During the 1980s, I purchased several sets of cassette tapes of talks that had been given by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. At the time, I had a small battery-operated cassette tape player that I used to listen to tapes while I was shaving and getting ready for work, while I was driving, and while I was getting ready for bed.
The Sheen tapes included some of his old radio shows, talks that he had given to priests, and lessons on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Each set of tapes included at least one discussion of Bishop Sheen’s love for and devotion to the Mother of God.
The title of one of his talks was “The Woman I Love.” The woman that the title referred to was the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I don’t remember which tape it was on, but in one talk Sheen gave in the late 1970s, I could tell from the sound of his voice that he was an old man who probably didn’t have much time left on Earth. His voice was shaky, and his speech was slower than usual. In that talk, Sheen discussed his love for and devotion to the Mother of God, and he confidently predicted that because of the nature of his relationship with her, he would die on one of her feast days.
After I listened to that tape, I looked up the date that Sheen had died. The date of his death was December 9, 1979. He was 84 years old at the time of his death. Upon seeing the date, I immediately realized that his prediction had not come true, because I knew that December 8 was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It is on that date that the Catholic Church celebrates the moment that the Blessed Virgin Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb.
My immediate thought was, “Why would the Blessed Mother do that to him? She knew he had made that prediction. She knew he loved her. She knew he was responsible for influencing thousands of souls to reach out to her for assistance. Why didn’t she see to it that his wish was granted?”
Of course, there were no answers to my questions. Even if I were able to have a face-to-face conversation with the Blessed Mother, I’m not so sure she would be willing to answer my questions. From what I’ve read about her, it appears as though she was a woman of few words. In fact, there are only seven occasions recorded in Sacred Scripture when she spoke.
Only two of those seven occasions involved conversations between her and Jesus. The first conversation occurred because of her concern for her Son. The second conversation took place because of her concern for others.
According to St. Luke, here’s what was said during that first conversation:
After three days they [Mary and Joseph] found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great sorrow.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I would be in my father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Luke 2:46-50
The second and last conversation recorded in the Bible between Jesus and His mother was when they were at a wedding reception in Cana. Here’s what happened, as reported by St. John:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. John 2:1-7
After that, the water was miraculously turned into wine.
There are many Protestants and non-Catholics who claim that our Lord’s reference to His mother as “woman” meant that she was not to be given any more respect or significance than anyone else. Do you know why our Lord referred to His mother as “woman”? It was because in her perfect, profound humility, she had previously expressed a desire to God that no attention ever be given to her while she was in the presence of other people. She knew that her role in God’s divine plan was to be a perfect servant and handmaiden of the Lord, and all attention was to be focused solely on Jesus.
One thing that most people have not thought about is that Jesus already knew that the wine had run out. As God, He knew everything. So why did He wait for His mother to mention it to Him? Why didn’t He just go ahead and take care of the matter on His own, without her involvement? One of the reasons He waited for her to ask was because He wanted to show mankind how much influence she had over Him.
The Blessed Virgin Mary knew exactly what her Son was going to do when she mentioned the wine to Him. Why? Because He had never turned down any of her requests. It was easy for Him to do what she wanted because her requests were always in alignment with His will.
After He said, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come,” instead of responding to Him, she simply turned to the servants and said, “Do whatever he tells you.” What did the servants do? They obeyed her order and did exactly what our Lord told them to do — something that all of us should do every day.
Our Lady knew that her Son was going to do what she wanted Him to do. He had lived with her for the first 30 years of His life. Do you think there was ever any other occasion during those 30 years when she asked Him to do something for someone? There’s a strong likelihood that throughout His young life, she asked Him to help others on numerous occasions. She knew He could not turn her down, and she knew that He would follow through and do what she asked.
I told you about the questions that popped into my mind when I learned that Bishop Sheen’s request to die on one of our Lady’s feast days had not been granted. Because of the recent events concerning the transfer of his body from New York to Peoria, I now realize that it really didn’t matter what day Bishop Sheen died. His life on Earth was a mere 84 years. What really mattered was what God’s plan for him was after his death.
My questions about why the Blessed Mother had not granted Bishop Sheen’s request were finally answered on Thursday, June 27, 2019, when I learned that Bishop Sheen’s body had arrived in Peoria at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, and had been placed in a tomb that had been previously prepared for him at a side altar dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
It just so happened that the day of his arrival in Peoria was the feast day of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
The meaning of this particular feast day is that just as the Mother of God was always available to care for, comfort, and console her Son, she is also always available to care for, comfort, and console you and me. We are expected to have a childlike confidence in her as our true and perfect spiritual mother who will rush to our side anytime we reach out to her for assistance.
So instead of influencing our Lord to grant Bishop Sheen’s request to die on one of her feast days, the Mother of God arranged for the return of his body to Peoria on a feast day that is in line with his new assignment on Earth — to come back to life as a canonized saint, so he can use his heavenly influence to help the people of America to know, love, and serve Almighty God.
It all makes perfect sense now that Bishop Sheen has returned to Peoria, especially in light of the fact that his arrival occurred on a day in which we celebrate the perpetual assistance of the woman he loved — the Mother of God.
The greatest of all American bishops is back! And he’s going to help restore our country to its original Christian roots. This is a seminal event in the history of the United States and the Catholic Church — a time to celebrate the tremendous love that Jesus and Mary have for mankind.
Bishop Sheen, pray for us. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us. O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like Your heart.