The Monsignor and the Communist

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Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah 1: 18

 

 

Bishop Sheen had a dramatic impact on the most unlikely of people.  Case in point in a grand article written by Ken Zurski at the Unremembered blog:

Although it was meant to be private, Sheen gladly let the pronouncement of the meeting slip. “I’m having dinner with a leading communist tonight,” he exclaimed to an inquisitive newspaper reporter. “In fact, I’m looking forward to the encounter with great pleasure.”

The time and place however was never revealed. The press never figured it out. The two men met in private at the Hotel Commodore.

In their later years, both men recalled their “odd” meeting. “In an obscure corner we talked for an hour in earnest, quiet tones,” Budenz exclaimed.

Bundez remembers the monsignor’s smile and intense blue eyes. “He told me that he was leaving for England that summer.” Each year Sheen preached in Soho. “Near the house where [Karl] Marx labored,” the monsignor pointed out.

Despite opening with small talk, the insouciant greetings soon turned serious. The conversation drifted to the parallels of communism and fascism, something Bundez vehemently denied. “There is this merit in the communist view that does not inhere in fascism,” Budenz angrily contended. “Communism has within it the promise of democracy and the end of dictatorship in its doctrine of the withering away of the state.”

In Sheen’s own recollections, Budenz’s bickering about communist and fascist differences were inconsequential. There was only one objective in the monsignor’s mind. “I told him I did not want to talk about communism,” Sheen later wrote. “I wanted to talk about his soul.”

The next few minutes became solidly etched in Budenz’s mind. He remembered it vividly even years later as the moment that eventually changed his life. Describing Sheen’s restraint at first Budenz said, “He was not disposed to contradict me. That would have only aroused my personal pride and enticed me to further argument.”

“What he did instead,” Budenz reflects, “took me totally by surprise.”

Sheen rose and pushed aside the cutlery on the table. He bent forward and “waved his hand in argumentation.” In a voice snarling with contempt, he said: “Let us now talk of the Blessed Virgin.” Budenz froze with fear. “It was an ‘electrifying moment,’” he later described.

According to Budenz, Sheen spent the next few minutes talking “of the miracle of Lourdes, with the promises of Our Lady, the prayers of the church, and the conversion of Russia within her grace.”

Budenz was transfixed. He later confessed: “In the course of my varied career, I have met many magnetic men and women, have conferred with governors, and senators, have stood in court twenty-one times as a result of labor disputes – breathlessly awaited the verdict and each time experienced the triumph of acquittal – but never has my soul been swept by love and reverence as it was that April evening.”

The two men departed that day and would not meet or associate again for another nine years.

Bundez battled his own personal convictions in that time, but could not shake the power of one simple statement; the last words Sheen spoke before departing. “I will always pray for you because you have never fully lost the faith,” the monsignor said.

Nine years later, Budenz wrote Sheen a letter. “I’m returning to the Catholic Church,” he said, “and bringing my family with me.” Sheen welcomed him back without regrets. In 1945, Budenz confessed his sins and Sheen baptized him.

Go here to read the rest.  The great eternal truth of Christianity is that eternal salvation is always within our grasp if we will merely hold out our hand to God in repentance and love.  There is no sinner stained in scarlet who may not be made as white as snow.

 

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9 Comments

  1. What! No “accompaniment”? How can you preach the Gospel if all you do is sit down and lay out some home truths? Just not a Modern approach. ( Yes. Sarcasm, for those who might wonder.)

  2. “I will always pray for you because you have never fully lost the faith,” the monsignor said.
    My maternal grandfather believed that Catholics who were brought up in the Faith most likely would return, of course with prayers said for them.
    Many mother like myself are praying for our sons and daughters to marry active Catholic wives and husbands who will lead them back to their Faith.

  3. My parents used to watch Bishop Sheen’s program on their Dumont TV. They also had a record of his many talks. Also a record of Gen. MacArthur’s Farewell Address to Congress. Probably will find both of those when I tackle that part of their basement.
    Good story, thank you for posting.

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