The beatification of Venerable Fulton Sheen, delayed for several years, is now on an accelerated pace to completion. The Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, announced Nov. 18 that it had received earlier that day the decision of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints: The beatification would take place 33 days later, on Dec. 21.
A beatification on such short notice — less time than it might take to organize the annual parish picnic — is without precedent in recent decades. It will pose logistical challenges for the Diocese of Peoria, not least of which is the inability to secure a suitably large facility to accommodate the many pilgrims who want to attend, braving the possibility of the Illinois winter storm four days before Christmas. The beatification will therefore take place in Peoria’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where the body of Archbishop Sheen now rests.
But the logistical challenges are secondary to the evangelical challenges. A beatification or canonization, after all, is not really for the good of the candidate, who is already in heaven before the glory of God and in the company of the saints. It’s for the good of the Church here below, for the inspiration of the faithful, for intercession on their behalf, and for the spread of the Gospel. Especially in the case of Archbishop Sheen, one of the greatest evangelists of his time, the evangelical dimension of a beatification is essential.