Bishop Sheen’s message of life is timeless
August 22nd, 2016
By Peter J. Fatooh
Down in Orange County in Anaheim, as you stand in the parking lot to Disneyland and do an “about face,” you will see in the distance a cathedral spire of glass. From the time it was originally conceived in the 1970s to its completion in 1981 it was the achievement of a lifetime for late Dr. Robert H. Schuller its pastor from 1955 until approximately 2007 when he retired. Like many family civilian undertakings, Schuller’s success did not impute to his children. As a result, in 2010 the Crystal Cathedral parish filed for bankruptcy.
In its prime, Schuller’s “Hour of Power” could be seen on national television. If you saw a tape or live service from the cathedral in its prime years you would have witnessed a “standing room only” church with a capacity of 2,736 worshippers.
Prior to the glass monolith’s construction, Schuller’s was one of the first Sunday service drive-ins where parishioners would pull up and place a nearby speaker in their car to hear the proceedings. There was also outdoor seating for those who preferred a more conventional manner of going to church. An indoor church was constructed in the 1960s before the grand cathedral.
Upon declaring bankruptcy in 2010, it was unclear as to the eventual outcome of this magnificent structure. Finally, in 2013, it was our own Catholic Church, Diocese of Orange, which purchased the property. But, 2013 wasn’t the first association the Catholic Church had with that property. In fact, 41 years prior Schuller invited Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen to address his congregation. Archbishop Sheen spoke at least three homilies at the site in 1972. Each homily was given before not only a capacity crowd in the existing church and outside seating, but also a full parking lot of automobiles with their drive-in speakers. If you google “Fulton Sheen glass cathedral” you will enjoy the almost hour-long talks.
With due respect to the fine Catholic speakers of today, I doubt I will witness in my lifetime a finer deliverer of the message of life than Fulton J. Sheen. His talks at that Protestant church – more than 40 years ago – ring as real today as they did then. The latter is a true measure of timeless relevance.
Peter J. Fatooh
From August 25, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.
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