Bishop Fulton Sheen: The First "Televangelist"

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Bishop Fulton Sheen

(9 of 10)

He is not paid for his TV appearances, but has a good-sized income from his books, most of which goes to charities (his favorite: a Negro hospital in Mobile, Ala., built largely from his contributions).

A recent caller described the extraordinary effect Sheen has on people: "When one is with Sheen, one has the feeling of being important. Obviously he is a man .who knows how to modulate his voice, raise his eyebrows, use his hands, turn on or off any emotion he wishes. But that does not diminish the quality of honest conviction he has. When you look at him, you think: 'Here is a man with an answer. He accomplishes ten times as much work as any businessman on Madison Avenue. He's no cloistered mystic—he's an executive, a writer, an editor, a public-relations man. And yet he is well organized. He is sure of what he knows. He thinks that I am just as important to God as he. Maybe I am. Maybe that's the way you do it.' This feeling is not dispelled by the knowledge that everyone else gets the same treatment. As I left, a large lady swept past me, genuflected, kissed the bishop's ring, and looked up adoringly. Sheen broke into a great smile with, 'Ah, mademoiselle, enchante de vous revoir.' My time was up, but the impression remained. It just seems that everyone is important, everyone feels good."

Unfinished Business. Holy week will be a busy one for Bishop Sheen. On Tuesday he does two TV shows (one put on film for future use, when Sheen goes to Europe). Wednesday he preaches at St. Peter's Church on Staten Island, Thursday he addresses the Franciscan Sisters of Mary. On Good Friday, he faces the grueling ordeal of two three-hour services (12-3 in the afternoon; 7-10 in the evening) at New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral, during which he does not sit down once, and twice preaches seven sermons, one for each of the Seven Last Words of Christ. Easter Sunday he will preach at three Masses in St. Patrick's (10, 12, 1 o'clock), then will rush over to the NBC studios for his broadcast at 2.

To the millions who will listen to Sheen's words, the meaning of Easter in mid-20th century should be particularly significant. For modern man seems to live in a Good Friday age. Sheen believes that man, his faith in God shaken, has retreated within his own self, but has found there no peace, only shallow and temporary comforts. Disillusioned by a welter of scientific and political cure-alls, he looks for resurrection, but too often he wants it without sacrifice and before death —"promises of salvation without a cross, abandonment without sacrifices, Christ without His nails." Adds Sheen: "There is no pleasure without pain, no Easter without Good Friday."

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