Homily for Catholic Schools Week

(Photos by Donna Ryckaert)

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 29, 2017
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13
Psalm 146
1st Corinthians 1:26-31
Matthew 5:1-12a

Throughout the next several weeks, the Lectionary offers us readings from Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is the heart of Christ’s moral and spiritual teaching. The Sermon begins today with His teaching on what have become known as the Beatitudes, the most distinguishing aspect of an authentically Christian life. It is appropriate that we should begin our reading and reflection of Christ’s teaching of the Sermon on the Mount on this Sunday when we begin Catholic Schools Week.

Sermon On the Mount, Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–1890), public domain

The Mission of our Catholic schools is to teach as Christ Jesus taught; today He begins His teaching with the first Beatitude, Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. The Beatitudes are presented in an order whereby each subsequent beatitude builds on the previous one. Christ, who in other parts of the Gospel states “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart,” begins the Sermon by identifying the disposition of poverty of spirit or meekness as the entrance way for our goal of heaven. This is the disposition that is most important and runs through all of the beatitudes and shows that growth in accord with this teaching is more than memorization, or simply an external compliance to rules; rather it involves a conversion of heart and a changing of our character from the behavior that is expected as a usual part of the status quo in society.

There are two groups depicted in today’s Gospel: the crowd and the disciples. Jesus teaches His disciples and they listen because they belong to Him. The crowd is without identity. They belong to nobody. The crowd is the place where other people are considered to be problems in our imagination, instead of being respected as people who have problems in reality. The crowd is also a place that we seek out for ourselves when we avoid the difficult decision to be meek in following Jesus. The crowd is a place where we seek to hide and to isolate ourselves out of fear, preferring the anonymity of the admirer and the bystander over the challenge of the meekness and poverty of spirit offered to the disciple by the beatitudes.

Discipleship involves identity, a coming to be of who we really are in our truest selves through the meekness of the beatitudes. The gift and mission of the beatitudes is to keep us from isolating ourselves crowded behind a spiritual wall of fear and willful ignorance replete with excuses, and instead to trust God who calls us, and who offers us His wisdom to resolve problems together through faith and right reason. The meekness and poverty of spirit of the beatitudes prevent us mercifully from being dominated by a dangerous and destructive idealism. The meekness and poverty of spirit of the disciple invite others to convert from being alone in a crowd to a place of belonging with Christ in His Church.

The Poverty of Spirit revealed by Christ involved His emptying of self in being totally and lovingly obedient to the Will of the Father. He empties Himself and is faithful. The meekness and poverty of spirit that we receive and that He offers us involves our loving obedience in discernment of what Christ asks of us. It is the path for those who are humble and seek the Lord as prophesied by Zephaniah in today’s reading. To be meek is to be willing to make a sacrifice to follow Christ, to offer ourselves and to be willing to be inconvenienced for the Kingdom of God that is larger than my own preferred manner or way of doing things.

The conversion is to move gradually through growth in the beatitudes from beginning to ask questions like, “Where does God fit into my life?” Or, “what role does the Church play in my life?” Or, “what does my family mean to me?” to more mature questions of discernment like “how do I contribute to the life of my family?” Or, “where do I serve in the Church?” Or, “where do I fit into the very life of God–that is, the Kingdom of Heaven?” Poverty of Spirit involves the recognition that I rely upon God’s Grace for everything. It enables me to discover and to hear the call of God to where I am part of something bigger than my own cursory desires or plans. It is meekness and poverty of spirit that enable me confidently to discern a vocation from God for my life. As one spiritual author put it, “God calls you to what you need most to do and what the world most needs to have done. It is that place where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.”

It is in this manner that the mission of our Catholic schools is to be lived out for the sake of others. This mission of Catholic education, which is always reforming and renewing itself, is meant to involve the transformation of each and every person involved in the ministry–the students, the parents, the teachers, the administrators, and even the bishop towards the meekness and poverty of spirit of discipleship. It involves the transformation and conversion of the system itself. It cannot simply become a type of a private education that defines itself by what it is not; it is not that which turns inward upon itself walled off in isolation from God and my neighbor. If we hide from our problems, we hide from God. God’s Grace is in the struggle of confronting our problems. It’s in the Cross. Christ did not deny the Cup offered to Him by His Father on that first Holy Thursday. He did not build a wall around Gethsemane. Catholic education, as a means of formation in discipleship, is not a place for us to hide from our challenges, or simply for each of us to become just another anonymous face in the crowd.

