Book Review: Life Is Worth Living
By: Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Imagine before the days of cable or satellite television and well before online streaming and a station called EWTN, standing to walk across your living room on a Tuesday evening, turning your television dial (that’s right no remote controls either), and coming across the image of a Catholic Bishop talking to viewers about a wide range of topics. Difficult to believe, right? However, it really happened. A current online search shows that Bishop Sheen’s television series titled Life Is Worth Living began in 1951 and ran for 6 years, started out on 3 channels, but increased to 15 channels, and even saw Bishop Sheen win an Emmy in 1952 for most outstanding television personality (source www.bishopsheen.com). Statistics like the ones just presented are almost unbelievable in our current climate 70 years later, but as we all know God works in His own ways and is not constrained by our human limitations. Not only do video and audio versions remain of those episodes, but also this book contains a written account and provides practical wisdom for almost any social or personal decision we will all likely face in the course of life.
It would almost be easier to write a review about the topics Bishop Sheen did not cover rather than trying to compose a book review about what he did cover. On the official Catholic Man Show technical read scale I rate this book at a 7 because the reader needs to allow extra time for contemplation and sometimes re-reading of a particular section to fully comprehend the points being explained. In a way, some of the sections reminded me of a t-shirt I once saw, describing the way I always felt during math class, and the t-shirt quote was, “I can explain it for you, but I can’t understand it for you.” Don’t misunderstand the author was not speaking above his audience, rather he was expressing truths and sometimes when your mind and soul hear honesty in a world full of deceit you have to pause, reflect, and then apply it to your life.
I feel confident that any reader will benefit from reading this book. It is divided into relatively short sections (roughly 5-7 pages on average) that discuss particular religious, social, political, and philosophical ideas and how they apply to everyday situations. Wondering what to do with pain and suffering? A reader can find answers here. Does the author comment on communism, Marxism, Freudianism, and patriotism? The answer is of course yes, but he goes deeper with each topic and offers solutions. Do you feel fatigued and caught in a rut so to speak? Well, you might just enjoy and find inspiration in the section titled fatigue, but be careful as the author states, “Hell is full of the talented, but Heaven, of the energetic. As sanctity declines, energy declines.” Imagine hearing something like that on national television today! Many sections of this book were wake up calls for me.
As I read these pages, it was as if Bishop Fulton Sheen was talking directly to me with all his wisdom and wit and for some reason, I pictured him smiling or winking at me, when explaining the point he was making. It was if he was saying, here is the truth, I know you see it, don’t be afraid of it, just live it. Sometimes in life it is easy to over complicate and at times over think matters such that we lose our focus and our purpose which is to know God, to love God, and to serve God with our whole heart, whole mind, and whole soul (from Matthew 22:37-39).
One aspect of this work that I truly enjoyed was the author’s piercing, unapologetic honesty. It was if my soul had been starving for the kind of words Bishop Sheen spoke all those years ago. He was saying things that needed to be said in a firm and loving manner and guess what? People loved it. In fact, my dad was over for a visit just a day or two ago and noticed I had Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s book out and my dad said, “You know your grandfather loved listening to Bishop Fulton Sheen.” I almost fell to the floor because my grand father was a staunch Baptist and I could not believe he would have listened to a Catholic Bishop. Again, God sows and reaps where he wishes.
In this work, Archbishop Fulton Sheen boldly meshes religion with reason and logic to teach and urge us to have courage to follow the Shepherd. He gives practical advice that challenges the reader to not only think, but to act. To not sit on the sidelines of life, but to live life fully and with joy in a world so desperate for truth, justice, temperance, and fortitude. The author points out after all that “values and joys are associated with temperance.” I read most of this book over a year ago, but with the events of the past 18 months or so this read has been extremely timely. I am not an alarmist, but I am also not completely naïve; I have an intellect, and I can see that the state of our republic is not good. Does that mean I lose hope? No, rather I look to wisdom from a holy Bishop who started a TV show in 1951 and I remember his quote about prayer, “Millions and millions of favors are hanging from Heaven on silken cords, and prayer is the sword that cuts them.”
If you can’t tell by know Bishop Sheen’s book has had a profound impact on my life. Also, I must admit that I am a person who craves inspirational quotes so I have to close with a few of my favorite quotes which are not necessarily from this book, but are definitely from Archbishop Fulton Sheen. “The refusal to take sides on great moral issues is itself a decision. It is a silent acquiescence to evil. The tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty lack fire and conviction, while those who believe in dishonesty are full of passionate conviction.” “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.” Finally, “The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white Host.” Thank you, Bishop Sheen, and pray for us that we can answer the call.
By: Kent Keithly, husband and father
***Regarding The Catholic Man Show technical read scale: A 3 out of 10 is a leisurely read that could be read in a couple of weeks, an 8 out of 10 is a more technical read which requires more time and often requires looking up definitions of words to clearly understand the author, and finally a 10/10 is an extremely technical read that requires a significant amount of time to complete the book, as well as, extra time to look up further explanations of the topic, definitions, and likely requires that some pages be read more than once to grasp the content.