Fulton Sheen and the “Cor” of the New Evangelization: Divine Mercy

Fulton Sheen and the “Cor” of the New Evangelization: Divine Mercy

You know you have discovered a prophet when you hear or read something from a great preacher and it speaks not only to the heart of today’s problems but also offers solutions that remedy them at the heart as well.

Two of the greatest prophets of the last century are Venerable Fulton Sheen and Pope St. John Paul II, whom Sheen prophesied in 1979 (within just one year of JPII’s papacy) would go down in history as one of the Church’s greatest popes.

The similarities and connections between these two figures are striking. They were both philosophers (true lovers of wisdom about God, man and creation) first and then theologians; they had a passion for saving souls — every soul; they were totally consecrated to Mary; and they both approached the “new” evangelization in a truly new way. Since he is probably less familiar to you than JP II, I’d like to introduce to you a prophet whose time has come to be rediscovered—Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

I have always been fascinated at how prophetic Fulton Sheen was in almost everything he taught — as his teaching is more relevant now than in his time. He spoke of three phases of evangelization, the first two of which focused on a more reasoned approach to doctrine and defending the faith in an apologetic fashion. But the third phase had not yet begun in the Church . . . except in the evangelization of two figures — Fulton Sheen and a young Cardinal Karol Wojtyla.

Sheen called this third phase the “anthropological” approach. Wojtyla’s version of it would become known as the “theology of the body.” This mode of evangelization addressed the true state of the world which had lived too long the lies of the so-called “sexual revolution” and now lives with the deep wounds and isolation that are their bitter fruits.

As Sheen described it, this anthropological approach reverses the traditional order of coming to God where “men of other generations went to God from the order of the universe.” Now, “the modern man goes to God through the disorder in himself.” Sheen reminds us that the modern world, having chosen to follow the lies of the devil and embrace a disordered moral and spiritual life, has hope in the Gospels, as Jesus used such as a starting point when he dealt with the same frustrations in St. Margaret Mary and the Gerasene demoniac. Jesus reveals through such encounters that the heart of the Gospel is Divine Mercy.

And just what is Divine Mercy? It is exactly what the Latin word for mercy, misericordia, points to — a “pain or misery” [miseria] “in the heart” [cordia] that moves God to implicate Himself in your suffering. It is more than forgiveness. He enters in every way into our fallen human condition, redeems and renews it! Only one who is both truly God and truly man can pull that off . . . that is exactly Who Jesus Christ is!

Why is this so important? Because the truth and the remedy we are all seeking isn’t theoretical, it’s a person! And the name given to this person is “Savior” (that’s what “Jesus” means).

And then there’s Mary. Both Sheen and John Paul II had similar mottos as bishops. JPII’s was “Tutus Tuus” [“I am totally yours (Mary)], taken from St. Louis De Montfort’s prayer of total consecration to Mary. And Sheen’s was “Da per matrem me venire” (“grant that I may come to you [Jesus] through Mary”). So, at the heart of the new evangelization is not just one heart, but two which beat as one, the Sacred and Immaculate hearts (after all, who gave Jesus the flesh from which His heart would be made?).

It is by this union of Hearts that Jesus and Mary have implicated their whole being in your misery and mine so that we may be free of the power of temptation and sin and healed in the innermost recesses of our hearts. This mercy is ongoing as it continues to pour into our hearts and those of our spouses and children from the pierced hearts of Jesus and Mary (remember Simeon’s prophecy!) at the Cross!

Mary’s total “yes” to Christ within her is what brought Christ, and thus salvation, to the whole world. This is how God evangelized the world 2,000 years ago, and this is the wisdom upon which we must pattern our efforts in the new evangelization. And only to the extent that we do will we be more effective in healing and renewing wounded hearts crying out for the tenderpatient and refreshing Mercy of Jesus.

We, who are inspired by these two great prophets, are their torchbearers, and we must use every means possible to bring the healing and saving mercy of Jesus Christ to a culture who has rejected Him and a new generation that is crying out for nothing less. And this mission begins in every home. As John Paul II put it: “As the family goes, so goes the nation and the world in which we live.” Will you be the voice, the hands and the feet of the patient and merciful Christ to bring it to them? If not you, then who?

Dr. Peter Howard is an international speaker, noted Mariologist and expert on Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. He is founder and president of the Fulton Sheen Institute and holds a doctorate from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He is the author of The Woman: The Mystery of Mary as Mediatrix in the Teaching of Fulton J. Sheen. Subscribe to the Fulton Sheen Institute YouTube Channel and follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.