Editor’s Note: With the upcoming beatification of Ven. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, we wanted to share this article from when he visited the Diocese of Phoenix to preach at the “Festival of Faith” Mass on Dec. 3, 1975. This article was originally published as “Festival of Faith packs Coliseum” in the January 1976 edition of “Alive” magazine, the precursor to “The Catholic Sun.” It has been adapted to fit our current style.
The Roadrunners and the Suns could well envy the faith of the followers of Christ as 12,000 persons jammed the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, on the evening of Dec. 3 to celebrate the diocesan Festival of Faith. Buses and cars brought parishioners from the four counties of the diocese to join in the gala celebration.
Archbishop Jean Jadot, apostolic delegate to the United States, was the principal celebrant of the Mass, joined by Bishop Edward McCarthy and Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and the scores of priests and deacons of the diocese. Altar boys from the parishes formed a bank of color around the coliseum floor and the crowds of faithful stretched from there to its rooftop.
Further enhancing the threefold celebration — the closing of the Holy Year, the sixth anniversary of the diocese and the beginning of the Bicentennial Year — were the musical renditions by the Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Dcn. Irving Fleming; the Mariachi group of St. John Vianney Parish in Avondale; and the Folk Singers from St. Theresa Parish in Phoenix. Preston Heinle directed the congregational singing with Mr. Bill Clancy, organist. Carmelite Father Leo McCarthy was festival chairman.
A lesson in faith was given by 80-yearold Archbishop Sheen. “It is generally said today that people will hardly believe anything, that is why faith is impossible,” he declared. “Let me tell you it is the contrary that is true. It is not that people will believe nothing. The trouble is that people will believe anything.”
The prelate of television fame exemplified a reasonable standard for belief in Jesus Christ upon His preannouncement. “When you line up all the claims (as the one sent from God), there is only one who can step out of the line and say, ‘I was preannounced’ and that was our Blessed Lord.”
Because Christ came to deal primarily with sinners, and “we are all sinners” the archbishop said he would listen to Him and place his faith and trust in Him. “Faith,” he said, “is the acceptance of a truth on account of the person Who tells us that truth.”
Still resounding in the rich oratorical tones of his TV heyday, the prelate listed the effects of faith upon whole man.
Regarding the mind or intellect, Archbishop Sheen said “When Christ sends us His light through His Spirit we see things we never could see. Faith puts a light in our minds.”
“What does faith do to the will?” Archbishop Sheen asked. “It gives us a new love principal … Christ. We are able to do things with the help of Christ. The more supple, flexible in the hand of God, the more power we have. The more He can do with us the more influence we have.”
Faith’s effect on the body according to the archbishop was the person’s acknowledgement that the body belongs to God and must be used for Him. “When used in other ways,” he said, “it begins to distort the mind.”
Indicating his belief that everyone has faith, Archbishop Sheen said, “I really believe every single person in the world … was influenced in some way by the birth of Christ so when we send missionaries out into the world, we are not just bringing Christ to them, we are bringing Christ out of them.”
For those who have lost faith or are not living a good life, the archbishop recommended, “Clean the window … pull up the shades, then the light of Christ will come to us.” With that exhortation, he endorsed the value of Confession. “It makes no difference how sinful a life may be … that’s how faith can be recovered,” he assured.
To those who want to deepen their faith, Archbishop Sheen urged, “Visit our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That’s where you’ll catch on fire.” With that he shared with the Coliseum throng a practice that has been his daily throughout the 56 years of his priesthood.
“Faith gives us security, joy. It’s an adventure … we have a port. We know where we’re going,” he concluded. “Even though every now and then there are trials, we have the joy of uniting those trials with the cross of our Lord … so we’re never overcome by them … and life becomes an adventure.
“When we believe the incredible, we can do the impossible.”