Meekness prevents us from becoming simply a part of a crowd. Meekness is required to listen and to discern. Meekness is required to become my true self, to grow into my authentic identity as created and redeemed in the image and likeness of God. Meekness involves the courage and vulnerability to face our fears, not to cower from them behind a spiritual wall of denial. Jesus begins His teaching today to His disciples whom He has called away from the crowd of bystanders or admirers. The mission of His teaching of transformation is the mission of Catholic education–a transformation in meekness in order to inherit the earth here and now, and the kingdom of heaven for all eternity as He promises.

+ Most Rev. Michael F. Olson
Bishop of Fort Worth

Bishop Michael Olson with students at the 2016 Eighth Grade Mass.
(Photos by Donna Ryckaert)


Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe / Solemnidad de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

NTC photo/Adrean Indolos

December 12, 2016
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Fort Worth, Texas

Ver en Español

Sirach 24:23-31
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 1:39-48

Immediately after receiving the message of the Archangel Gabriel and offering her free consent to accept God’s Will that she become the Mother of God, Mary hastens to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

Her cousin Elizabeth is expecting the birth of her own child. Elizabeth, because of her age, is in need of help and comfort in her vulnerability. Mary goes to Elizabeth to offer her assistance and comfort. Mary goes to serve not to be served. Mary, with Jesus alive in her womb, arrives at the home of Elizabeth, and the unborn John the Baptist leaps with joy in the womb of Elizabeth. The baby leaps with joy in the presence of Mary and Jesus because salvation and redemption have arrived. John the Baptist represents all future generations who will receive joy because of the redemption offered them by the arrival of Jesus brought by His Mother Mary.

Years later, St. Juan Diego, is also visited by the Virgin Mary carrying the unborn Christ child in her womb. Mary, carrying Jesus in her womb, comes again to serve and to bring comfort to Juan Diego. She does so in part by appearing as an Indian of the same complexion of Juan Diego and his family. She tells him that she is his mother. Juan Diego leaps with joy and receives comfort in place of his fear because salvation and redemption have come to him and to the Americas.

Today Mary, Our Lady, La Morenita, comes to us again with Jesus in her womb. She comes especially with the good news of her Son’s mission of redemption. She comes because she is our mother. She comes to serve. We leap with joy.

John the Baptist, Juan Diego, and all of us, have leapt with joy at the arrival of Jesus with Mary. John the Baptist, Juan Diego, and all of us, move from the reception of this good news to accepting our vocation to speak prophetically. John the Baptist was the last prophet who announced the advent of the Lamb of God and called all to conversion to prepare for Him. Juan Diego was a prophet who declared the arrival of the Christ by speaking to the bishop and conveying the request of the Virgin to build the basilica to establish the Gospel in America.

We, who have received this good news, are also called to be prophets to declare the arrival of Christ in the persons of the poor, in the persons of immigrants and refugees, and in the person of the unborn child.

On this Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe, we welcome her and her Son with songs of joy. We speak the truth of His Gospel of love and solidarity. We pray especially for all immigrants and refugees that we might offer them “posada” in our community and not in a stable. We welcome Christ’s Body in the Eucharist to be received as He was welcomed by Mary’s “yes” to God.

NTC photo/Adrean Indolos

Solemnidad de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
12 de Diciembre de 2016
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Fort Worth, Texas

Sirach 24:23-31
Gálatas 4:4-7
Lucas 1:39-48

Inmediatamente después de recibir el mensaje del Arcángel Gabriel, ofreciendo su consentimiento libre para aceptar la voluntad de Dios, que ella sea la Madre de Dios, María se apresura a visitar a su prima Isabel.

Su prima Isabel está esperando el nacimiento de su propio hijo. Isabel — debido a su edad — necesita ayuda y consuelo para su vulnerabilidad. María va a Isabel para ofrecer su asistencia y consuelo. María va a servir para no ser servida. María, con Jesús vivo en su vientre, llega a la casa de Isabel, y el no nacido Juan el Bautista salta de alegría en el vientre de Isabel. El bebé salta con alegría en la presencia de María y Jesús porque la salvación y la redención han llegado. Juan el Bautista representa a todas las generaciones futuras que recibirán gozo por la redención que les ofrece la llegada de Jesús traída por su Madre María.

