Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Fulton Sheen, fully Archbishop Fulton John Sheen

American Roman Catholic Archbishop, Canonization for Sainthood began in 2002

"Love of God thus becomes the dominant passion of life; like every other worth-while love, it demands and inspires sacrifice. But love of God and man, as an ideal, has lately been replaced by the new ideal of tolerance which inspires no sacrifice. Why should any human being in the world be merely tolerated? What man has ever made a sacrifice in the name of tolerance? It leads men, instead, to express their own egotism in a book or a lecture that patronizes the downtrodden group. One of the cruelest things that can happen to a human being is to be tolerated. Never once did Our Lord say, “Tolerate your enemies!” But He did say, “Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you.” Such love can be achieved only if we deliberately curb our fallen nature’s animosities."

"Love of self without love of God is selfishness; love of neighbor without love of God embraces only those who are pleasing to us, not those who are hateful."

"Man is incurably curious."

"Man wants three things; life, knowledge, and love."

"Many married women who have deliberately spurned the "hour" of childbearing are unhappy and frustrated. They never discovered the joys of marriage because they refused to surrender to the obligation of their state. In saving themselves, they lost themselves!"

"Meditation allows one to suspend the conscious fight against external diversions by an internal realization of the presence of God. It shuts out the world to let in the Spirit. It surrenders our own will to the impetus of the divine will."

"Meditation is a little like a daydream or a reverie, but with two important differences: In meditation we do not think about the world or ourselves, but about God; and instead of using the imagination to build idle castles in Spain, we use the will to make resolutions that will draw us nearer to one of the Father's mansions. Meditation is a more advanced spiritual act than saying prayers; it may be likened to the attitude of a child who breaks into the presence of a mother saying: I'll not say a word, if you will just let me stay here and watch you."

"Meditation is not a petition, a way of using God, or asking things from God, but rather a surrender, a plea to God that He use us."

"Modern prophets say that our economics have failed us. No! It is not our economics which have failed; it is man who has failed-man who has forgotten God. Hence no manner of economic or political readjustment can possibly save our civilization; we can be saved only by a renovation of the inner man, only by a purging of our hearts and souls; for only by seeking first the Kingdom of God and His Justice will all these other things be added unto us."

"Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right."

"Most of us love a non-self, or something extrinsic and apart from our inner life; but a mother's love during the time she is a flesh-and-blood ciborium is not for a non-self but for one that is her very self, a perfect example of charity and love which hardly perceives a separation. Motherhood then becomes a kind of priesthood. She brings God to man by preparing the flesh in which the soul will be implanted; she brings man to God in offering the child back again to the Creator."

"Most people who go to a psychiatrist think they're crazy. When they come out, they think the psychiatrist's crazy."

"Never forget that there are only two philosophies to rule your life: the one of the cross, which starts with the fast and ends with the feast. The other of Satan, which starts with the feast and ends with the headache."

"Never will we be able to understand our times if we naively ‘think’ of this system of self-Government as the work of a few gangsters or the creation of a pack of criminals we call a political party. The appeal of Socialism, Fascism and communism was principally negative; they were protests against a live and let live anything goes liberalism, a spineless indifference to causes, a failure to recognize that nothing was evil enough to hate, and nothing was good enough to die for."

"No man hates God without first hating himself."

"No soul ever fell away from God without giving up prayer. Prayer is that which establishes contact with Divine Power and opens the invisible resources of heaven. However dark the way, when we pray, temptation can never master us. The first step downward in the average soul is the giving up of the practice of prayer, the breaking of the circuit with divinity, and the proclamation of one’s owns self-sufficiency."

"Not only were the Jews expecting the birth of a Great King, a Wise Man and a Savior, but Plato and Socrates also spoke of the Logos and of the Universal Wise Man 'yet to come'. Confucius spoke of 'the Saint'; the Sibyls, of a 'Universal King'; the Greek dramatist, of a saviour and redeemer to unloose man from the 'primal eldest curse'. All these were on the Gentile side of the expectation. What separates Christ from all men is that first He was expected; even the Gentiles had a longing for a deliverer, or redeemer. This fact alone distinguishes Him from all other religious leaders."

"Nothing ever happens in the world that does not happen first inside human hearts."

"Nothing is more harmful to a man than his resistance to Grace."

"Obedience to Truth is obedience to Love."

"Often in prayer we do not have a deep sense of God’s presence….but we know He is there….Prayer is an interaction between the created spirit and the uncreated Spirit, which is God. It is a communion, a conversation, adoration, a penance, happiness, a work, a rest, and asking, a submission"

"Once a man ceases to be of service to his neighbor, he begins to be a burden to him."

"Once we accept him, we find we were truly deceived. It was only the skin of the heavenly fruit that seemed bitter. The meat ravishes the soul. . . At first glance, God seems to be taking away our happiness, but in the moment of surrender we discover he has deceived us. He has merely taken away the dross to give us the gold of his eternity."

"Once you have surrendered yourself, you make yourself receptive. In receiving from God, you are perfected and completed."

"One can be impolite to God, too, by absorbing all the conversation, and by changing the words of Scripture from Speak, Lord Thy servant hears to Listen, Lord, Thy servant speaks. God has things to tell us that will enlighten us-we must wait for Him to speak."

"One function of the angels is illumination, and the other function is that of being a guardian."

"One thing we must never do is to purchase a transitory freedom by sacrifice of God's truth! If the choice is to stultify persecution, let us in God's name choose the ennoblement of a persecution."

