Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Fulton Sheen, fully Archbishop Fulton John Sheen

American Roman Catholic Archbishop, Canonization for Sainthood began in 2002

"Grace does not work like a penny in a slot machine. Grace will move you only when you want it to move you, and only when you let it move you. The supernatural order supposes the freedom of the natural order, but it does not destroy it."

"He often chooses instruments in order that his power might be manifested otherwise it would seem that the good was done by the clay rather than by the spirit."

"Head knowledge is worthless, unless accompanied by submission of the will and right action."

"Hearing is the motion of molecules; sound is a wave in the atmosphere; solidity is the characteristic of spatial juxtaposition of atoms; smell is something given off by a body, rather than something belonging to a body."

"Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn."

"Here is a psychological suggestion for acquiring peace of soul. Never brag, never talk about yourself, never rush to first seats at table or in a theater, never use people for your own advantage, never lord it over others as if you were better than they."

"His words even imply that philanthropy has deeper depths than is generally realized. The great emotions of compassion and mercy are traced to Him; there is more to human deeds than the doers are aware. He identified every act of kindness as an expression of sympathy with Himself. All kindnesses are either done explicitly or implicitly in His name, or they are refused explicitly or implicitly in His name."

"Holiness must have a philosophical and theological foundation, namely, Divine truth; otherwise it is sentimentality and emotionalism. Many would say later on, 'We want religion, but no creeds.' This is like saying we want healing, but no science of medicine; music, but no rules of music; history, but no documents. Religion is indeed a life, but it grows out of truth, not away from it. It has been said it makes no difference what you believe, it all depends on how you act. This is psychological nonsense, for a man acts out of his beliefs. Our Lord placed truth or belief in Him first; then came sanctification and good deeds. But here truth was not a vague ideal, but a Person. Truth was now lovable, because only a Person is lovable. Sanctity becomes the response the heart makes to Divine truth and its unlimited mercy to humanity."

"Humanity cannot lift itself by its own bootstraps; there is no such thing as spontaneous generation; life does not come from crystals; poetry does not come from donkeys; international peace does not come from wars; social justice does not come from selfishness. With all our knowledge of chemistry we cannot make a human life in our laboratories because we lack the unifying, vivifying principal of a soul which comes only from God. Life is not a push from below; it is a gift from above. It is not the result of the necessary ascent of man but the loving descent of God."

"Humanity once lived in the age of the Theological Man; then came the age of the Economic Man: now we are in the age of the Political Man. The Theological Man lived for God; The Economic Man lived for profit: the Political Man lives for the State."

"I study philosophy after my dinner, but the dinner is not the cause of my studying philosophy."

"I want men who will believe in Me, even when I do not protect them; I will not open the prison doors where My brethren are locked; I will not stay the murderous Red sickle or the imperial lions of Rome, I will not halt the Red hammer that batters down My tabernacle doors; I want My missionaries and martyrs to love Me in prison and death as I loved them in My own suffering. I never worked any miracles to save Myself! I will work few miracles even for My saints. Begone, Satan! Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God."

"If the bringing of children into the world is today an economic burden, it is because the social system is inadequate; and not because God’s law is wrong. Therefore the State should remove the causes of that burden. The human must not be limited and controlled to fit the economic, but the economic must be expanded to fit the human."

"If we had intellectual vigor enough to ascend from effects to causes, we would explain political, economical and social phenomena less by credit sheets, balance of trade and reparations than by our attitude towards God."

"If we use our lives for other purposes than those given by God, not only do we miss happiness, but we actually hurt ourselves and beget in us queer little kinks."

"If we wish to have the light, we must keep the sun; if we wish to keep our forests we must keep our trees; if we wish to keep our perfumes, we must keep our flowers- and if we wish to keep our rights, then we must keep our God."

"If you don't behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave."

"If you know where you are, you do not know how fast you are moving, and if you know how fast you are moving, you do not know where you are."

"If, in his pride, he considers God as a challenge, he will deny Him; and if God becomes man and therefore makes Himself vulnerable, he will crucify Him."