Años más tarde, San Juan Diego, también es visitado por la Virgen María llevando al niño no nacido de Cristo en su vientre. María, llevando a Jesús en su vientre, vuelve a servir y a dar consuelo a Juan Diego. Lo hace en parte al aparecer como un india de la misma tez y piel de Juan Diego y su familia. Ella le dice que ella es su madre. Juan Diego salta con alegría y recibe consuelo en lugar de su temor porque la salvación y la redención han llegado a él ya las Américas.

Hoy María, Nuestra Señora, La Morenita, viene a nosotros nuevamente con Jesús en su vientre. Ella viene especialmente con la buena noticia de la misión de redención de su Hijo. Ella viene porque es nuestra madre. Ella viene a servir, no a ser servida. Saltamos con alegría. Juan el Bautista, Juan Diego, y todos nosotros, hemos saltado de alegría ante la llegada de Jesús con María. Juan el Bautista, Juan Diego, y todos nosotros pasamos de la recepción de esta buena nueva a aceptar nuestra vocación de hablar proféticamente. Juan el Bautista fue el último profeta que anunció el advenimiento del Cordero de Dios y llamó a todos a la conversión para prepararse para Él. Juan Diego fue un profeta que declaró la llegada del Cristo al hablar con el obispo y transmitir la petición de la Virgen para construir la basílica para establecer el Evangelio en América.

Nosotros, que hemos recibido esta buena noticia, también estamos llamados a ser profetas para declarar la llegada de Cristo a las personas de los pobres, a las personas de inmigrantes y refugiados, y a la persona del niño por nacer.

En esta Solemnidad de la Virgen de Guadalupe, damos la bienvenida a ella ya su Hijo con canciones de alegría — cantamos nuestras mañanitas. Vamos a servir y no ser servidos. Hablamos la verdad profética de su Evangelio de amor, dignidad humana, y solidaridad. Rogamos especialmente por todos los inmigrantes y refugiados que les podamos ofrecer “posada” en nuestra comunidad y no en un establo. Damos la bienvenida al Cuerpo de Cristo en la Eucaristía para ser recibido, ya que fue acogido por el “sí” de María a Dios. Decimos sí a Él.

NTC photo/Adrean Indolos


Homily for the Admission of Candidacy Vespers on the Feast of the North American Martyrs

Left to Right: Maurice Moon, Jonathan Demma,Most Rev. Michael F. Olson and Rijo Philip.

October 19, 2016
Theological College
Washington, DC

Psalm 116
1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil, Jean de Lalande, Antoine Daniel, John de Brebeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, and Noel Chabanel: these are the names of the saints whose feast we celebrate this day. Christ called each of them by name. He called them by name at baptism; He called them by name at their profession and ordination. They heard Christ’s call to follow Him, they said “yes” to Him, and they placed Him first in their efforts to evangelize the Huron and Iroquois people of North America. Each of them were different and were given different gifts as enumerated by Paul in his first Letter to the Corinthians from which we have just read. Each of them were clear in their resolve to love Him and His People and they gave their lives for both.

St. Isaac Jogues was a man of clear resolve. He wrote his superior, ‘Yes, Father, I want whatever the Lord wants, even if it costs a thousand lives.” It was the gift of fortitude that brought him and the other martyrs to clarity. When Isaac Jogues and Rene Goupil were accompanying a party of their Christian Hurons on a trade mission they were ambushed by a war party of the Iroquois and outnumbered. In the ensuing battle, Isaac Jogues found himself hidden in the weeds while the seminarian Rene Goupil and the Hurons were captured. He could have remained hidden in the weeds but he came forth to absolve, to anoint, and to comfort those who were captured. He came out of the obscurity of the weeds because he was a priest and a priest belongs with his people. Today we need from priests the clarity of hope bolstered by fortitude just as much as we need the certitude of faith articulated with reason.

Isaac Jogues suffered immensely at the hands of the Iroquois for thirteen months—he had hot coals thrown on him, he was beaten daily, malnourished and mocked, he had two of his fingers gnawed off by an Algonquin woman who also sheared off his right thumb with a jagged shell. Most painfully, he suffered by witnessing the murder of the Christian Hurons whom he had baptized and catechized and loved as a pastor. He also witnessed the murder of the seminarian Rene Goupil for whose priestly formation he had been responsible. Isaac Jogues was later liberated by a Dutch trading party and returned to France. Immediately upon his return to France he attended Mass. He kept things simple and prioritized and he did not hide in the weeds of obscurity and cowardice.

