G. Dinon/Archivio MSA

WITHOUT any doubt the greatest Catholic evangelizer in the history of the Church in North America was the Venerable Fulton Sheen. Currently being proposed for canonization, Archbishop Sheen began his broadcast career in radio in 1930 with a weekly Sunday night show, The Catholic Hour. In 1952 his famous television show Life Is Worth Living began airing, and it quickly reached 20 million viewers, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. In October 1979, two months before Sheen’s death, Saint Pope John Paul II sent him a letter congratulating him on the occasion of his 60th anniversary as a priest. He wrote, “God called you to proclaim in an extraordinary way his dynamic word… in these six decades of your priestly service, God has touched the lives of millions of men and women of our time.”

Once Archbishop Sheen was interviewed on national television, and a journalist asked him, “You have met bishops, priests, world leaders, and various holy men and women. Of all of them, who has inspired you most?” With a twinkle in his eyes, Sheen answered, “An 11-year-old Chinese girl.” Archbishop Sheen explained that when the Communists took over China around 1949, they imprisoned a Catholic priest in his own rectory next to the church. The priest was horrified to look out of his window and see the soldiers proceed into the church. Once inside they went into sanctuary, broke open the tabernacle and, in a hateful act of desecration, took out the ciborium and threw it on the floor with the hosts spilling out. The priest knew exactly how many hosts had been in the ciborium: thirty-two. The soldiers then left, leaving the ciborium and the spilled hosts on the floor.

While all this was happening, a small girl had been praying at the back of the church. She saw everything that took place. That night the girl returned and, slipping past the guard in front of the priest’s rectory, entered the church where she made a Holy Hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred. After that she went into the sanctuary and, kneeling down, bent over and received Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue, since at that time it was not permissible for the laity to touch the sacred host with their hands. The girl continued to return every night, making a Holy Hour and then consuming a sacred host on every occasion. On the last night, the thirty-second night, after having consumed the last host, she accidently made a noise that woke up the guard who had been sleeping by the priest’s residence. From his window, the priest could only watch in horror as the heartrending scene unfolded before his eyes. The girl tried to run away, but the guard caught up with her and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle.

When Archbishop Sheen heard this story while still a seminarian, he was so inspired that he promised God he would make a Holy Hour of prayer before Jesus at the Blessed Sacrament every day of his life.

That 11-year-old girl could have had no idea that she would influence a future Archbishop, who would in turn influence millions and promote Eucharistic Adoration. Likewise, we often have no idea how our witness and sacrifice may influence others.

Talking about promoting the new evangelization Pope Francis said, “What we especially need in these times are credible witnesses who make the Gospel visible by their lives as well as by their words, and who reawaken the attraction for Jesus Christ, for the beauty of God. Many people have drifted away from the Church… It would be a mistake to place the blame on one side or the other; indeed, there is no need even to speak of blame. There were responsibilities in the history of the Church and her men, there were in certain ideologies and also in individuals… We need Christians who make God’s mercy and tenderness for every creature visible to the people of our day.”

In the light of the scandals rocking the Church today, God only knows how much we need these witnesses.

Updated on October 01 2018