"Illness especially, may be a blessed forerunner of the individual’s conversion. Not only does it prevent him from realizing his desires; it even reduces his capacity for sin, his opportunities for vice. In that enforced detachment from evil, which is a Mercy of God, he has time to search himself, to appraise his life, to interpret it in terms of larger reality. He considers God, and, at that moment, there is a sense of duality, a confronting of personality with Divinity, a comparison of the facts of his life with the ideal from which he fell. The soul is forced to look inside itself, to inquire whether there is more peace in this suffering than in sinning. Once a sick man, in his passivity, begins to ask, ‘What is the purpose of my life? Why am I here?’ the crisis has already begun. Conversion becomes possible the very moment a man ceases to blame God or life and begins to blame himself; by doing so, he becomes able to distinguish between his sinful barnacles and the ship of his soul. A crack has appeared in the armor of his egotism; now the sunlight of God’s grace can pour in. But until that happens, catastrophes can teach us nothing but despair."

"I'm going to plead with you therefore, not to be bored in Life. The reason we are bored is because we don't LOVE anything."

"In a like manner, as soon as we know the meaning of being and the meaning of nonbeing, we know that a thing cannot be and not be at one and the same time, and under the same formal consideration."

"In all human love it must be realized that every man promises a woman, and every woman promises a man that which only God alone can give, namely, perfect happiness. One of the reasons why so many marriages are shipwrecked is because as the young couples leave the altar, they fail to realize that human feelings tire and the enthusiasm of the honeymoon is not the same as the more solid happiness of enduring human love. One of the greatest trials of marriage is the absence of solitude. In the first moments of human love, one does not see the little hidden deformities which later on appear."

"In answer to modern requests for signs and wonders, Our Lord might say, 'You repeat Satan's temptation, whenever you admire the wonders of science, and forget that I am the Author of the Universe and its science. Your scientists are the proofreaders, but not the authors of the Book of Nature; they can see and examine My handiwork, but they cannot create one atom themselves. You would tempt Me to prove Myself omnipotent by meaningless tests...You tempt Me after you have willfully destroyed your own cities with bombs by shrieking out, Why does God not stop this war? You tempt Me, saying that I have no power, unless I show it at your beck and call. This, if you remember, is exactly how Satan tempted Me in the desert."

"In every friendship hearts grow and entwine themselves together, so that the two hearts seem to make only one heart with only a common thought. That is why separation is so painful; it is not so much two hearts separating, but one being torn asunder."

"In the eleven months preceding the outbreak of World War II, 211 treaties of peace were signed. Were these treaties of peace written on paper, or were they written on the hearts of men? And we must ask ourselves as we hear of treaties being written today, whether the treaties of the UN are written with the full cognizance of the fact that those who sign them are responsible before God?"

"It is easier to write a book with footnotes than the same book written so that children can understand it."

"It is easy to find truth; it is hard to face it, and harder still to follow it."

"It is never true to say that we have no time to meditate; the less one thinks of God, the less time there will always be for God. The time we have for anything depends of how much we value it. Thinking determines the uses of time; time does not rule over thinking. The problem of spirituality is never, then, a question of time; it is a problem of thought. For it does not require much time to make us saints; it requires only much love."

"It is not easy to explain why God permits evil; but it is impossible for an atheist to explain the existence of goodness. How could a spiritless, soul-less, cross-less, Godless universe become the center of faith, purity, sacrifice, and martyrdom? How can decency be the decent thing if there is no God? Since God is love, why should we be surprised that want of it should end in pain, hate, broken hearts, and war?"

"It is the forgetfulness of these principles which was made for the anarchy in thinking in so much of the anemic philosophy of our day."

"It is trying to preserve respect for the dignity of man, human freedom and the inviolability of human rights and life itself, after having surrendered a belief in God - Who gives man dignity and life because he is made to His Image and Likeness; after having surrendered the spirit which is the foundation of freedom, and after having denied the Creator - Who is the Author of our Inalienable rights,.. to life.... In vain, something is coming to an end."

"It silences the ego with its clamorous demands, in order that it may hear the wishes of the divine heart. It uses our faculties, not to speculate on matters remote from God, but to stir up our will to conform more perfectly with his will. It cultivates a truly scientific attitude toward God as truth, freeing us from our prepossessions and our biases so that we may eliminate all wishful thinking from our minds. It eliminates from our lives the things that would hinder union with God and strengthens our desire that all the good things we do shall be done for His honor and glory."