The temptation against clarity and simplicity did not end there because the Jesuit leadership had spread the word around Europe about his exploits as a missionary. Isaac Jogues, having suffered all of this, was then presented to the courts of royalty and politicians to further the complicated political agendas of many within the Church and the state. They attempted to use him as a vehicle for promotion. They offered him the weeds of politics and celebrity in which to hide and cower. Yet, he trusted, he loved, and remained simply faithful to Christ’s call. His fidelity brought him to an obedient return to North America where he courageously met his martyrdom being tomahawked to death and decapitated by a Mohawk warrior. This Mohawk warrior was later to be converted and baptized. At his baptism, Christ called this Mohawk warrior by the new Christian name of Isaac Jogues—the name by which Christ was to call him later at the Mohawk’s own martyrdom for the love of God.

The Rite for the Reception of Candidacy is very simple. It seems to be so much of an understatement; it’s almost stark. There are two short and direct questions and an equally short declarative statement of reception made by the Bishop in the name of the Church. Yet, like an evil age, we seek a sign for the Rite. There is no Book of the Gospels; there is no Chrism; there is no imposition of hands, no chalice or paten, no tonsure. Yet, this simplicity is precisely the point. Like the evil age no sign is given it except the Son of Man. It is truly simple.

The Rite is truly marked by the simplicity of hope; it is the hope required to hear the call and courageously to say “yes.” It is the hope of the simple-hearted whom the Lord protects with compassion. The Rite is steeped in simplicity because our human condition encounters so many temptations to complicate our response to the call, even to the point that a man can forget that he is here because he answered a call at Christ’s initiative.

There is much around our lives and ministries to tempt us towards opaqueness and complication. There is much about the human dimension of the Church that tempts us to hide in the weeds and to obscure the true nature of our call from Jesus Christ. This can be done through distractions like inebriation from alcohol, manipulating the formation program, the seduction of power, and the comfortable life of self-righteous entitlement. All of it is marked by the sin of acedia, the “noonday devil”; it is boredom with the spiritual simplicity of one called by Christ. Acedia is the sin that leads us to seek out the weeds in which to cower from love.

Yet, Jesus gives us the courage of the Cross, His selfless love. He enables us to love as He loves. As we have just prayed with the entire Church in Psalm 116, “I trusted even when I said I am sorely afflicted, and when I said in my alarm ‘no man can be trusted’.” Thus, should you, our aspirants to candidacy (and each of us as well), trust God Who is upright and will never reject us (His People, His Church) even when we cannot grasp the details of the entire picture and are frightened. Perseverance in trust is required and specifically sought from our aspirants in the Rite we celebrate in today’s Vespers.

In a few moments, you will each be called again by name. I will ask you two questions that seek the declaration of your clear resolve to prepare for ordination to which Jesus, who never obscures, who is never opaque, who never deceives, who is never deceived, calls you and offers you His love. Jesus lovingly calls you by name to prepare for service and to come out of the weeds by courageously saying “yes” to Him—to love His People as He loves them—to live in the clarity of His Truth.

+ Most Rev. Michael F. Olson
Bishop of Fort Worth


Priestly Ordination of Fr. Joseph Keating, Fr. Nghia Nguyen, and Fr. Matthew Tatyrek

Homily for Priestly Ordination of Fr. Joseph Keating, Fr. Nghia Nguyen, and Fr. Matthew Tatyrek
St. Patrick’s Cathedral,Fort Worth, Texas
May 21, 2016

Numbers 11:11b-12, 14-17, 24-25a
2 Corinthians 5:14-20
John 21:15-17

Photo by Donna Ryckaert

The readings for our ordination liturgy today begin and end with two conversations. The first reading from the Book of Numbers offers us the conversation between Moses and the Lord. The Gospel reading presents the conversation between Peter and the Lord Jesus. There are questions and responses; there are petitions and there are promises.

Moses is following the Lord, leading the Lord’s own People through the wilderness, a journey towards the land that has been promised to them, a journey that requires discernment and trust in the Lord God. It is in this journey that they have begun as refugees from slavery that they are to become a pilgrim people — God’s chosen and pilgrim people — through faithful trust in God and in God’s chosen agent, Moses.

Prayer of Moses
Ivan Kramskoy, 1801
Moses is asking the Lord for help because he needs it. He recognizes that there are an increasing number of the people who are abandoning their identity as God’s Chosen People made so by His Covenant with them — and instead turning back in fear to a life of slavery. They risk losing their identity as one people — God’s one chosen people — they risk dissipating into a mob of individuals, lonely, with no meaning to their lives except the slavery of fear driving them into selfishness and idolatry.

