It’s high time to visit--or re-visit-- the writings of local son Archbishop Sheen.
A few months back, Archbishop Sheen was named “Venerable,” one more step on the path to a potential declaration of sainthood. A Mass and other events will be held in Peoria next weekend to celebrate Sheen’s new title, as well as his life and work. What the experts call “an alleged miracle” that happened locally (see “Meet a Reader” on this page for details), has been examined and submitted to the Vatican for approval for Sheen’s cause.
No doubt, Sheen is worth reading, discovering and sharing.
So what book should you choose if you’re new or want a good recommendation among Sheen’s prolific output?
My very first review for The Catholic Post, more than two years ago, was Sheen’s excellent autobiography, Treasure in Clay.
I still consider it the best introduction to Sheen’s writing style and his life. I’m grateful to my editor Tom Dermody for suggesting it as a great “first book.”
As I wrote then, Sheen “is the master of telling a great story. Treasure in Clay is full of such stories; edifying, funny and illuminating, making it an inspiration for us to do more as Catholics.”
But after Treasure in Clay, I truly hesitate. Not because Sheen didn’t write anything else “great,” but because there’s a lot of variety from which to choose.
I’ve been part of a women’s book group this past year that has read a different Sheen book each month. What surprises me is how varied our responses are to the different Sheen works we have read. Some women love a certain book that others have found really hard to get through. (True confession: I’m one of the ones who found a few hard to “get through”).
Not every Sheen book is going to speak to every reader.
Nevertheless, I want to encourage and inspire reading Sheen, and especially for readers not to give up if the first work sampled is not a “keeper.” So I asked some local Sheen experts for some good ideas.
Julie Enzenberger, administrator of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Foundation, has a great theory on her two favorite Sheen books.
“I always say if you don’t know Sheen read Treasure in Clay and if you don’t know Christ read Life of Christ,” said Enzenberger. “Life in Christ explains every parable in the bible and why Jesus did what he did in terms everyone can understand.”
Monsignor Richard Soseman, a priest of the Peoria diocese who now works for the Vatican in Rome and is Coordinator of International Outreach for the Sheen Foundation, suggests the relatively unknown Old Errors and New Labels, a commentary on modern thought.
“It’s a hidden "gem," Monsignor Soseman reports, and says that his college students love it.
Others have recommended Three to Get Married, Sheen’s popular book on marriage.
Two other Sheen books are worth mention:
*Ignatius Press has a handsome new edition of the well-loved classic The World’s First Love: Mary, the Mother of God. This was a favorite in my book group, as well as mentioned by plenty of people asked for Sheen suggestions.
*Regrettably out of print, but a terrific compendium, is The Quotable Fulton Sheen: A Topic Compilation of the Wit, Wisdom and Satire of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, edited by George J. Marlin and others. This book makes looking up quotes from the very-quotable Sheen easy, as it is organized by subject.