Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday ramblings #5

For some reason, I woke up today thinking of Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. He wasn’t in my dreams that I know of, just there in my head as I sat on the side of the bed, trying to get my bearings. He was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Rochester, New York, and is buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. For many years he had a television program on Tuesday nights, eventually drawing an audience of thirty million people. He even won an Emmy, and reruns of some of his programs still find their way onto EWTN and TBN. Since there is a Wikipedia article on just about everything, it turns out there is one about him, too. I’m much too lazy today to post a photo of him, so if you want to see one, you can check out the article here. It is really quite interesting.

Bishop Sheen said many memorable things in his lifetime. For instance, when a heckler asked him a question about someone who had died, Bishop Sheen said, “I will ask him when I get to heaven.” The heckler replied, “What if he isn't in Heaven?” and the Bishop said, “Well, then you ask him.”

Along the same line, another man told Bishop Sheen he did not believe in hell. The Bishop replied, “You will when you get there.”

But the one I like best was included in a newsreel clip in an old CBS-TV hour-long documentary called The Strange Case of the English Language. In the clip, Bishop Sheen had been asked to give the opening prayer at the New York State Assembly in Albany, and when he stepped up to the podium microphone he said, “Friends, I’m not going to pray for you today. There are three things every man must do for himself: Blow his own nose, make his own love, and say his own prayers.” Then, indicating he would pray with them instead, he launched into his prayer with the words, “Let us pray.” Think about that the next time you happen to be sitting in church and the person up front says, “Let us pray.” You’ll have a hard time just sitting there passively listening to what the other person is saying, I’ll wager.

The Strange Case of the English Language also demonstrated how questions about gender can sometimes trip a person up by showing President Lyndon Baines Johnson affirming that “Uncle Sam will keep her word.” And there was a funny segment where Harry Reasoner, the host, discussed how the placement of adjectives can change the meaning of a sentence. He pondered at length where the word “only” might best be inserted into the sentence “I punched Walter Cronkite in the nose,” as follows:

1. Only I punched Walter Cronkite in the nose.
2. I only punched Walter Cronkite in the nose.
3. I punched only Walter Cronkite in the nose.
4. I punched Walter Cronkite only in the nose.
5. I punched Walter Cronkite in the nose only.

The older I get the more amazed I am at the odd things that have managed to worm their way into my long-term memory storage banks. For example, here’s a little ditty, a jingle, that is either humorous or sacrilegious depending on which side of the bed you woke up on; it is sung to the tune of an old Pepsi-Cola commercial:

Christianity hits the spot,
Twelve apostles, that’s a lot;
The Holy Ghost and the Virgin too!
Christianity’s the thing for you.

What gives me pause is something a little more sobering that Bishop Sheen once said. I discovered it in my little computer search this morning: “Everything we do, whether good or evil, goes down into our unconscious mind... So at the end of every human life there will be pulled out of our subconscious or unconscious mind the record of every thought, word and deed. This will be the basis of our judgment.”

Now there’s a truly scary thought. He didn’t even need to add, “Let us pray.”


  1. Oh my. That is a scary thought. But I imagine that we will see all those things as God sees them, with a lot more understanding and compassion than we do now.

    I love the "I punched Walter Cronkite in the nose" example. What's sobering is to realize that people under the age of 40 probably have no idea who Cronkite or Reasoner are.

  2. Enjoyed your Tuesday ramblings, Bob. I well remember the good Bishop Sheen. Even our Baptist family used to watch him on TV occasionally.

    The "let us pray" story is definitely one to keep in mind.

  3. Biship Sheen was definitely right on that one. Those who say, "I'll pray for you," often mean, your wrong, and I'll pray you come to see that! But I agree with Ruth, I expect God will be a good deal more compassionate with us than we often are with each other.

  4. Ruth, one of my favorite vices is watching Project Runway on BravoTV. In a recent episode Tim Gunn (the gray-haired guy) told a young designer that his outfit had "a bit too much Sgt. Pepper" about it and the blond surfer dude kid who is 19 or 20 said, "I don't know who that is." Things like that make a body feel really old.

    Pat, we were Methodist, but we watched him too. It's strange that he has stuck in my mind all these years.

    feather, I wish all of us could be half as compassionate with each other as God is with us.