Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Fulton Sheen, fully Archbishop Fulton John Sheen

American Roman Catholic Archbishop, Canonization for Sainthood began in 2002

"America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance — it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded."

"Any book which inspires us to lead a better life is a good book."

"Any event or group of events may be viewed from different degrees of abstraction. A man jumps from a bridge. The psychologists make abstraction from everything except the mental state which prompted the suicide; the biologists abstract from everything except the dying organism; while the physicists are interested in the man, not as mind, or as organism, but as a falling body."

"As Adam lost the heritage of union with God in a garden, so now Our Blessed Lord ushered in its restoration in a garden. Eden and Gethsemane were the two gardens around which revolved the fate of humanity. In Eden, Adam sinned; in Gethsemane, Christ took humanity's sin upon Himself. In Eden, Adam hid himself from God; in Gethsemane, Christ interceded with His Father; in Eden, God sought out Adam in his sin of rebellion; in Gethsemane, the New Adam sought out the Father and His submission and resignation. In Eden, a sword was drawn to prevent entrance into the garden and thus immortalizing of evil; in Gethsemane, the sword would be sheathed."

"As all men are touched by God’s love, so all are also touched by the desire for His intimacy. No one escapes this longing; we are all kings in exile, miserable without the Infinite. Those who reject the grace of God have a desire to avoid God, as those who accept it have a desire for God. The modern atheist does not disbelieve because of his intellect, but because of his will; it is not knowledge that makes him an atheist…The denial of God springs from a man’s desire not to have a God—from his wish that there were no Justice behind the universe, so that his injustices would fear not retribution; from his desire that there be no Law, so that he may not be judged by it; from his wish that there were no Absolute Goodness, that he might go on sinning with impunity. That is why the modern atheist is always angered when he hears anything said about God and religion—he would be incapable of such a resentment if God were only a myth. His feeling toward God is the same as that which a wicked man has for one whom he has wronged: he wishes he were dead so that he could do nothing to avenge the wrong. The betrayer of friendship knows his friend exists, but he wished he did not; the post-Christian atheist knows God exists, but he desires He should not."

"As our Lord said, “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.” Hence the least love of God is worth more than the knowledge of all created things."

"As scientific truths put us in an intelligent relation with the cosmos, as historic truth puts us in temporal relation with the rise and fall of civilization…"

"All love on this earth involves choice. When, for example, a young man expresses his love to a young woman and asks her to become his wife, he is not just making an affirmation of love; he is also negating his love for anyone else. In that one act by which he chooses her, he rejects all that is not her. There is no other real way in which to prove we love a thing than by choosing it in preference to something else. Word and signs of love may be, and often are, expressions of egotism or passion; but deeds are proofs of love. We can prove we love our Lord only by choosing Him in preference to anything else."

"America needs religious conviction and a stanch adherence to sound principles if they are to meet the threat of communism on a long-term basis. Communism is a faith and it can be combated only by those who have a strong faith in Christianity."

"Associated with this inner conflict is a tendency to become hypercritical: unhappy souls almost always blame everyone but themselves for their miseries. Shut up within themselves, they are necessarily shut off from all others except to criticize them. Since the essence of sin is opposition to God’s will, it follows that the sin of one individual is bound to oppose any other individual whose will is in harmony with God’s will. This resulting estrangement from one’s fellow man is intensified when one begins to live solely for this world, then the possessions of the neighbor are regarded as something unjustly taken from oneself. Once the material becomes the goal of life, a society of conflicts is born."

"Baloney is flattery laid on so thick it cannot be true, and blarney is flattery so thin we love it."

"Baloney is the unvarnished lie laid on so thick you hate it. Blarney is flattery laid on so thin you love it."

"Because God is full of life, I imagine each morning Almighty God says to the sun, Do it again; and every evening to the moon and the stars, Do it again; and every springtime to the daisies, Do it again; and every time a child is born into the world asking for curtain call, that the heart of the God might once more ring out in the heart of the babe."

"Being is the soul of every concept, of every judgment and of every reasoning."

"Books are the most wonderful friends in the world. When you meet them and pick them up, they are always ready to give you a few ideas. When you put them down, they never get mad; when you take them up again, they seem to enrich you all the more."

