by Kenneth Fields
In the late fifties H.V. Morton departed from his more personal style of travel writing when he teamed up with the American Catholic Bishop Fulton J. Sheen and the Armenian-born photographer Yousuf Karsh. Together they produced two volumes, “This is Rome” (Hawthorn Books, New York, 1959) and “This is the Holy Land” (Hawthorn Books, New York, 1961) that were described as ‘pilgrimages in words and pictures’.
These two books were published in the USA, UK and Canada. They were, respectively, the second and third in a series of four books published by Hawthorn Books of New York. The other two titles in the series were: (the first) “This is the Mass” (1958), as celebrated by Fulton Sheen and described by Henri Daniel-Rops, photographed by Yousuf Karsh, and translated by Alistair Guinan; and (the fourth) “These are the Sacraments” (1962), by Fulton Sheen, again with photographs by Yousuf Karsh.
You may be interested to know than in recent years a campaign has begun that is hoped will lead to the beatification of Fulton Sheen, which is the route to sainthood.
Fulton John Sheen was born in El Paso, Illinois in May 1895, his grandparents having originated from Ireland. He grew to become a brilliant scholar but he turned down a university scholarship to follow his vocation into the priesthood, being ordained in 1919. He went on to receive a degree in Canon Law in America followed by a Doctorate at the University of Louvain in Belgium. Then, after spending a period as a priest in a rural parish, he began teaching at both the Catholic University of America and at St Edmund’s College, Ware, England. He had substantial links with the UK, being a friend of G.K. Chesterton.
The covers of three special editions
During this time it became apparent that he had a great gift for communication, which has resulted in him now being regarded as one of the greatest preachers of the last century. In 1930 he began the Catholic Hour broadcast on radio which ran for twenty-one years, and on Easter Sunday 1940 he spoke on the first televised religious service in the USA.
But he is perhaps best remembered for his series of 129 programmes of Life is Worth Living, which went out in the 1950s, and his anti-communist message. In 1951 he was consecrated as a Bishop of the Church and on his retirement in 1969 the Pope appointed him Titular Archbishop of Newport in South Wales.
Although outwardly he was a serious person he was also very fond of humour and laughter, so no doubt he shared many a joke with H.V. Morton during their whistle-stop tours through Rome and the Holy Land. He died aged 83 in 1979, the same year in which HVM also died.
In 1999 the late Cardinal O’Connor of New York formally initiated the lengthy process that may in time lead to Fulton Sheen’s sainthood.
(This article was originally circulated as HVM Society Snippets – No.29 on 19 October 2004)