So the Lord answers Moses. The Lord raises up seventy wise men. They aren’t wise in education, they aren’t wise in experience, they aren’t wise in technical skills — they are wise in the willingness to trust the Lord — and in so doing they receive the grace of God in a portion of His Spirit that He has already given to Moses. These elders are to serve as bridges between the people and God. They are to serve as bridges among the people with each other, uniting them in the mission of the pilgrimage to true and lasting freedom in God, when fear would otherwise drive them apart and surround them with the slavery of self-imposed walls of isolation and self-centeredness.

These chosen elders prefigure priests and their ministry in the life of the Church. A priest is a bridge — a pontifex. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote — -“No man on his own, relying on his own power, can put another in touch with God. An essential part of the priest’s grace is the gift, the task of creating this contact… As an act of God’s infinite mercy, he calls some “to be” with Him and to become, through the sacrament of Orders, despite their human poverty, sharers in His own priesthood, ministers of sanctification, stewards of His mysteries, “bridges” to the encounter with Him and of His mediation between God and man and between man and God.”

The marrow of a priest’s being a bridge is anchored in the conversation that Christ initiated with him when he first heard Christ’s call to follow Him. This conversation between Christ and the priest might be better understood in the light of the conversation between Jesus and Peter that is revealed to us in today’s Gospel which ends with Jesus’ words spoken to Peter, “Follow me.” The conversation in the Gospel today is only part of an ongoing conversation that began with Christ’s first call to Peter to follow Him. The conversation intensified when Christ gave Peter the keys of binding and loosing. The conversation continued at the Last Supper with the washing of Peter’s feet and his promised fidelity to be denied in futility. The conversation quiets at Calvary. The conversation echoes through the empty tomb, picks up again in the post Resurrection scene depicted in today’s Gospel, reverberates through the peripheries of the world after Pentecost, and culminates in Peter’s martyrdom — the death for love that Jesus alludes to in today’s reading.

In today’s conversation Jesus asks Peter, are you willing to sacrifice yourself for me. Peter, having been humbled by his threefold denial, responds in a paraphrase, “let’s just be friends.” Jesus repeats the question, are you willing to give yourself for me — Peter responds, “I am your friend.” Jesus patiently meets Peter where he is at and asks Peter for his friendship, because it is in friendship where self-sacrifice begins again. To be friends with the Lord requires the grace of a conversation, a dialogue — the dialogue of prayer by which Peter, and by which each of us priests will grow towards self-sacrifice — the self-sacrifice of true Christ-like love — the love of the Cross — the death that Peter will undergo.

St. Peter and St. Paul
El Greco, 1607
This is the love that St. Paul writes about in today’s second reading from his second letter to the Corinthians. It is the love of Christ given to us. It is the love of Christ that we receive. It is the love of Christ that we now have the capacity to offer to other people. St. Paul shows us how Christ has united the vertical dimension of atonement to God for the offense of sins with the horizontal dimension of reconciliation among human beings alienated from each other. The vertical and horizontal dimensions are the two beams of the Cross — Christ’s Cross.

Each one of us shares in the Cross. By his ordination and ministry, a priest shares intimately in Christ’s priestly sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation through his celebration of each of the sacraments — most especially the Eucharist and Penance. It is this sacrificial aspect of a priest’s life that enables him to lead the People of God, the New Israel, from slavery to selfishness and sin towards the freedom of the baptized. It is this sacrificial aspect that motivates a priest to go to the peripheries of society to reach those who otherwise would collapse in fear and confusion. It is this sacrificial aspect of a priest’s life that illuminates a priest with the truth of the Gospel to enlighten those lost in the fog of error. It is this sacrificial aspect that empowers a priest to shepherd people away from the walled off isolation experienced as part of a mob of individuals towards the Communion offered and shared that makes us the Church — Christ’s Body. “Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.”

Dear Sons, in a few moments, the conversation will continue with the questions that I will ask in the Person of Christ and in the name of the Church. Christ will say to you again, “Follow me.” The conversation will continue with your promises. It will continue with Christ in your daily prayer and ministry throughout your lives. It will grow in your development in God’s Grace to give of yourselves to Christ and His People, to begin with friendship and to culminate in the self-sacrifice of the Cross — of authentic Christ-like love in your life and ministry by which you will be able to meaningfully and humbly stand at the altar and say, “This is my Body, this is my Blood.”

+ Most Rev. Michael F. Olson
Bishop of Fort Worth