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Archbishop Sheen and the Dearth of U.S. Saints


Rachel Lu - published on 09/05/14

th century or in China in the 20th. Probably the bleakest period in our history was our one very ugly civil war, but apart from that, our experience of warfare mostly hasn’t been of the generation-decimating sort.

September 11 lingers in my mind as one of the defining days of my youth, and it is certainly a sobering memory. Still, that was a day on which we saw the destruction of 3,000 lives and a few very significant buildings. Many other humans, historically and today, have seen entire cities or whole countries ravaged by war and tens of thousands killed.

Even adding all these points together, I still feel a little underprivileged as an American Catholic. Building a Catholic culture in a Protestant country is challenging, as is our present effort to come to grips with the forces of secularism and modernism. While those challenges aren’t totally unique to us, I do feel that our country’s prosperity, international prominence, and enormous diversity has forced us to confront them in a particularly pressing ways. And while our success has been mixed, I do feel some pride in the results of those efforts.

Over the course of the last century, American Catholics have forged a robust Catholic counter-culture that has stood up to the forces of secularism on multiple fronts. Friends in Europe and Canada have at times confessed to being a bit envious when they see the level of vitality that American Catholicism still has in the midst of a brutal culture war. Surely these struggles have produced a few figures worthy of canonization? Adding a few American saints would be a wonderful way of affirming that indeed, America does have its own robust Catholic culture.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen seems like an excellent candidate, and I would rejoice at his canonization. His optimism about the future of American Catholicism may look a bit naïve from where we currently stand, but he remains one of our country’s great evangelists. He was a stirring preacher, an insightful writer, and by most accounts an upstanding and virtuous human being.

Perhaps most significantly, he is a thoroughly American figure who embraced his Catholic faith and mission, wholeheartedly and with evident joy. In a time of great uncertainty, and with the possibility of harder days to come, his canonization would be a ray of hope. He is the perfect person to remind us that Protestant origins notwithstanding, we too must strive to build a Catholic society.

Pray for the canonization of Archbishop Sheen! Pray also that with his help, American Catholics might rise to meet the challenges that now lie before us.

Rachel Luteaches philosophy at the University of St. Thomas and writes for Crisis Magazine and The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @rclu.

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