"Broadmindedness, when it means indifference to right and wrong, eventually ends in a hatred of what is right."

"Buddha wrote a code which he said would be useful to guide men in darkness, but he never claimed to be the Light of the world. Buddhism was born with a disgust for the world, when a prince's son deserted his wife and child, turning from the pleasures of existence to the problems of existence. Burnt by the fires of the world, and already weary with it, Buddha turned to ethics."

"But the reforms of communism are wrong, because they are inspired by the very errors they combat. Communism begins with the liberal and capitalistic error that man is economic, and, instead of correcting it, merely intensifies it until man becomes a robot in a vast economic machine. There is a closer relation between communism and monopolistic capitalism than most minds suspect. They are agreed on the materialistic basis of civilization; they disagree only on who shall control that basis, capitalists or bureaucrats. . . Capitalistic economy is godless; communism makes economics God. It is Divinity itself. Capitalism denies that economics is subject to a higher moral order. Communism says that economics is morality. The Communist solution of the problem is like the cynical way Oscar Wilde suggested a woman can reform a man: The only way a woman can reform a man is by boring him so completely that he loses all possible interest in life."

"But there was no room at the inn; the inn is the gathering place of public opinion; so often public opinion locks its doors to the King."

"Charity is to be measured, not by what one has given away, but by what one has left."

"Communism and fascism both fail in their quest for equality because they emphasize only economic factors."

"Communism is an aggressive religion of the species."

"Communism is the final logic of the dehumanization of man."

"Counsel involving right and wrong should never be sought from a man who does not say his prayers."

"Criticism of others is thus an oblique form of self-commendation. We think we make the picture hang straight on our wall by telling our neighbors that all his pictures are crooked."

"Curiously enough, it is a fear of how grace will change and improve them that keeps many souls away from God. They want God to take them as they are and let them stay that way. They want Him to take away their love of riches, but not their riches—to purge them of the disgust of sin, but not of the pleasure of sin. Some of them equate goodness with indifference to evil and think that God is good if He is broad-minded or tolerant about evil. Like the onlookers at the Cross, they want God on their terms, not His, and they shout, Come down, and we will believe. But the things they ask are the marks of a false religion: it promises salvation without a cross, abandonment without sacrifice, Christ without his nails. God is a consuming fire; our desire for God must include a willingness to have the chaff burned from our intellect and the weeds of our sinful will purged. The very fear souls have of surrendering themselves to the Lord with a cross is an evidence of their instinctive belief in His Holiness. Because God is fire, we cannot escape Him, whether we draw near for conversion or flee from aversion: in either case, He affects us. If we accept His love, its fires will illumine and warm us; if we reject Him, they will still burn on in us in frustration and remorse."

"Deep sorrow does not come because one has violated a law, but only if one knows he has broken off the relationship with Divine Love. But there is yet another element required for regeneration, the element of repentance and reparation. Repentance is a rather dry-eyed affair; tears flow in sorrow, but sweat pours out in repentance. It is not enough to tell God we are sorry and then forget all about it. If we broke a neighbor's window, we would not only apologize but also would go to the trouble of putting in a new pane. Since all sin disturbs the equilibrium and balance of justice and love, there must be a restoration involving toil and effort. To see why this must be, suppose that every time a person did wrong he was told to drive a nail into the wall of his living room and every time that he was forgiven he was told to pull it out. The holes would still remain after the forgiveness. Thus every sin after being forgiven leaves holes or wounds in our human nature, and the filling up of these holes is done by penance, a thief who steals a watch can be forgiven for the theft, but only if he returns the watch."

"Discussion is also a most excellent means to avoid decision."

"Divinely wise souls often infuriate the worldly-wise because they always see things from the Divine point of view. The worldly are willing to let anyone believe in God if he pleases, but only on condition that a belief in God will mean no more than belief in anything else. They will allow God, provided that God does not matter. But taking God seriously is precisely what makes the saint. As St. Teresa put it, “What is not God to me is nothing.” This passion is called snobbish, intolerant, stupid, and unwarranted intrusion; yet those who resent it deeply wish in their own hearts that they had the saint’s inner peace and happiness."

"Divinity is always where you least expect to find it."

"Do mathematics have a relation to reality or are they only a mathematical symbol?"

