Even when I read Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s words in a book, I can hear his big booming voice in my ears. Sharing his wisdom on Jesus, the eclectic way he would emphasis certain key words, entertaining while teaching, allowing some words to hang in the air as we, the audience, ponders what was just said.
And who can forget his chalkboard!
When I picked up his latest book published by Sophia Press, aptly named, The Cries of Jesus from the Cross, I knew this was truly a special, one of a kind book. Actually, it is SEVEN books! It is a unique layout taking seven books Bishop Sheen wrote from 1993 to 1945:
- The Seven Last Words (New York: Century, 1933)
- The Cross and the Beatitudes (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1937)
- The Rainbow of Sorrow (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1938)
- Victory over Vice (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1939)
- The Seven Virtues (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1940)
- Seven Words to the Cross (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1944)
- Seven Words of Jesus and Mary (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1945)
Each of the chapters of these seven books are grouped into the seven chapters of this book, each addressing one of the last seven words spoken by Jesus. It is truly unique in that we can read all of the reflections on just one of the words, for example “Woman, behold thy son; behold thy mother” or “I thirst”, or if we want to read the entirety of one book, just read that chapter number under each of the words spoken by Christ. We can also just read any reflection that we’re moved to read, or read all seven reflections on the one word.
Here is a preview of each of the seven words, and short reflection from each of the seven books (in order).
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Father, Forgive Them, for They Know Not What They Do!
“Forgive them? Forgive them, why? Because they know what they do? No, because they know not what they do. If they knew what they were doing and still went on doing it; if they knew what a terrible crime they were committing by sentencing Life to death; if they knew what a perversion of justice it was to choose Barabbas to Christ… if they knew what they were doing and still went on doing it, unmindful of the fact that the very blood that they shed was capable of redeeming them, they would never by saved! Why, they would be damned if it were not for the fact that they were ignorant of the terrible thing they did when they crucified Christ!”
This day thou shalt be with me in paradise.
Blessed Are the Merciful
“Mercy is a compassion, which seeks to unburden the sorrows of others as if they were our own. But if we have no such compassion, then how can compassion ever come back to us?
“Unless we throw something up, nothing will come down; unless there is an action, there can never be a reaction; unless we give, it shall not be given to us; unless we love, we shall not be loved; unless we pardon evil, our evil shall not be forgiven; unless we are merciful to others, God cannot be merciful to us.”
Woman, behold thy son; behold thy mother.
Suffering of the Innocent
“If we are to find the answer [to why do the innocent suffer], we must go not merely to the suffering of innocent people, but to the suffering of Innocence itself. In this third word, our attention is riveted upon the two most sinless creatures who ever trod our sinful earth: Jesus and Mary.
“Love is the key of the mystery. Love by its very nature is not selfish, but generous. Its seeks not its own, but the good of others… The Father did not spare His Son, nor did the Son spare His Mother, for love knows no bounds. Jesus had a sense of responsibility for every soul in the world; Mary, too, inspired His love, had a corresponding sense of responsibility. If He would be the Redeemer of the wayward children, she must be their Mother… They love the world so much that they want to save it, and they know there is no other way to save it than to die for it.”
My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?
“Pride it was that made Satan fall from heaven and man fall from grace. By its very nature, such undue self-exaltation could be cured only by self-humiliation. That is why He who might have been born in a palace by the Tiber, as befitting His majesty as the Son of God, choose to appear before men in a stable as a child wrapped in swaddling bands.
“Added to this humility of His Birth was the humility of His profession – a carpenter in an obscure village of Nazareth whose name was a reproach among the great… There was also the humility of His actions, for never once did He work a miracle in His own behalf, not even to supply Himself with a place to lay His head.”
“Because our needs are limited, but our wants are unlimited, a virtue is necessary to restrain our inordinate appetites and desires – and that virtue is called temperance. It has for its object the regulation of the sensible appetites by reason.
“The two strongest appetites in man are eating and drinking, which sustain his individual life, and the sexual act, which propagates his social nature. Excesses in these appetites are the sources of the two sins of gluttony and lust. Temperance is the virtue that moderates them for the sake of the soul.”
It is finished.
A Word to the Sensationalists
“The sixth irreligious group are the sensationalists: those for whom religion must always be dramatic, i.e. they judge it by their feelings rather than their minds and wills.
“If, for example, I announced that next Sunday I would broadcast standing on my head to symbolize that the world was topsy-turvy, and if in that ecstasy of modernity, I called the posture “iambic-dithyrambic,” I would have most of the newspaper photographers of New York in the studio. Headlines would appear: “Remarkable New Symbolism: Father Sheen Stands on His Head.” …But if I announced that next Good Friday night I would preach on the Cross, few would listen.
“The sensationalist were represented at the Cross by the Roman soldiers [mocking Him]… they expected religion to be dramatic – just as dramatic as unloosing fetters and turning a cross into a throne.
“Sensationalists miss divinity for just that reason: the true religion is always unspectacular. The foolish virgins go to buy oil for their lamps, and when they come back, they found the Bridegroom already returned. And the door closed. It was so undramatic.”
Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.
The Purpose of Life
“The root of all our trouble is that freedom for God and in God has been interpreted as the freedom from God. Freedom is ours to give away. Each of us reveals what we believe to be the purpose of life by the way we use that freedom. For those who would know the supreme purpose of freedom, turn to the life of Our Lord and Our Lady.”
The words of Archbishop Sheen are inspiring and life-changing, which is why God used him in such a wonderful and public way. Ultimately through his words, we are drawn closer to God. This anthology brings together some of the best written books by Father Sheen. In The Cries of Jesus from the Cross: An Anthology, Sheen walks us up to stand next to Mary and Saint John at the foot of the cross, and witness with them the fulfillment of Jesus’ work on earth. Through analogies, lighthearted humor, and sometimes painful honesty, Father Sheen gives us the tools to living the life God has always called us to live.