A few years ago in December, the women in my family took a mini road trip to New York City for a “girls’ weekend,” which included the holiday shows, shopping, and some unexpected signs from my new holy friend. Of course, you can’t visit New York without stopping at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. So, we made a visit to the cathedral and a few of us stayed behind to take in the beauty, go to Mass, and spend time in prayer. At one point, I saw my mom and my Aunt Suzanne kneeling behind the main altar, so I knelt down next to them to unite our prayers as a family. As I knelt, I read the engraved plaque on my kneeler. It was in honor of “Servant of God Fulton J. Sheen” and included a prayer to advance his cause for canonization. I had been asking for Sheen’s intercession, but I had not known that he was on his way to becoming a saint!
My spiritual friendship with Sheen had culminated in this huge grace-filled realization that my new bishop friend was already on his way to becoming a saint. This was a strong confirmation that he was truly helping me—in my work, in my sacrifice of a successful secular career, in my waiting and preparing for a God-sent husband, in my sufferings and joys, and in my family life.
I became lost in the moment, keenly aware that while we sometimes choose the saints we like and are attracted to, at other times they choose us. The reality of the saints is that they are as alive as we are. This is particularly true in the case of Fulton Sheen, a bishop whose love for life was accompanied by a joy and humor that were contagious. I marveled that there are no coincidences with God. It was as if time stood still in that moment.
Suddenly, it occurred to me that Bishop Sheen was probably buried in the crypt below the main altar. Unabashedly, I summoned the security guard and asked if Sheen was “down there.” With a typical New York-style eye roll, he responded, “Yeah.” Determined, I pressed on and petitioned to be allowed down below. Reluctantly the guard said, “Hang on, let me get the sacristan.” As we waited on our respective kneelers for permission to enter the crypt, I was bursting inside, knowing we were just a few steps away from the saint-to-be.
The security guard finally returned with an older sacristan who had more keys hanging from his neck than a garage attendant. The sacristan told us that he could bring us down to the crypt after the next Mass. We told him we’d wait. After the Mass, he brought my mom, my aunt, and me beneath the main altar into the crypt, which housed many of New York’s successors to the Apostles—bishops, cardinals, and now Fulton J. Sheen. We knelt on the cement floor and pressed our bodies as close as we could to Sheen’s resting place. I asked Sheen to pray for five seemingly impossible situations. I offered him my heart and my intentions, and silently ended by saying, “and I will promote you if you help me.”
I didn’t really know what that last part of my prayer meant. It wasn’t something that I would ordinarily say. I was certainly not bargaining with God; the prayer just welled up inside me. Looking back, I believe I was recognizing a call from God to help others to know this holy TV bishop in heaven. That he responds to prayers. That the truth he lived is Jesus’ truth, and that with his help we can understand Jesus and the Church better and be led on the path of a life truly worth living. After what seemed like an eternity, we emerged from the crypt and I suddenly burst out laughing. It occurred to me that promoting Sheen was a win-win situation. He’s already famous!
Little did I know that I was about to get my first assignment from this “New York minute” bishop. . . .
As my family and I walked down Fifth Avenue away from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I turned on my phone and checked my email. At the top of my inbox was an email from a priest I had never met before, Father Stanley Deptula, the executive director of the Fulton J. Sheen Foundation in Peoria, Illinois. He was reaching out to ask if I would help him “promote Bishop Sheen in South Florida.” MIC DROP.
I immediately raised the phone high to the heavens and declared, “My prayers are being
Excerpted from “Ex Libris Fulton J. Sheen” by Alexis Walkenstein
Copyright (c) 2018, Alexis Walkenstein, Published by Pauline Books & Media, 50 Saint Pauls Avenue, Boston, MA 02130-3491. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
PRAYER TO OBTAIN A FAVOR THROUGH THE INTERCESSION OF THE SERVANT OF GOD ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN
Eternal Father, You alone grant us every blessing in Heaven and on earth, through the redemptive mission of Your Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and by the working of the Holy Spirit. If it be according to Your Will, glorify Your servant, ARCHBISHOP FULTON J. SHEEN, by granting the favor I now request through his prayerful intercession (mention your request). I make this prayer confidently through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.