Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was a man for all seasons. Over his lifetime, he spent himself for souls, transforming lives with the clear teaching of the truths of Christ and His Church through his books, radio addresses, lectures, television series, and his many newspaper columns.
As a much sought-after lecturer, his topics ranged from the social concerns of the day to matters of faith and morals. With an easy and personable manner, Sheen could strike up a conversation on just about any subject, making numerous friends as well as converts.
During his presentations, Archbishop Sheen would offer his trademark words of benediction, “God love you”. Sheen explained that his phrase “God love you” means God is love, God loves you, and you ought to love God in return.
Along with his familiar parting phrase of “God love you”, Archbishop Sheen was known for beginning his lectures with the greeting “Friends”. This salutation had a twofold meaning: he was referring to the scripture passage “I no longer call you servants… instead, I have called you friends.” (John 15:15). And, he wanted to make friends with men and women of all faiths, in the hope of gradually helping them to come to know the Lord Jesus Christ.
In today’s society, the word love is one of the most commonly misused and abused in our language. Devoid of order, misconceptions about love run rampant, steeped as we are in narcissism, secular humanism, relativism, and hedonism. Separated from God, society tragically propagates a notion of love that is, in truth, the antithesis of authentic love.
Now more than ever, we need Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s wisdom, wit, and logic to refute these errors. In our sightless, irrational, and deeply polarized world, his prescient words elucidate the most divisive issues of our time. Mindful that we are all children of God, Archbishop Sheen decries anti Semitism, racism, and sexism. He also explains what real tolerance means and why anti-hate campaigns don’t work.
The Greatest Commandment, published by Sophia Institute Press, is a timely reprint of Archbishop Sheen’s two seminal books Love One Another and God Love You. This anthology of his bestselling reflections also contains quotes and prayers that he compiled to foster ecumenism and societal unity. Drawing on Sacred Scripture, the writings of the saints, and philosophy, Archbishop Sheen explains:
The meaning of love in light of the Holy TrinityWhy God created us to love – and to be lovedHow Heaven is the ultimate fulfillment of our joy, desire, and loveThe three types of love and the nine ingredients of charityWhy love cannot exist without truthHow we give the greatest glory to God at Mass by uniting ourselves to Christ
Archbishop Sheen makes several practical suggestions on how to improve relations between people of varying faiths and backgrounds. Additionally, an array of reflections is presented for devotional inspiration, simultaneously laying out a groundwork on spiritual values proven to facilitate harmonious relationships.
There are some who have considered Sheen’s The Greatest Commandment as a ‘must-read’ for those sincerely interested in seeking the attainment of a genuine brotherhood of man in Christ. This collection offers some prayerful and practical solutions for many of today’s most challenging interpersonal problems. Archbishop Fulton Sheen made it clear that the command given by Jesus ‘to love your neighbor as yourself’ is clearly an effective answer to combating the sin of intolerance.
Throughout this anthology, Sheen offers a number of reflections from two dozen books written by him for the particular help and guidance they can bring to the reader. These brief, incisive selections from Archbishop Sheen reveal the mind of a brilliant man and a true pastor of souls.
A treasure to contemplate, The Greatest Commandment highlights guideposts wherein Sheen describes the role of the virtues, the passions, and the value of personal introspection. He expounds upon our deep-seated need to love God and implore His mercy by developing a personal relationship with Him through Sacred Scripture, the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Confession. God’s loving quest for our souls, in turn, impels us to love our neighbor. Love is a decision and requires sacrifice; it is the total gift of self or another. Our witness aids the disillusioned in finding their way to God. By cooperating with God’s love, we will bring about the restoration of the world.
Archbishop Sheen said during one of his radio addresses, “I have always addressed you as friends, and you know that unseen friends are sometimes the best friends. To say ‘my friends’, would be to claim a privilege. But friends are the expression of a hope, a hope that by listening to me, I may, with traitorous trueness and with loyal deceit, betray you into the hands of the God of Love and Mercy.”
May this anthology be a truly helpful guide when pondering Our Savior’s imperative: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, and that you also love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Editor’s note: You can preorder The Greatest Commandment: A Fulton Sheen Anthology on Love online at Sophia Institute Press and it will be available through bookstores on January 25th.
image: Fulton Sheen blessing friars before they go to Pakistan (Dominican House of Studies, Washington, D.C., August 31, 1956) via The Dominican Province of St. Joseph / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)