VICTORY OVER VICE. By Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. (Sophia Institute Press, Box 5284, Manchester, N.H. 03108, 2004), 128 pp. PB $9.95.
In this volume Archbishop Sheen attacks each of the seven deadly sins in pointing out that these sins led Christ’s enemies to nail Him to a cross. He refers to examples in the Savior’s life to develop each of the corresponding virtues. Treatment of only two of these sins will be included here.
Covetousness is an inordinate love of the things of this world. The inordinate love comes about when one is not guided by a reasonable end. It is the pursuit of wealth as an end instead of a means to the end that makes a person covetous. The ends that Archbishop Sheen refers to advance the kingdom of God and lead to the salvation of one’s soul. He believes that there are very few “disinterested lovers of the poor today.” Most of the so-called champions of the poor do not love the poor as much as they hate the rich. “They love only those poor who will help them attain their wicked ends.” Naturally, such covetousness is ruinous for man. The more the sinfully rich man gets, the more needy he believes he is. The Providence of God becomes increasingly less a reality for this person. Christ makes a plea for a greater trust in the providence of God: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon the earth . . .” (Matt. 6:19). One’s powers of dispossession are greater than one’s powers of possession. No one could ever possess all the jewels in the world, yet one can wash one’s hands of its desire. Thus, one living the vow of poverty is more satisfied than the richest covetous man in the world. The vow of poverty and Jesus’ last words from the cross “Father, into Thy hands, I commend my spirit,” (Luke 23:45) refer to the reality that there is no satisfaction except in God. Christ carries the cross for the culpable self-indulgence of all of humanity. He atones by the surrender of himself
Gluttony is an inordinate indulgence in food or drink. It is sinful because reason demands that food and drink be taken for the necessities and conveniences of nature, not for pleasure only. Christ made a plea for detachment in the first beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Mt 5:3). There was no luxury in the way Christ lived or dined. From the Cross, Christ is stripped of His garments. He utters the shortest of His seven statements: “I thirst,” fulfilling the prophecy recorded by the psalmist one thousand years earlier. Yet he refuses the drink to alleviate His suffering. In a certain sense He was balancing the scales of those who had too much. The words from the cross express a double hunger and thirst, one for the body and one for the soul. Christ had distinguished between them many times: “Woe to you that are filled, for you shall hunger…” (Luke 6:21) In the awareness of this double hunger and thirst, the distinction between dieting and fasting comes about. One is for the body and the other is for the soul. The difference is in the intention. As the author states, “Tell me your hungers and your thirsts, and I will tell you what you are.” Christ’s sermon exhorts all to mortify bodily hunger and cultivate a spiritual hunger and thirst. Christ’s words “I thirst” actually mean, “I thirst to be thirsted for.” His thirst is our salvation.
One may determine from the above that Archbishop Sheen’s text is directed toward those who are serious in their journey in eradicating vice and growing in virtue. It further is an insightful meditative study on the passion narrative which may be traveled at any time of the Church year.
Sr. Madeleine Grace, CVI
University of St. Thomas