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The Preaching of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: The Gospel Meets the Cold War Paperback – November 17, 2011

4 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Few preachers have stirred souls and moved hearts as did Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. I am happy to recommend Father Timothy Sherwood's The Preaching of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. He does a splendid job of focusing on the Archbishop's preaching, rhetorical skill, and Christian vision. A good read of this book will help everyone understand how and why Archbishop Sheen influenced generations of American Catholics and non-Catholics alike. (Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York)

Finally, we have a book that examines Sheen's preaching style in detail. Sheen made a significant, but mainly unexplored, contribution to American rhetoric. It is especially interesting that Sherwood focuses on the Good Friday sermons. This is a treasure for researchers because the sermons span five decades of his preaching in New York City that have never been examined before. An enjoyable and scholarly read, Sherwood places Sheen's rhetoric in the context of Cold War America, sharing insights on the persuasive interaction between speaker and audience and providing the key to Sheen's immense popularity. (Christopher Lynch, Kean University, author of Selling Catholicism: Bishop Sheen and the Power of Television)

One welcome aspect of Sherwood’s book is its reminder of just how substantive Fulton Sheen’s messages were-over the airwaves and from the pulpit. While sheen tailored his messages to appeal to broad audiences, he could never be accused of preaching to the “itching of ears”.

Sherwood demonstrates Sheen’s proclivity for drawing parallels between characters and events in the bible with those of his own day.

In 1956, Bishop Fulton Sheen appeared as a guest on the TV show What’s My Line? Timothy Sherwood’s book makes clear that the correct answer to that question was “Preacher.” For that, Sherwood is to be commended. (Books and Culture)

About the Author

Father Timothy Sherwood is pastor of St. Raphael Catholic Church in St. Petersburg, FL.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Lexington Books (November 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739142623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739142622
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,681,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Kindle Edition
This is a short, but well researched and powerful analysis of just what made Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's preaching so effective. I thought the book got off to a rather slow start, in fact, I would advise some patience as the first chapter put me in mind of my first class in college, a speech class called Oral Communications. By this I mean that there was quite a bit of academic jargon that 20 years later is more than a little bit off-putting. However, it soon becames immensely interesting. Again, it is very well researched and documented with a nice bibliography that allows for further reading on this great and holy man.
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Format: Paperback
This looks like a cogent and interesting book about a man who influenced American culture in a big way. Those were the glory days for Roman Catholicism, when its image and prestige were at a zenith. Sheen's trajectory is best read exactly as the author does here, in the context of the Cold War. For it was precisely against the massive and nasty pugilism of an anti-religious animus of the Soviet Union that Sheen's grand theatrics take on a quirky persuasive ability. That may speak to why he was also popular with people who were not Catholic, and continues to be a source of entertainment at the very least, and perhaps more, for even critics of the religious tradition to which he belonged. It was precisely against that aggressive animus and nihilism that what seems now like Sheen's incredible prissy humanism of the West looked actually quite noble. In some sense his preaching clearly worked because he was defending the humane values of the West more than an actual theology.

It is important to emphasize the foregoing, for on close inspection there seemed to be a somewhat duskier or even dark side to the rhetoric. This has to do with an issue the author raises in his Introduction. Namely, of Sheen's persistent belief that he could read the emotional states of people. This was connected with his tropes of emotional persuasion, which he felt justified in using no doubt by way of rhetorical justification. Ironically, though Sheen often made fun of a psychological approach to inter-personal problems on his show regularly, he seems to have used in a darker fashion some of the more base psychologically "behavioral" techniques of influence linked to stimulating and corralling human fears for that which was not readily understood.
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