Thursday, July 11, 2013

Angelico Press: The Cross and the Beatitudes

I was talking with my wife recently about technology and books, and we were speculating about when books will become strictly digital. We concluded that it won't be in our lifetime, and maybe not in our kids' lifetimes. However, books might become a rare commodity, which one has to pay a premium price to own. I have mixed feelings about that. I appreciate technology, but there's something about just turning actual pages and the smell of paper. Books also help me to appreciate publishers, like Angelico Press, who are taking the time to reprint some of the classics of Catholicism. They are not only making the works available to a new generation, but they are doing it at a reasonable price to boot!

The Cross and the Beatitudes is a short work by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. I won't go into great detail on who Venerable Sheen is as I expect my older audience will immediately recognize that name. However, for my younger audience, I encourage you to find out more about this great man. He was a brilliant writer and "televangelist" who was VERY popular in the 1950s with his television show called "Life is Worth Living." He was definitely a prophet for his time and Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Paul II said of him, "You have written and spoken well of the Lord Jesus Christ. You are a loyal son of the Church." That's very high praise.

At under 100 pages, The Cross and the Beatitudes, is a quick, but profound read. If you're like me, you have read or been taught a lot about both the Beatitudes and Jesus' last words from the Cross. However, I have never seen them juxtaposed, and it was a truly fascinating study. Archbishop Sheen explains to us that Jesus preached the Beatitudes at the Sermon on the Mount. However, he lived them at Golgotha. One may wonder how he was able to link the Seven Last Words on the Cross when there are eight beatitudes. He was able to do this, because the eighth Beatitude, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, "is a confirmation and a declaration of all those that precede."

While each of these seven chapters provided wisdom and clarity, the one that spoke to me most was "The Second Word," which juxtaposed "Blessed are the merciful" for they shall obtain mercy," with, "This day you shall be with me in Paradise." In this chapter, Archbishop Sheen elaborates on the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin. He explains how Heaven rejoices over the lost soul being found (saved) as opposed to the already saved souls. He then talks about the Good Thief to the right of our crucified Lord, who showed the full amount of mercy he could to not only Jesus, but also the thief on the left of Jesus. Tradition refers to him as St. Dismas, and as he was the saint I chose going through the RCIA program, I have a special devotion to him.

The Cross and the Beatitudes is a book you can read in an hour, but it is not one that you should attempt to read in an hour. If you speed through this book, you will surely miss some of the great truths it contains. Take the time. Meditate on this book. It would make a great book to read during Lent, but it's message is applicable at any season in the year. So pick up this 5-star book and expose yourself to the wisdom of Venerable Fulton Sheen. Pray for his intercession so that he may become a saint. Then, read another of his works. I recommend A Brief Life of Christ.

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