- Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way;
the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Mark 1: 2-3
Peter John Sheen was born in El Paso, Illinois in the late 1800's over the hardware store that his mother and
father owned on main street.
Already at his birth he was making his mark as a communicator, communicating par excellence in the way that babies
doby crying. Young Sheen did this constantly. Which leads one to reflect that even at this stage of his life he already was
giving an indication of the path his life would take, "of one crying in the wilderness", for truly that young baby was to
grow into the greatest voice of the Catholic Church in the United States in the twentieth century.
His skill of communication was such a degree that his family gave him the nickname of that "Fulton baby" after his mothers
side of the family. He gives no indication in his autobiography as to why "crying" was associated with his mothers family
but the fact that it was would have a lasting impact on how he would be known.
When he was enrolled in the local Catholic school it was his maternal grandfather who brought him to the school. When asked
what was the name of the child being enrolled, his grandfather replied, "Fulton." Thus, from that point onward he would be
known as Fulton J. Sheen, his name forever changed to reflect the crying that had marked his first years.
Like others whose names have been changed to reflect a mission so it would seem in hindsight was his. Fulton Sheen, like
the Baptist, was a voice crying out in the wilderness. There were times that he was popular and other times during his life
when he suffered greatly.
It seems that all who encountered the young Fulton marked him for greatness and that he accepted their prophecies gladly.
Although he is often criticized for being proud, what he did he did for God and because he was unashamed he brought God to
millions. Like our Lord he came from humble beginnings but soon would take his public ministry to the far corners of the world.
Highly educated early on he made his mark by teaching Philosophy at Catholic University in Washington D.C. Most of his
early works are writings that deal with philosophy but he soon expanded his classroom beyond the University and through the
means of radio taught the universe.
His ability to bring the Gospel message alive and to make it relevant to life is what made Fulton J. Sheen a great preacher.
His oratorical skills added to his delivery but indeed it was his message that was powerful.
What did he attribute his success in preaching to? His daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.
In fact it was so much a part of his life that he prayed that he would die in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament on
a Feast of Our Lady. He died in his apartment near his personal Chapel on the eve of the feast of the Immaculate Conception
of Mary, the patroness of the United States on December 7, 1979.