"It takes three to make love, not two: you, your spouse, and God. Without God people only succeed in bringing out the worst in one another. Lovers who have nothing else to do but love each other soon find there is nothing else. Without a central loyalty life is unfinished."

"It was not enough that the Son of God should come down from the heavens and appear as the Son of Man, for then He would have been only a great teacher and a great example, but not a Redeemer. It was more important for Him to fulfill the purpose of the coming, to redeem man from sin while in the likeness of human flesh. Teachers change men by their lives; Our Blessed Lord would change men by His death. The poison of hate, sensuality, and envy which is in the hearts of men could not be healed simply by wise exhortations and social reforms. The wages of sin is death, and therefore it was to be by death that sin would be atoned for."

"It was through a loss of belief in the moral law that politics became so important. In the day when Christianity was the soul of civilization, when all men recognized they had a common end, both eternal and temporal, politics and economics held a secondary place (to the moral)."

"It was to a virgin woman that the birth of the Son of God was announced. It was to a fallen woman that His Resurrection was announced."

"It's like being a Knight of the Garter. It's an honor, but it doesn't hold up anything."

"Joy is not the same as pleasure or happiness. A wicked and evil man may have pleasure, while any ordinary mortal is capable of being happy. Pleasure generally comes from things, and always through the senses; happiness comes from humans through fellowship. Joy comes from loving God and neighbor. Pleasure is quick and violent, like a flash of lightning. Joy is steady and abiding, like a fixed star. Pleasure depends on external circumstances, such as money, food, travel, etc. Joy is independent of them, for it comes from a good conscience and love of God."

"Judas became the spokesman of all those who through the centuries would protest the ornamentation of the Christian cult and would feel that, when the best of gold and jewels were given to the God Who made them, there was some slight made to the poor - not because they were interested in the poor, but because they were envious of that wealth."

"Just as is the subject of property, so, too, in the subject of liberty, the Christian position steers a middle course between extremes. Freedom for Christianity means neither the right to do what you please, nor the right to what you must, but rather the right to do whatever you ought. Ought implies order, law and justice. Liberty by definition is an attribute which belongs only to a person. It cannot be attributed to a collectivity or totality whether be a nation, a state, a race or a class. The basic fallacy of communism on this point is the transfer of freedom from the person to the collectivity."

"Just as sex is a God-given instinct for the prolongation of the human race, so the desire for property as a prolongation of one's ego is a natural right sanctioned by natural law. A person is free on the inside because he can call his soul his own; he is free on the outside because he can call property his own. Internal freedom is based upon the fact that I am; external freedom is based on the fact that I have. But just as the excesses of flesh produce lust, for lust is sex in the wrong place, so there can be a deordination of the desire for property until it becomes greed, avarice, and capitalistic aggression."

"Knowing belongs to man's intellect or reason; loving belongs to his will. The object of the intellect is truth; the object of the will is goodness or love."

"Knowledge is acquired, wisdom is infused. Knowledge comes from the outside; it is learned and absorbed. Wisdom is infused, and comes to us an illumination... We need wisdom to make big decisions, and the right answer comes from God. Who has a destiny for us? God is longing to fulfill it in us for the benefit of ourselves and others."

"Leisure is a form of silence, not noiselessness. It is the silence of contemplation such as occurs when we let our minds rest on a rosebud, a child at play, a Divine mystery, or a waterfall."

"Like all great divorces, whether they be marital or epistemological, it had its antecedents in history."

"Love burdens itself with the wants and woes and losses and even the wrongs of others."

"Love is a vicarious principle. A mother suffers for and with her sick child, as a patriot suffers for his country. No wonder that the Son of Man visited this dark, sinful, wretched earth by becoming Man - Christ's unity with the sinful was due to His love! Love burdens itself with the wants and woes and losses and even the wrongs of others."

"Love is the key to the mystery. Love by its very nature is not selfish, but generous. It seeks not its own, but the good of others. The measure of love is not the pleasure it gives-that is the way the world judges it-but the joy and peace it can purchase for others."

"Love of enemies is actually the touchstone to prove whether our love is truly divine."