"Our Blessed Lord left the world without leaving any written message. His doctrine was Himself. Ideal and History were identified in Him. The truth that all other ethical teachers proclaimed, and the light that they gave to the world, was not IN them, but OUTSIDE them. Our Divine Lord, however, identified Divine Wisdom with Himself. It was the first time in history that it was ever done, and it has never been done since."

"Our brains today are big enough. Could it be that our hearts are too small?"

"Our error has been to separate the sacred and the secular, the natural and the supernatural... It does not take much time to make us saints -- it takes only much love!"

"Our Generation is witnessing, whether it knows it or not, the conflict of two radically false concepts of liberty: a liberty of indifference which gives the individual the right to ignore society, and the liberty of necessity which gives the state the right to ignore the individual by absorbing him into a race or class and thus destroying his freedom of choice. Liberty of indifference forgets society, liberty of necessity forgets man. Liberty of indifference wrecks society by defining freedom as individual license; liberty of necessity wrecks humanity by defining freedom as the necessity which gives the dictator the right to absorb the person."

"Our poor human heart is flawed: it is like a cake without the frosting: the first two acts of the theatre without the climax. Even its design is marred for a small piece is missing out of the side. That is why it remains so unsatisfied: it wants life and it gets death: it wants Truth and it has to settle for an education; it craves love and gets only intermittent euphoria’s with satieties. Samples, reflections and fractions are only tastes, not mouthfuls. A divine trick has been played on the human heart as if a violin teacher gave his pupil an instrument with one string missing. God kept a part of man's heart in Heaven, so that discontent would drive him back again to Him Who is Eternal Life, All-Knowing Truth and the Abiding Ecstasy of Love."

"Our thoughts make our desires, and our desires are the sculptors of our days. The dominant desire is the predominant destiny. Desires are formed in our thoughts and meditations; and since action follows the lead of desires, the soul, as it becomes flooded with divine promptings, becomes less and less a prey to the suggestions of the world."

"Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is 'timing' it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way."

"People in general attach too much importance to words. They are under the illusion that talking effects great results. As a matter of fact, words are, as a rule, the shallowest portion of all the argument. They but dimly represent the great surging feelings and desires which lie behind. When the distraction of the tongue is removed, the heart listens."

"Philosophy, like science, is only a collection of hypotheses, introduced for the usefulness of the ensemble, or for economy of thought."

"Physical experience is the translation of phenomena into symbolic language, and the law is the creation of the wind or a symbol."

"Plato held that perfect wisdom has four parts, namely, wisdom, the principle of doing things right: justice, the principle of doing things equitably in public and private: fortitude, the principle of not flying from danger but meeting it and overcoming it: temperance, the principle of subduing evil desires and living moderately."

"Prayer is a lifting of the heart and mind to God; notice we said nothing about the emotion… Prayer is in the intellect, in the will, and in the heart, as embracing a love of truth with a resolve and determination to grow in love through an act of the will."

"Remember that every science is based upon an abstraction. An abstraction is taking a point of view or looking at things under a certain aspect or from a particular angle. All sciences are differentiated by their abstraction."

"Science is not wisdom."

"Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded in service? Show me your heart. Have you left a place for divine love?"

"Sin is a disproportionate seriousness."

"Sin was the act by which man refused to see created things for what they were -- stepping stones to God, a means to an end -- and began instead to clutch at them as ends in themselves. That is what sin is, still. As a man loves his sense of humor when he cannot see the point of a pun, so he loses his humor in its entirety when he ceases to see the point of the universe, which is that all things are revelations, symbols, reminders of God who made them. To take things as ends in themselves is to overrate them, treating them with a solemnity which is not warranted."

"Since evil is nothing positive, there can be no principle of evil. It has no meaning expect in reference to something good."

"Since the basic cause of man’s anxiety is the possibility of being either a saint or a sinner, it follows that there are only two alternatives for him. Man can either mount upward to the peak of eternity or else slip backwards to the chasms of despair and frustration. Yet there are many who think there is yet another alternative, namely, that of indifference. They think that, just as bears hibernate for a season in a state of suspended animation, so they, too, can sleep through life without choosing to live for God or against Him. But hibernation is no escape; winter ends, and one is then forced to make a decision—indeed, the very choice of indifference is itself a decision. White fences do not remain white fences by having nothing done to them; they soon become black fences. Since there is a tendency in us that pulls us back to the animal, the mere fact that we do not resist it operates to our own destruction. Just as life is the sum of forces that resist death, so, too, man’s will must be the sum of the forces that resist frustration. A man who has taken poison into his system can ignore the antidote, or he can throw it out the window; it makes no difference which he does, for death is already on the march. St. Paul warns us, How shall we escape it we neglect so great a salvation. By the mere fact that we do not go forward, we go backward. There are no plains in the spiritual life, we are either going uphill or coming down. Furthermore the pose of indifference is only intellectual. The will must choose. And even though an indifferent soul does not positively reject the infinite, the infinite rejects it. The talents that are unused are taken away."

"Skepticism is never certain of itself, being less a firm intellectual position than a pose to justify bad behavior."

"Skeptics always want miracles such as stepping down from the Cross, but never the greater miracle of forgiveness."

"So much do the will and its sin become wedded together that a soul will say, "Let me alone. I made my bed and I will lie in it.""

"Some change their philosophy of life with every book they read: one book sells them on Freud, the next on Marx; materialists one year, idealists the next; cynics for another period, and Eberals for still another. They have their quivers full of arrows but no fixed target. As no game makes the hunter tired of the sport, so the want of destiny makes the mind bored with life."