Fulton Sheen’s Two Philosophies of Life

Supreme Pizza Slice [public domain]

My wife gave me a book for Christmas that contains reflections by Archbishop Fulton Sheen about St. Thérèse of Lisieux; it has been a fabulous read so far! In it, Sheen states:

You see, there are two philosophies of life. One is the pagan philosophy: First the feast, then the headache. The other is the Christian philosophy of life: First the fast, then the feast. Our law is first Good Friday, then Easter Sunday. First the cross, then the empty tomb.

This got me thinking—which philosophy do I spend my day pursuing? Truth is, I don’t really like fasting; honestly, I’m not very good at it. I’d rather have that next slice of pizza than skipping a meal to pray. I complain when I have to wait an extra minute for something and despite my attempts to seek God first, the instant-gratification mentality of our world flows through my veins, too.

Nope, I don’t like the fast. That’s not to say that I like the headache that comes after choosing my own way instead. I’d rather have Easter Sunday without Good Friday; to have the empty tomb without the cross.

The funny thing is, with both philosophies you get a feast. But is it the same feast? The answer, I believe is no. Something fundamentally changes in our appetites when we fast. This happens in a very literal sense—our stomachs will shrink, we feel fuller after eating less, etc. But it also happens in a spiritual sense as well. For instance, for the past several years I have decided to fast from listening to the radio in the car for Lent. This may not seem like a big deal, but it was very hard for me to have the quiet at first. However, by the end of Lent, I wasn’t hungry for the noise; I craved silence. My appetite had changed.

The fact is God’s way, not the extra slice of pepperoni, is always the one that leads to ultimate happiness. All of the many things that catch my eye are fleeting, temporary substitutes for the real-deal that God offers me if only I would see through the lens of faith and hold out for what He offers. It is a much better feast in the long run. I don’t know about you, but my mouth is watering already. Bon appétit!

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