Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The actress and the bishop!

Be honest, your thoughts raced down all sorts of corridors when you read that headline, and most of them were pretty murky - correct?

But it is an honest headline, so please let me explain (and many thanks to Liz for reminding me of this true story).

                                    The young Fulton Sheen - future saint!

It concerns the great priest, Bishop and, finally, Archbishop, Fulton Sheen - soon, Deo volente, to be canonised.

It was London in the late 1920s and Father Sheen, as he then was, had been seconded to teach at the seminary at St Edmond's Ware.
In addition to those duties he became an unofficial curate at St Patrick's Church, Soho Square.

 November in London in those days meant being immersed in a dense and foul fog (I don't remember that, by the way, but it was the same in the Fifties).

Fr Sheen went to open the church one foggy morning only to find a young woman of uncertain sobriety in the doorway.

To cut to the point, the good Father engaged her in conversation and made her a cup of strong coffee. It transpired that she was a Catholic and the star of a musical then on the London stage and that she was involved with three men and life had become unbearable for her.

Drink had become her refuge and her friend.

Fr Sheen then asked her to come back the following day when he would show her a painting by Rembrandt and talk with her further.

She agreed to return on one condition; that Father Sheen would not ask her to go to confession.

This he agreed to. but that was not enough. "Promise me that you will not ask me to go to confession" pleaded the actress.

"OK, I promise that I will not ask you to go to confession" said the priest.

That satisfied the woman and the next day, sure enough, she did return.

As they walked up the church towards the sanctuary they passed a confessional and without further ado, Father Sheen pushed her into it!

She made a full confession, the first for many years and, a short time later she entered the community of enclosed nuns at Tyburn and she was still there forty years later when the then Bishop Sheen related the story to his television audience.

As Archbishop Sheen said to his audience: "I didn't ask her to go to confession, I pushed her in"

Many years ago St Patrick's was my parish church and I have a great affection for it, most especially as it has been restored and renovated to a very high standard by the PP, Fr Sherbrooke.

The anniversary of his death is 9th November.

May God have mercy on his soul and may Archbishop Fulton Sheen come to the aid of the Catholic Church today.

 8 MAY 1895 - 9 NOVEMBER 1979


  1. Too long ago, I remember watching his program on American TV. I especially recall how he would joke about his angels in the studio -- the ones who would erase his chalkboard once he walked away from it.
    Many of his talks are available on the web. They are an international treasure.
    --I'm certain that you know there is no such thing as coincidence.
    Archbishop Sheen, pray for us all, and pray for the Church in China.
    -Ken in Shanghai

  2. Richard,
    Great post, It was not so long ago that this occurrence was aired on EWTN "Life Is Worth Living" I put an interesting post/video about his Pectoral Cross that once belonged to Pope Pius X11! Once again I echo refrain: Archbishop Fulton.J. Sheen True Son Of The Catholic Church-Pray For Us!


  3. One of the things that attracted me to Catholicism was the way it seemed possible to keep your personality with all its quirks and interesting bits, and yet still strive for holiness. Perfect example here of how holiness can co-exist (and perfect)humour and cunning!

  4. One of my favorite Archbishop Sheen stories is when he was speaking at a church, and a baby started crying. The mother got up to take the baby out, and the Archbishop interrupted his talk to say, "Oh, please don't leave. The baby isn't bothering me." The mother apparently replied, "No, but you're bothering him."

    It may be apocryphal, but still funny!

  5. "As gentle as doves and as wily (wise?)as serpents."

    Beautiful story. Thank you and God bless.

  6. This is exactly what I thought of when I saw the headline of this post. I've always loved this story.

  7. I was fortunate to meet Fulton Sheen when I was in my early teens. I was with my younger sister in an electronics goods store in Manhattan. The good bishop was selecting a shortwave radio. He was easily recognizable and easy to approach. he held out his hand but we were too dumbstruck to kiss his episcopal ring. I don't recall what words were exchanged. Upon hearing of our encounter my mother asked why we didn't get his autograph. I promptly sent a SASE to the bishop asking for him to send an autograph to my mother. He complied with a not, his usual words "God love you, Fulton J.Sheen." It was one of her prized possessions, and is now one of mine.

  8. Great to see a post on Archbishop Sheen--only you might want to save it for 9 December. The date you saw listed is wrong; he passed away on the feast of St. Juan Diego.

  9. Dawn, thank you....more yellow pills needed!

  10. Great story, but Archbishop Sheen passed into eternity on December 9th, not November 9th.

  11. Wonderful story. Currently reading Abp. Sheen's "Life of Christ." Many profound meditations.

  12. Thanks Christine, I'm enjoying your blog very much.

  13. love the story. Fulton Sheen for sainthood!