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My Grandmother’s Favorite Priest

Bishop Fulton J. SheenThere was a famous priest my Grandmother Effie Williams loved to talk about.  She was personally familiar with him because he was assigned to her parish for a short period of time after he was ordained.  Whenever she talked about him, her face would light up.  The one thing she talked about most was his eyes.  She said that when he looked at you it was as if his eyes could see right through you … straight into your soul.

The priest was Fr. Fulton J. Sheen (later known as Bishop Fulton J. Sheen).  Grandma Effie told me that when Bishop Sheen spoke, everyone listened, even the people who were not Catholics.  It was almost as if there was some magnetic force that surrounded him that attracted people to him.

If there was such a force, it came directly from the extraordinary graces he received as a result of the Holy Hour of Adoration he made every day for over 60 years in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord (from the time he became a priest in 1919, until the time of his death in 1979).

It was a talk given by Bishop Sheen that I listened to on a cassette tape that ignited the flame that eventually turned into a burning desire within me to start a Perpetual Adoration program.  I don’t remember the year I first listened to the tape, but it was sometime during the 1980’s.  The tape was part of an album of tapes I purchased that were made from recordings of a retreat Archbishop Sheen had given to priests and bishops.

The title of the tape was, The Daily Holy Hour.  (I’ve posted the audio of the tape on the home page of Adoration.com and I would strongly encourage you to listen to it.  I cannot do justice to Bishop Sheen’s message by trying to describe it to you here in this space.  You have to hear it with your own ears.)

After I listened to the original tape, I read about an interview of Bishop Sheen where he was asked what person had inspired him the most.  In an article that was later written by Fr. Martin Lucia entitled, Let The Son Shine Out, Fr. Lucia explained how Bishop Sheen responded to the question:

A couple of months before his death Bishop Fulton J. Sheen was interviewed on national television.  One of the questions was this:

“Bishop Sheen, you have inspired millions of people all over the world.  Who inspired you?  Was it a Pope?”

Bishop Sheen responded that it was not a Pope, a cardinal, another bishop, or even a priest or a nun.  It was a little Chinese girl of eleven years of age.  He explained that when the Communists took over China, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the Church. 

After they locked him up in his own house, the priest was horrified to look out of his window and see the Communists proceed into the Church, where they went into the sanctuary and broke into the tabernacle.  In an act of hateful desecration, they took the ciborium and threw it on the floor with all of the Sacred Hosts spilling out.  The priest knew exactly how many Hosts were in the ciborium: thirty-two.

When the Communists left, they either did not notice, or didn’t pay any attention to a small girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything that had happened.  That night the little girl came back.  Slipping past the guard at the priest’s house, she went inside the Church.  There she made a holy hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred.

After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, knelt down, bent over and with her tongue received Jesus in Holy Communion, (since it was not permissible for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands.)

The little girl continued to come back each night to make her holy hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue.  On the thirty-second night, after she had consumed the last and thirty-second host, she accidentally made a noise and woke the guard who was sleeping.  He ran after her, caught her, and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle.  This act of heroic martyrdom was witnessed by the priest as he watched grief-stricken from his bedroom window.

When Bishop Sheen heard the story he was so inspired that he promised God he would make a holy hour of prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament everyday of his life.  If this frail, little child could give testimony and witness to the world concerning the real and wonderful Presence of her Savior in the Blessed Sacrament, then the Bishop was absolutely bound by all that was right and true, to do the same.  His sole desire from then on was to bring the world to the burning Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

In 1991, Georgette and I organized a daily Adoration program to take place during the Lenten season in the Church at St. Philomena’s (Monday through Friday, starting after the 8:00 am Mass and ending with the 5:15 pm Mass).  After Lent was over, we were given permission to continue Adoration in the Church every Thursday.  For the next three years (1992, 1993, and 1994) we switched back to daily Adoration during the Lenten season, while continuing with Adoration on Thursdays during the other times of the year.

In 1994, after Msgr. Stephen Rohlfs was chosen to act as administrator for St. Philomena’s, I scheduled a meeting with him to ask if he would allow me and Georgette to establish a Perpetual Adoration program at St. Philomena’s.  I gave him a copy of the tape of Bishop Sheen’s talk and outlined a plan for launching the program.  We met again a week or two later and he gave me the go-ahead.

We launched the Perpetual Adoration program at St. Philomena’s on October 1, 1994, the feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux (also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus & The Little Flower).  Msgr. Rohlfs had a special devotion to St. Thérèse and wanted to honor her by starting the program on her feast day.

On October 1, 2009, we celebrated the 15th anniversary of our Perpetual Adoration program.  My best estimate is that there have been over 262,000 holy hours that have taken place in our chapel over the past 15 years.  Georgette and I sincerely appreciate all of the time and effort that has been so generously given by our priests and adorers in support of the Adoration program over the past 15 years.

If you’re not currently signed up for a weekly Holy Hour in our chapel, we could use your help.  We’re only just getting started.  Georgette and I figure we’re good for at least another 30 years.  (By then we’ll be in our 80’s.)  Can you give our Lord an hour of your time every week?  If your answer is yes, please give us a call. 

You have my word that if you offer up a Holy Hour to our Lord every week in the Adoration chapel you will, over time, see significant and positive changes in your life and in the lives of the people you live with.  I know this from personal experience.

For those of you who are already with us, thank you.  For those who have not yet made the commitment, please go to home page of Adoration.com and listen to what Bishop Sheen had to say about the critical importance of one-on-one time with our Lord.  Then call us to schedule your weekly appointment with the Son of God.  Your final destiny may very well depend on you making the decision to commit to spend an hour of your time with our Lord every week. 

Please come and join us.

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