University of Minnesota

“If It Isn’t Fun.” – Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen, Society of Jesus

October 24

Dr. Lansing and I went to hear Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen S.J. speak at the packed New Orleans auditorium last night, lecturing on, “The Road to Christ in the Modern World.”

The house lights dimmed and a bright spot played dramatically on the good monsignor as he strode to center stage. Tall, handsome, dressed in tight pants and vest with a long red cape, he looked the classical, brilliant Jesuit, or equally, the Grand Inquisitor. The audience rose en masse, spontaneously and in awe. He stood poised before us, speaking without lectern or papers, playing his voice as an organ, stops closed for hushed tones, opened for oratorio, adjusted for fine effects.

The audience was responsive and sympathetic as he talked as a sage to the uninitiated, first devoting fully 20 minutes to an overdrawn satire on Freudian analysis. He brought out the strong points of Marx and Freud, both seeking Peace of Mind, and then attacked their philosophies, Marx’s godless, dialectical idealism, the Capital of Power. He warned, “Let no one ever tell you that Communism is only a program or a system of economics.” Freud, he says, denies sin. He makes guilt one with society. Each icon seeks to resolve conflict, social conflict between capital and labor, and individual conflict between super-ego and id. But each falls short of the constancy, harmony, and order found, he intones, in the Kingdom of God.

The Monsignor surprised me by announcing, in what I thought a triumphant aside, his recent conversion of Heywood Broun. He also surprised us by speculating that the contemporary movement toward communal living might, in the end, result in a greater sense of brotherhood among men.

Sheen is my first experience of a Jesuit master. He’s powerful, bright, persuasive, and a very tricky guy!

November 11, 1947

Chicago Bound

I was awakened early yesterday by a telegraphic offer of internship from Northwestern’s Wesley Memorial Hospital and wired my acceptance at once. Dream castles tumbled, of Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, and the University of Chicago. Just as quickly, the castles were refurbished around the cold, modern, gray structures on Superior Street off Lake Michigan. Happy mental images arose of blowing snow and piercing winds from the lake, the exciting jazz-mire of the Near North Side, and the promise of medical and cultural stimulation in the big city.

In these days of frustration and spiritual grappling I’m reading “Henry Esmond.” I also find the New Orleans Symphony season concerts uplifting. In the last one, for example, little Misha Elman played Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto” with verve, but the best for me was Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” I’m also reading “God’s Little Acre,” stark and exciting, and “Forever.” I close off many evenings these days reading “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman while nipping from a bottle of dry sherry. Knowledge of his homosexuality mitigates my revels in his flowing, sensual, free-styled glorification of the senses. I shouldn’t be put off by it but I am.

Rabbi Lewis Brown spoke recently in the Tulane Lyceum Series, changing the announced topic and regaling us with intellectual buffoonery. He never developed a theme and exhausted us with such cute quotes as, “English barons do nothing but sit on their backgrounds and twiddle their titles.”

I search to fulfill a dream of a small French Quarter apartment, with single bed, bookshelf and writing table, stuffed chair and reading lamp, wine cabinet and electric heater. At least that’s the enticing dream. This is the last school year in which I could enjoy some freedom and privacy, if I could only afford it. But, if not here, maybe I can realize a similar dream in Paris in a couple of years.

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