Unparalleled Evangelization

“Who is going to save the church? Do not look to the priests.
Do not look to the bishops. It’s up to you.”  –  
Fulton Sheen

Following up on last week’s reminder that touched on the Eucharist, thanks to Jan in California for sending this link. It is a brief article on Fulton Sheen who we quote above with each fasting reminder. For those who don’t know his story, his success evangelizing seems incomprehensible today – He hosted a prime time national weekly television show promoting the Lord. His show vied for the most watched in the country as the depth of his messages reached so many segments of society. Then full of jealousy, the U.S. Catholic bishops banished him to a rural parish where he would not be able to broadcast and few would ever hear from him again.

But God was not finished with him and today within the Catholic Church now that those jealous bishops have died, resistance to how extraordinary he was is waning and his cause is under consideration for canonization. For those passing through New York City, he is buried in the crypt at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

This story touches on what may be his signature act.  It was born from a lifelong commitment he made to respond to Christ’s urgent, perhaps almost desperate plea moments before he was arrested:

After, he came unto the disciples, and found them asleep, and said to Peter, What? could ye not watch with me one hour? – Matthew 26:40

One hour of prayer a day, referred to by Sheen as a Holy Hour. Here are a few excerpts:

Not every hour of prayer was easy for Sheen, who explained how on occasion he found himself dozing off during the time of prayer. However, he believed that a consistent commitment to an hour of prayer allowed him time to develop a deep personal relationship with Jesus.

“The Holy Hour. Is it difficult? Sometimes it seemed to be hard; it might mean having to forgo a social engagement, or rise an hour earlier, but on the whole it has never been a burden, only a joy.”

 “So the Holy Hour, quite apart from all its positive spiritual benefits, kept my feet from wandering too far. Being tethered to a tabernacle, one’s rope for finding other pastures is not so long. That dim tabernacle lamp, however pale and faint, had some mysterious luminosity to darken the brightness of “bright lights.” The Holy Hour became like an oxygen tank to revive the breath of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the foul and fetid atmosphere of the world. Even when it seemed so unprofitable and lacking in spiritual intimacy, I still had the sensation of being at least like a dog at the master’s door, ready in case he called me.

…. “Even when it seemed so unprofitable and lacking in spiritual intimacy …”i.e. if your hour of prayer each day feels dry from time to time, there is nothing wrong. Even the greatest saints experienced the sense of nothingness when praying at times.

While most of Sheen’s Holy Hours were performed in a church before the Blessed Sacrament, Protestant pastors found inspiration in Sheen’s words and adapted the practice in their own way.

“Most remarkable of all was the effect the preaching of the Holy Hour had on non-Catholic ministers. I preached three retreats to Protestant ministers — on two occasions to over three hundred in South Carolina and Florida, and on another occasion to a smaller group at Princeton University. I asked them to make a continuous Holy Hour of prayer in order to combat the forces of evil in the world, because that is what our Lord asked for the night of His Agony.

Even though they didn’t pray an hour before the tabernacle of a Catholic Church, they adapted the practice and spent a hour each day listening to God and interceding for the world.

… Thank you for fasting with us. Your small sacrifice of bread with some olive oil or honey or butter or avocado butter is just a tiny sacrifice – but you will celebrate all of the hidden good Heaven orchestrates that comes from your little sacrifice today – for the rest of eternity.