All posts by Nancy Piccione

Treasure in Clay Question: Any favorite moments?

One of my favorite stories is a small one: “Everybody’s here!”   In the chapter, “In Journeying Often,” Archbishop Sheen discusses the missions:

“Serving the missions makes one sick at heart if anyone is left out of the ark of salvation.  A blind boy at Lourdes was cured during the Way of the Cross as his father asked God to restore his son’s sight.  The first words of the boy as he saw his father and others were:  ‘Everybody’s here!’  That will be the missionary’s cry at Judgment when he sees his flock and is overwhelmed by the goodness of God.  Everybody is here who wanted to be here.”

That story in turn reminded me of the apocryphal quote attributed, I thought (until I tried to look it up on the Internet, where all truth resides–kidding), to Flannery O’Connor that the Catholic Church means, “Here comes everybody.”  I couldn’t find if she actually said that phrase, but Catholic writer Amy Welborn started a good discussion (with no answers) here.

Treasure in Clay is full of numerous stories about Sheen’s life and times.  What are some of your favorites?

Trailer for the Archbishop Sheen Documentary

WTVP (the local Peoria PBS Station) will air the documentary on Sunday, April 18 at 9:30 p.m.

I DVRd it on WTVP when it first aired the other night and we finished watching it last night.  I found it beautifully produced and extremely moving.

Did anyone else see it and what did you think?  If you didn’t, it is well worth the time!  You can order a DVD from the Sheen Foundation as well.

Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen

This is my review that appears in the April 18 issue of the The Catholic Post:

Don’t be alarmed if you feel tired after reading “Treasure in Clay,” the autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen, celebrated son of the Peoria diocese, and now under consideration for sainthood. I did, but not because the book is nearly 400 pages—it’s a fast, enjoyable read. It’s because the bishop was so busy and prolific in his vocation.

Fortunately for us, he was also an engaging writer. In particular, he’s the master of telling a great story. “Treasure in Clay” is full of those stories;, edifying, funny and illuminating, making it an inspiration for us to do more as Catholics.

In keeping with Bishop Sheen’s lists of threes, here are three main themes of “Treasure in Clay.”


Sheen was raised on “an ethic of work.” He writes, “(T)he habit of work was one I never got over, and I thank God I never did.” No, he certainly didn’t.

He wrote more than 60 books, recorded countless hours of radio and television programming, traveled and preached and converted people worldwide, and never seemed to tire. It was all in pursuit of the goal of bringing souls to Christ.

Holy Hour

Bishop Sheen promised at the beginning of his priesthood that he would pray a Holy Hour each day in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and considered spreading this devotion his greatest achievement for Christ. It reminds me of Mother Teresa’s answer to a question, “Why don’t you spend less time in prayer and more time in active work helping the poor?” Mother responded that without much prayer, their good work would not be possible.

Bishop Sheen himself believed that his Holy Hour helped him to do much good for Christ and avoid losing his zeal for souls.


Bishop Sheen titled the book, “Treasure in Clay” from 2 Cor 4, “But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, so the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.”

Sheen draws a parallel between the priesthood and the ancient oil lamps for worship.—Priests hold the light of Christ, yet are fragile; true not just of priests, but of all Christians.

Bishop Sheen, especially in later chapters, written toward the end of his life, freely admits his flaws. What’s beautiful to read through these pages is how God still used him as a powerful vessel for spreading the light of Christ.

Some, but by no means all, of memoirs written in recent years can be dreadful to read. The authors freely mix fact with fiction, and write in a kind of forced, sarcastic realism that requires unpleasant moments to be rehashed in vivid, if not necessarily accurate, detail. There’s none of that in “Treasure in Clay,” and so to modern readers Sheen’s enthusiasm and optimism can be almost disconcerting. Ultimately, it’s refreshing.


This is the intro that appears on the first book page of the April 18 issue of The Catholic Post:

I am delighted for the opportunity to share my love of books, book discussions and media with Catholic Post readers.

More than a little about me:

Academic: my undergraduate degree (Kenyon College) is in English, with a focus on British literature; I have a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I’ve worked in newspaper & magazine journalism, and later in communications in the right-to-life movement.

Personal: While my husband Joseph has a doctorate in theology, I’ll be reading and writing about books as a layperson, along with most Post readers. We have three lively and also book-loving children.

New Media: As a middle-aged writer, I’m a digital immigrant, not a native. Still, I firmly believe the Internet provides great opportunities for evangelization and connection. I love blogging and visiting blogs as a way to learn, connect and share with others around the world. I listen to podcasts, but don’t have one—yet. I’m on Facebook but not Twitter –yet. And so on…

I’m passionate about books & media, and a newer concept called “media mindfulness,” or media literacy in the context of faith formation. It’s not just about reading books or seeing the latest television show or movie or explore the Internet, but being able to process them in the light of our Catholic faith.

That’s why the book group component of the book page is especially exciting.

Am I hopelessly devoted to books and book groups? If it is a crime, guilty as charged. My daughters and I host a girls book group that meets monthly at our house. I’ve organized occasional outings for my son and his friends to explore– in a very physical way–adventuresome books like the Chronicles of Narnia series. I started a local Jane Austen book group with a great group of ladies because I needed an outlet to talk about my favorite author. I moderate a cousin book group blog for my kids and their many cousins to meet online and talk about books. If those were not enough, I’m in the midst of planning a mother-daughter book group as my oldest draws near the teenage years.

I’d love to draw in from our diocesan family (and beyond) experts on the various books that the Catholic Post book club reads, enriching both the online and IRL (in real life) discussions. Our first book is “Treasure in Clay,” the autobiography of Fulton Sheen. I hope you’ll join the discussion online!