Fulton J. Sheen: My Guide As I Learn to Pray

And it came to pass, that, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him: “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” — Luke 11:1

It was over two thousand years ago that His disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. The desire both to know how to pray and to have a prayer life that is satisfying,  is one that continues to stir in hearts today. Our Lord lovingly fulfilled the disciples’ request when He taught them to pray the Our Father (Luke 11:1–4). By His example, He showed them the necessity of going to a quiet place to pray, to receive guidance and spiritual nourishment (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; Matt. 14:23). While addressing the crowd gathered on the mount, Jesus was likewise reminding the disciples, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matt. 6:6). 

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen received this same request that was made of Our Lord: teach us to pray. His students, his parishioners, and his worldwide audience would ask him about ways to pray and about his own favorite prayers.

With this in mind, Sheen was keen to encourage people to make prayer a daily, holy habit. To Catholics, he would specifically recommend to attend Holy Mass daily whenever possible, to set aside time to pray a Holy Hour and to pray the Way of the Cross, uniting with Our Lord in His passion. 

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was known to have often said: “I do not want my life to be mine. I want it to be Christ’s.” He had cultivated an intimate prayer life with Christ, and he wanted to share it with everyone. 

Over the years, while hosting The Catholic Hour radio program, Sheen produced several little prayer books with the help of the National Council of Catholic Men. These prayer books were printed and distributed in the hundreds of thousands, and some are still in circulation. 

Having enjoyed using these little prayer books myself, and finding great spiritual nourishment in them, the idea became increasingly imperative to gather some of Sheen’s best writings on both prayer and meditation and incorporate them into an anthology, to be shared with a new readership.

In the first anthology titled The Cries of Jesus from the Cross: A Fulton Sheen Anthology, I took seven of Sheen’s book from the 1930’s and 40’s where he wrote on the topic of Our Lord’s Seven Last Words from the Cross and arranged them into a “retreat style” book. That anthology has become a treasured Lenten companion for many, and I hope, continues to help draw souls closer to Our Lord, Our Blessed Mother, and the Church. 

With the grace of God and help from the dedicated staff at Sophia Institute Press, I have compiled a newly-published book entitled Lord Teach us to Pray: A Fulton Sheen Anthology. In it, Archbishop Sheen takes the reader on a journey of prayer, a mini-retreat highlighting the central events in the life of Christ: His passion, His death, His resurrection, His sending of the Holy Spirit, and His coming again in glory. Through Sheen’s incisive meditations and reflections, the reader is invited to follow Christ, to imitate Him, to learn from Him, to possess Him, and to be possessed by Him. 

This new anthology contains six chapters, and each one has a unique theme, presented in that classic Sheen style, deep but succinct: ‘The Our Father,’  ‘The Mass,’ ‘The Holy Hour,’ ‘Thoughts for Meditation,’ ‘The Way of the Cross’ and ‘Prayers of Meditation and Petition.’ 

On the topic of Our Father, the book begins with Sheen’s Good Friday address of April 19, 1935. During this reflection, Sheen guides  the reader into a deeper understanding of the Lord’s Prayer, as seen through the lens of the seven last words, spoken by Our Lord from the Cross. 

Employing once again the same lens of the seven last words, Archbishop Sheen sheds further light on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which Our Lord instituted on Holy Thursday. Sheen’s classic book ‘Calvary and the Mass,’ penned in 1936, is included in the second chapter of this book.

In the third chapter, Archbishop Sheen presents his insights on the Holy Hour. The reader will find a number of moving meditations that will lend themselves to making a fruitful Holy Hour. Some might ask, “Why spend an hour a day in meditation?” to which Archbishop Sheen would respond:  “Because we are living on the surface of our souls, knowing little either of God or our inner self. Our knowledge is mostly about things, not about destiny.” 

The fourth chapter contains a popular version of the Way of the Cross. It is hoped that these beautiful indulgenced prayers will enkindle a holy love for the Crucified Savior. 

The final two chapters of this book are made up of holy reflections and prayers, eliciting ‘heart speaks to heart’  moments. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). 

In this book, Archbishop Sheen not only unpacks the central mysteries of the Catholic Faith but also, in his inimitable way, crystallizes what it is to have a meaningful relationship with God. 

Everyone is called to prayer and relationship. We all need help with prayer, and there is no better guide than Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

It is my hope that in reading these timeless meditations and reflections on prayer, the reader will experience a sentiment similar to Archbishop Sheen’s: “I do not want my life to be mine. I want it to be Christ’s.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, ora pro nobis!

To learn more about Fulton Sheen and his insights on prayer, check out our latest interview with Al Smith by clicking the play button above, going to our podcast page, or finding Catholic Exchange on your preferred podcast app.

Lord Teach us to Pray: A Fulton Sheen Anthology is available from Sophia Institute Press.

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Al Smith is the editor of four best-selling books available from Sophia Institute Press: The Cries of the Jesus from the Cross: A Fulton Sheen Anthology (2018),  Lord, Teach Us To Pray: A Fulton Sheen Anthology (2020), Archbishop Sheen's Book of Sacraments: A Fulton Sheen Anthology (2021), The Greatest Commandment: A Fulton Sheen Anthology on Love (2022). He is a husband, father, grandfather, a man of trade, and a business owner. Al has served the Church for fifteen years as a Catholic evangelist, radio host, writer, Internet broadcaster, and retreat director. He is the founder and director of the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Mission Society of Canada and has served on the Board of Directors of the Archbishop Fulton John Sheen Foundation in Peoria, Illinois, which promotes the cause of Fulton J. Sheen's canonization process. Al is the creator of the website Bishop Sheen Today, which features the life and works of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

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