"Do we not say that a person has a sense of humor if he can see through things and do we not say that a person lacks a sense of humor if he cannot see through things? But God made the world according to such a plan that we were constantly to be seeing through things to Him, the power, the wisdom, the beauty, and the source of all that is. In other words, the material was to be a revelation of the spiritual, the human the revelation of the divine, the fleeting and the passing, the revelation of the Eternal."

"Each of us makes his own weather, determines the color of the skies in the emotional universe which he inhabits."

"Eternity is without succession, a simultaneous possession of all joys. To those who live toward Eternity, it really is not something at the end; it is that which influences every moment of the now."

"Even in the realm of pure mathematics, the mathematician may use any set of symbols he desires within any given region of space-time; he may even go so far as to maintain that any one set of symbols fits the scheme as well as any other, but to erect this method into a philosophy and confuse independence of any one special meaning with independence of all meaning is unjustified and unwarranted."

"Every person carries in his heart the blueprint of the one he loves."

"Examination of conscience, instead of inducing morbidity, thereby becomes an occasion of joy. There are two ways of knowing how good and loving God is. One is by never losing Him, through the preservation of innocence, and the other is by finding Him after one has lost Him. Repentance is not self-regarding, but God-regarding. It is not self-loathing, but God-loving."

"Expectations destroy our peace of mind. They are future disappointments, planned out in advance."

"Facts in our day are not the same as the facts in the time of Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas. But the principles by which these facts are interpreted have not changed, for common sense remains essentially the same throughout the ages."

"Facts themselves do not give knowledge"

"Far better it is for you to say: I am a sinner, than to say: I have no need of religion. The empty can be filled, but the self-intoxicated have no room for God."

"For if we understood or said that color is not in a colored body, or that it is separated from it, there would be error in this opinion or assertion. But if we consider color and its properties, without reference to the apple which is colored; or if we express in words what we thus understand, there is no error in such an opinion or assertion, because an apple is not essential to color, and therefore, color can be understood independently of the apple."

"For the Angelic Doctor, the reason of conceptual knowledge is just the contrary! It is not his distance from the animal that renders abstraction necessary; it is his distance from God. Abstraction is not a condition of a push from below; it is a result of a fall from above. Abstraction is necessary because our intellect is imperfect. This is the fundamental reason."

"Gaston Milhaud, like many of his contemporaries, sought to overthrow empirical positivism by insisting on the fundamental reality of the mind, but mind conceived in the Kantian sense. The knowledge of nature is symbolic, and there is no necessary connection between the phenomena and our fictions."

"Go back to that night when Divine Light, in order to illumine the darkness of men, tabernacled Himself in the world He had made… The angels and a star caught up in the reflection of that Light, as a torch lighted by a torch, and passed it on to the watchers of sheep and the searchers of skies. And lo! As the shepherds watched their flocks about the hills of Bethlehem, they were shaken by the light of the angels. And lo! As wise men from beyond the land of Media and Persia searched the heavens, the brilliance of a star, like a tabernacle lamp in the sanctuary of God’s creation, beckoned them on to the stable where the star seemed to lose its light in the unearthly brilliance of the Light of the Word."

"God -- He often chooses weak instruments in order than His power might be manifested. Otherwise it would seem that the good was done by the clay, rather than by the Spirit."

"God does not love us because we are valuable. We are valuable because God loves us."

"God has given different gifts to different people. There is no basis for feeling inferior to another who has a different gift. Once it is realized that we shall be judged by the gift we have received, rather than the gift we have not, one is completely delivered from a false sense of inferiority."

"God sets many angels in our paths, but often we know them not; in fact, we may go through life never knowing that they were agents or messengers of God to lead us on to virtue, or to deter us from vice. But they symbolize that constant and benign intervention of God in human history, which stops us on the path to destruction or leads us to success or happiness and virtue."

"God’s side is determined not by geography, but by those who do His will. If Germans, English, Japanese, and Americans prayed right, they would all be praying for the same intention: Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. And what is that Will? The reign of Justice and Charity in the hearts of men. Through a prayerful contemplation of war we will see not soldiers of different nations in combat, but one great family, quarreling, fighting, wounding, and all in need of the peace and charity of Christ which we hope to obtain by our supplications."