full force of this great man's teachings from beyond his own life. The first time I saw Bishop Sheen on Life is Worth Living, I think I turned it off, to be completely honest. I was wondering what such an old black and white show was doing on television, as much as I'm sure my friends would wonder why a 20 something would be watching EWTN. However, in the Christian life, as Archbishop Sheen and all the saints have pointed out, redemption plays a major role. So it was, that eventually I sat through an episode of Life is Worth Living, enthralled by the simple images on t.v., and the theatrical bishop who would put the truths of the Faith so simply.

Some time in between my first and second watching of Archbishop Sheen, I must have felt a strange attraction to the name, much like I did to St. John of the Cross, St, Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Damian of Molokai. I say that because for Christmas one year, I purchased for my mother a copy of The World's First Love, and gave it to her. My mother is not a religious reader, and I don't know what came over me, but it was just an impulse buy, something that she soon gave back to me because it was not her cup of tea!

There are many ways to the heart of a man. Like a fire, which requires fuel in the form of something to burn, and fuel in the form of oxygen, I think the flame of the Holy Spirit within each of us uses many types of fuel. First, and foremost, is the tug of the heart, those feelings we have from birth, the longing for a mother's embrace, the need for a bottle, the desire for warmth. There is also the drive of the intellect. This area, I think, is where Archbishop Sheen first ignited for me passions towards our God. His arguments were logical, philosophical, and theological to my eager college mind. The passion behind it, driven most assuredly by the Holy Spirit, was more for me a way to keep things "interesting." It was not exactly a Damascus Road moment for my passion for Christ, it was more of a Mount of the Beatitudes moment. There was nothing overly dramatic, except of course the Archbishop, but it was a steady and building way of looking at the faith from a different perspective that built upon itself.

Over time I would read snippets of His Excellency's writings, and watch Life is Worth Living, and at the time I was really getting into these things, Fr. Ryan Humphries, a priest in my diocese, released on radio and podcast a series called Life is Still Worth Living, an homage to Archbishop Sheen. This common interest springing up seemed to confirm for me that I was following someone who was, in the best terms I could think of, "really cool." Eventually I decided to read a book by Archbishop Sheen, and I don't remember which one it was, but as soon as I was finished with that one, I went online to order another book, and ended up ordering eight.
I read The Priest is Not His Own, and this book has become my favorite. Even as a layman, I saw the virtue and passions of the priesthood. It helped me to appreciate my priests around me even more, but, on a personal level, it taught me that even the "priesthood of the baptised" has a role in the Sacrifice of the Cross. I digress.
In another confirmation of my devotion to Archbishop Sheen, earlier this year I saw an advertisement for a new documentary, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: A Servant of All, and clicked on the link. It asked for people to host screenings, and I looked into it, and it cost money! I, being the frugal person that I am (read: cheap), had seen very interesting movies before that were looking for people to host screenings, but I had always ignored them after seeing the price. For some reason, when I read the Sheen film's suggestions, "perfect for Knights of Columbus" jumped out at me. Being a Knight, I went to my council and asked them if I could use the hall for the screening, they approved and I was suddenly hosting a screening!
Shortly after the screening I was asked to join the Advisory Board of the Sheen Foundation, I accepted, and Bishop Jenky appointed me to the board while I was on a pilgrimage in Europe. I had asked for some holy cards for Archbishop Sheen, and set about distributing them as I met English speaking Pilgrims in Lisieux, Tours, Lourdes, Ars, Rome and Assisi. At the end of the Pallium Mass, my last day in Rome, I had about a dozen prayer cards left out of the original 50. I struck up a conversation with a few women on pilgrimage with Archbishop Wenski of Miami, mentioned the name of Fulton Sheen, and all of a sudden I lost control of the conversation as they began to rattle off all of their memories of Life is Worth Living, or other things related to Sheen. It turns out, one of them was from Rochester, and remembered the Archbishop from his time there. On a side note, I had never met more people from the Rochester area as I did in Europe.
So, now I continue to work for the Cause of Archbishop Sheen in Louisiana, and hopefully grow in knowledge enough to adequately represent him to those I meet.

Stephen Zaborowski, Advisory Council for the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation