8/25/2017

Address to Principals and Teachers of the Catholic School System



Diocese of Fort Worth
August 7, 2017
Nolan Catholic High School

"The eyes of the world see no further than this life, as mine see no further than this wall when the door is closed. The eyes of the Christian see deep into eternity."
— St. John Vianney

El discurso completo en Español

The mission of Catholic education in the schools of the Diocese of Fort Worth is to open the doors so that our students can see further than the walls that otherwise would enclose them in darkness. What does seeing deep into eternity really look like? It involves being able to recognize, to appropriate, and to cherish the eternal and transcendental goods of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. These three transcendental goods depend upon each other within the envelope of eternity.

Truth. We see truth through the door of knowledge. This is opened to us through such academic classes as theology, philosophy, history, logic, science, mathematics, and robotics. Other supportive disciplines include the norms of grammar and of phonics, the protocols of classroom behavior, and the rules and strategy of athletics. Truth enables us to belong to a community with a shared history that is greater than ourselves or that of our own fabrication. Truth provides order and peace through justly measured prioritization. Truth enables us to recognize and to meet those human needs that we cannot meet by our own individual power because truth provides an objective measure by which we can agree on priorities among shared goals and discern the appropriate means to attain those goals. Truth opens the door that enables us to see deeply into eternity through the wall of egotism and selfish interests.

Without truth offered to us through such studies as theology, philosophy, science, history, mathematics, grammar, and the discipline of deportment, a selfish narrative takes over and dominates each one of us and damages the common good of our society. When this happens, our role as educators becomes diminished to the role of an arbiter who capriciously balances self-interests among individuals competing for attention. In this situation, each of us educators very soon and sadly becomes one of those individuals with our own egoistic interests set in the balance for attention.

Beauty. We see the eternal good of beauty through art, music, literature, poetry, and drama. Beauty, closely related to the truth, affords us hope. Beauty enables us to share the joy of immaterial goods that are beyond those material goods that can be measured and quantified. The studies and practice of art and literature at every level of education opens the doors that allow our students to pass through the walls of materialism and consumerism. Arts and literature open the door of beauty, the door hinged upon truth, and provide an egress through the wall of selfish narrative that otherwise would lock us into the darkness.

Without the good of beauty, such disciplines as art, music, literature, poetry, and drama become only raw spectacle that shocks us with fear and desensitizes us to hope. Without the good of authentic beauty, such disciplines as art, music, literature, poetry, and drama become valued only if they can be quantified and sold. This replaces character with celebrity in the fiber of the artist’s profile.

Goodness. We experience goodness through the study and practice of religion. Religion holds us together with the eternal. Religion offers the encounter spiritually with that which I cannot manipulate or control but can only worship —God. Religion enables us to see the goodness of the world because of its status of being created by God —“and God saw that it was good.” Religion enables us to see clearly the dignity of the person because of the human person’s being created in the image and likeness of God. Religion enables me to witness and value with reverence the goodness of embodied human beings differentiated naturally for a procreative purpose — “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Religion enables me to see the goodness of this person who has a name and belongs to a family. It enables me to encounter this person who is my classmate, or my student, or my teacher, or my colleague, not as an object but as a human subject making present the image and likeness of God. Religion enables me to see myself as created by God for a purpose.

Without the door of religion, our students remain trapped behind the wall of hedonism — where goodness becomes valued in things or persons only by the limited measurement of sense experience — that which is physically pleasurable or emotionally stimulating.

The mission of education is to unlock and to open these doors of truth, beauty, and goodness. Without these doors to be opened, our students and their parents (and ourselves) remain locked behind the walls of egoism, materialism, consumerism, and hedonism. Without these doors to be opened, education loses its mission and its identity with the result being that education becomes simply the training in skills needed for one to navigate the darkened room or only to build other walls within the darkened room.

Our students and their parents deserve to have these doors opened to them — even if they do not know that the doors exist or that they are in fact enclosed behind these walls. It is our responsibility to inform them, to open the doors for them, and to teach them how to keep the doors open.

Thus, we cannot give what we do not have. I ask each of us at the start of this academic year to examine our consciences and our lives. Where does each of us encounter truth, beauty, and goodness in our own lives? What literature do we read? What music informs our soul? What do we study to expand our knowledge? What do we believe as our religion and how do we practice it? Has my own education become reduced to simply skills training and technique? Has my vocation as an educator become reduced to being a job to make ends meet?

The beginning of the academic year is a wonderful opportunity for each of us to put away bad habits and to renew our vocational life as educators by which we have been called to enable our students to see deeply into eternity. The transcendental goods of truth, beauty, and goodness save us from the darkness of egotism, materialism, consumerism, and hedonism and provide us with a clear measurement for the Christian virtues of faith — by which we know truth; hope — by which we perceive beauty; and charity — in which we encounter goodness in communion with our neighbor in the very life of God in Whom our souls find rest.

+ Bishop Michael F. Olson

8/18/2017

Homily for the Mass of the Holy Spirit


Nolan Catholic High School
August 17, 2017

Ezekiel 36:24-28
Ephesians l:3a, 4a, 13-19a
John 14: 23b-26

Christ has called us by name at the start of this academic year to celebrate the Eucharist, as instituted by Him at the Last Supper. Our Gospel reading, proclaimed in this celebration of the Eucharist, is taken from the Gospel of John, where the action represented occurs in the context of Christ’s Last Supper discourse whereby Jesus is teaching and instructing His disciples to remain in the way He has taught them to remain in Him.

In the Gospel, Jesus is speaking these words to His disciples as He is instituting the Mass; He speaks them once more to us as we encounter Him again at the celebration of the Mass.

Christ promises an Advocate who will remain with them, with us, while Christ departs. The Advocate is the one who will remind them, intercede for them, and plead their case. It is a legal term; it means “lawyer” or “defender.” Christ gives the disciples this Defender — the Holy Spirit — so they will not be lost when Jesus departs. Yet, what is this needed defense that requires such an advocate?

We hear an answer to this question in the first and second readings of our Mass today. The first reading from Ezekiel follows the promise of God to regenerate the land in preparation for the return of His people from exile. It’s important to note that this act of mercy on the part of God is not precipitated by the people themselves but because of God’s very being. God’s very being is Love. In fact, the people don’t deserve this act of mercy by God, but God acts on their behalf anyway in honor of His name. The point is that God’s saving action on behalf of His people is not their own doing. There is not any action of their own initiative that brings about God’s entrance into their lives. It is only His free gift.

The second reading from Ephesians utilizes heart and Spirit language to emphasize that the calling of those in Christ also is something not earned nor deserved. This call is a free gift offered to them by God out of His love for them. In the classical thanksgiving section of the letter, Paul is reminding the Ephesian community of what God has done for them through the Grace of the Holy Spirit. God is giving the Ephesians “a spirit of wisdom and revelation.”

The gift of the Spirit defends the Ephesian community from a selfish sense of entitlement. It is the Spirit of gratitude. This gift of the ability to be grateful for what God has done for them in Christ is the starting point of all that they are to do. The Spirit brings to the disciples a calling to a life of gratitude and service. Their hearts are exhorted to continue to live in this calling from Christ through which they have been enlightened to turn away from sinfulness and selfishness.

The calling of gratitude is the place where you begin your school year as Nolan Catholic High School. It is Jesus’ calling to you. You each have been given many gifts in the opportunity to be part of the educational mission of Nolan Catholic High School. Do not squander these gifts but begin by asking God for gratitude that you might not be selfish with these gifts, and instead place them at the authentic service of God and your neighbor. The Holy Spirit offers to protect you from the selfish sense of entitlement and chaos, from being deceived that you are emotionally and passionately entitled to what God offers you in His mercy.

Christ never speaks to us through chaos and emotional frenzy; He speaks to us and calms chaos and disorder through the authentic gift of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit of Wisdom and Docility. To be docile does not mean to be timid, to be docile means to be teachable, and docility comes to us with the Spirit’s gift of fortitude to be disciplined and to live obediently your current calling as both students and educators.

The cause that the Advocate pleads is the mission of Communion of the Church. That which the Advocate defends us from is the return of rebellion, chaos, and selfish entitlement that is the bitter fruit of sin. The Holy Spirit is the advocate that will not allow this chaos to return to human beings through their belonging to the Church’s mission. You who belong to Nolan Catholic High School have an important part in this mission. Decide to accept the calling to share in this mission by rejecting chaos and living fully your participation in the school’s life. Discern in the light of the Holy Spirit what it is that Christ is calling you to do with your lives; how is He calling you to serve; who is He calling you to become.

This mission is not something that belongs to an exclusive group or circle of friends; it does not belong to a nationality or language group; it is not contingent upon a special experience — spiritual or otherwise. It is the mission that belongs to the Church to gather into one all the children of God through the forgiveness of sins and conversion of heart to turn away from sin and selfishness.

We are gathered here in this Eucharistic assembly to ask the Advocate again that we might remain a stronger part of the Church’s mission through our life as part of the mission of Nolan Catholic High School. We ask the Advocate to protect us from mistreating the Church’s mission as our own selfish initiative. May the Holy Spirit enable us to encounter Christ and His Truth in the fields of each of our educational endeavors including: spirituality, language, theology, mathematics, science, culture, literature, athletics, music, theater, and others.

Let’s pray that we be a part of Christ’s plan, not that we try to subvert Him to be a part of our own plans. We are confident in making this prayer because we have the guarantee of the defense of the Holy Spirit as our Advocate. It is this Advocate who is given to us again in the same situation in which He was first promised us by Christ at the Last Supper — the celebration of the Eucharist by which we share in Christ’s eternal sacrifice of redemption — the Eucharist — that frees us from sin and is the only gift that can make all of us to be truly one in love and truth.

6/26/2017

Homily for the Feast of St. Josemaría Escriva



June 25, 2017
Christ the King Catholic Church
Dallas, Texas

Genesis 2:4b-9, 15
Psalm 2
Romans 8:14-17
Luke 5:1-11

One time when I was a kid, I had the opportunity to go fishing with one of my favorite cousins. My cousin did not like to share his time fishing with anyone, which was one of the reasons I wanted to go with him. I wanted to go with him more than to go fishing. He finally relented and agreed to take me. On the way there early in the morning, I peppered him with questions and chatter. He ignored this. When we finally got to the boat and went out on the water, I became bored and didn’t pay attention to my pole, playing with it. I asked him, “Do you think that we will catch any fish?” He answered that it would be helpful if I put the pole in the water and did just as he was doing. I believed him to be an expert.

My cousin’s response makes a lot of sense. "Learn from the experts." So, one can imagine what went through Peter’s mind when Jesus, carpenter and teacher, dared to invite Himself into Peter’s business, fishing. Peter was an expert in fishing. Jesus was a carpenter and was not reputed to be a fisherman. Yet, what Peter learns is that even (and perhaps especially) in the business for which each of us has natural talents and knowledge, we must begin with inviting the Lord as the Source of those talents – not for the sake of success but for the sake of His mission of salvation that He shares with us, the baptized. In doing so, we become a part of His mission instead of trying to make Him a part of our own plans.

God chose to save us, to save every human being, by the humanity of Jesus. In Jesus Christ we see the perfect integration and harmony between the divine and human wills; we see perfect justice; we see perfect fortitude; we see perfect temperance; we see perfect prudence; and we receive perfect love. In our Baptism, our humanity is imbued with the character of Christ and we are given the capacity to manifest the character of Christ through these infused virtues. Most especially, we receive the capacity to love with the human and divine love of Jesus Christ, love through His Cross of Sacrifice.

In Jesus Christ, we see and experience harmony and right order of the human and divine – without blurring distinctions and without compartmentalizing either of them. We see that there is no double life in Jesus Christ. There is no gnostic separation of spirit and matter, of the divine and the human. We learn that this integration is offered to us who are baptized in Christ, and have a responsibility to live this reality through what is known as holiness. Holiness is not only our gift, it is also our mission. It is the mission of Jesus Christ that He shares sacramentally with us through each of the sacraments that are so very real – both spiritual and material.

Saint Josemaría Escrivá received and grasped this mission and reality; he prophetically accepted it before it was systematically presented by the Church at the Second Vatican Council. During an October 8, 1967 homily at the University of Navarre, the Saint said: "I often said to the university students and workers who were with me in the thirties that they know how to materialize their spiritual lives. I wanted to warn them of the temptation, so common then and now, to lead a double life: on the one hand, an inner life, a life related to God; and on the other, as something separate and distinct, their professional, social and family lives, made up of small earthly realities."

The bifurcation between the spiritual and the material is the bitter fruit of sin; it is the alienation of the human person from himself and from his environment. It leads to compartments and self-destruction – the goal of the enemy – to destroy the beauty of God’s work of creation, chiefly God’s most beautiful creation: the human person created in the image and likeness of God. This separation prompts us to have a cordial but distant relationship with God, one devoid of intimacy and marked by apathy. It compartmentalizes the work of holiness within the Church to the clergy and religious, and it subsequently voids also the holiness of the clergy by reducing clergy and religious life to a childish game of “dress up” marked by externals without any mark of reality.

For this "double life" to incubate it requires a cloak of darkness and obscurity; it requires the blurring of vision through the inebriation of self-will and half-truths; it eschews and recoils from the disinfecting sunlight of Jesus and the Gospel – for Whom even darkness is not dark and Who reveals fully all that the Father has to reveal.

This bifurcation of the spiritual from the material has harmed marriage and family life; it has isolated the conjugal and physical intimacy from the fruit of marital love and the gift of children. It has harmed holy orders by isolating priests in a clerical culture of entitlement restricting them to sacramental functionalism and obscuring the transparent and sacramental character of being ordained in the image of Christ as head and shepherd of His church – a vocation of integrity and love. It has harmed moral theology through systems that compartmentalize our moral actions from our moral intentions, that spiritualize morality to such an extent that it becomes impossible to live morally in reality; leading one to hold simplistically the Gospel as a meaningless and distant ideal.

The metaphor of fishing in the Gospels conveys the disciple’s responsibility towards mission. "To put out into the deep" means that we are first to trust Jesus and to do what He asks us to do, even beyond the scope of our own reasoning or expertise. Secondly, what Jesus asks us to do is to go to where the fish are – in the deep – not to stay shallow and safe and to expect the fish to come where the disciple is. These depths for fishing include reality, not the shallow level of superficiality; the depths of each being, of each soul, the depths of society’s structure and the common good.

Saint John Paul II spoke at Saint Josemaría Escrivá’s canonization regarding the saint’s vocation. Saint Josemaría Escrivá heard clearly this vocation at Mass on August 7, 1931. The Pope said, “Saint Josemaría Escrivá understood more clearly that the mission of the baptized consists in raising the Cross of Jesus above all human reality; he felt burning within him the impassioned vocation to evangelize every human setting. Duc in altum! Saint Josemaría Escrivá transmitted it to his entire spiritual family so that they might offer the Church a valid contribution of communion and apostolic service.”

The mission of Christ is the redemption of the human person. The mission of Christ is the reintegration of humanity’s relation of love with God and neighbor intended at creation but lost by the "happy fault" of Adam. The mission of Christ is completed by Christ through His Cross and Resurrection. This mission of Christ is shared with us at our baptism and confirmation; we are nourished in it through the Eucharist; we are particularly emboldened by and for it in the Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony; we are healed in it through Penance and Anointing of the Sick. The mission of Christ is real. It is integral and not bifurcated. The mission of Christ is as real as each of the elements of matter used in the celebration of the sacraments. It is as real as our daily lives and the things that we foolishly think are too mundane or shameful over which to trouble God.

Saint Josemaría Escrivá conveyed this reality in the previously cited homily when he said: "No, my children! We cannot lead a double life. We cannot be like schizophrenics, if we want to be Christians. There is only one life, made of flesh and spirit. And it is that life which has to become, in both body and soul, holy and filled with God: we discover the invisible God in the most visible and material things."

For us to live this one life entirely we must return to its source, Jesus Christ who is true God and true man. We must decide to allow Him into our areas of expertise, to do things His way and not simply according to the tenets of our best thinking. Put out into the deep, the depths beyond our understanding.


Who was Saint Josemaría Escrivá:
A brief biography of Saint Josemaria Escriva,
the founder of Opus Dei.


5/22/2017

Homily for Priestly Ordination of Fr. Stephen Hauck and Fr. John Martin

Photo by Juan Guajardo

May 20, 2017
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Isaiah 61:1-3
1 Peter 5:1-4
John 15:9-17

Several years ago, when Bishop Vann was transferred from our Diocese of Fort Worth to the Diocese of Orange, each and every one of us began to pray that Christ would send us a new bishop for the good of our local church. As a priest of this diocese, whose term of assignment was approaching its end, I prayed with particular zeal and specificity for this intention. I prayed ardently that Christ would send us for our bishop, a patient man, a man of reticence of speech, and a man with enough aversion to controversy to at least stay out of the newspapers. Our faith teaches us that God answers all prayers but sometimes He says "no." That was the case on November 12, 2013 when I received a call from the papal nuncio who informed me that the pope had appointed me to be the new bishop of Fort Worth. With disbelief, I quickly responded to the archbishop, "Your Excellency" (we use such salutations when we want very much to get our own way). "Your Excellency, there are certainly very many priests and bishops who are more patient, more prudent, and more experienced than me to be the bishop of Fort Worth." To which the nuncio responded, "Your Excellency, the pope knows that but he has chosen you."

I tell that story because Christ’s choice of you to follow Him and to serve His people as priests is not based upon your talents. Christ’s choice of you is not made reluctantly by Him because of your weaknesses. Christ’s choice to call you is based upon His love for you and for His people; it is a love that is fully displayed in His Sacrifice of the Cross. Your priestly vocation is an act of Christ’s generous love for you and for His people, the Church. Your priestly vocation is not a career or a form of self-identification. Christ’s choice is trustworthy and it is decisive in offering you a particular share in His mission. His choice enables you to make a decision that is as firm, trustworthy, and purposeful as His.

This is important because we too frequently misunderstand choice in our contemporary world as being an expression of a type of freedom that is indifferent to permanence and stability. We mistakenly think that to be free means to maintain as many options among abstract goods as possible. Choice becomes only the temporary expression of my current and changing preferences indifferent to reality or to anybody else. This too often adversely affects discernment of a vocation where the discerner becomes paralyzed in making a decision from among such abstract goods as priesthood or marriage. Yet, in fact, priesthood and marriage are not abstract goods. They are very real. They involve very real human beings responding to the very real God. They only become misunderstood as abstract goods when we draw our attention away from Christ by placing our focus on our preferences in considering these vocations apart from Him who extends the invitation and the call to us to love.

Perseverance in our vocation and our discernment requires simplicity of heart in order that we can say, “yes when we mean yes, and say no when we mean no, for as Christ teaches us, anything more is from the evil one.” Trust in Christ ensures our perseverance and spares us from indecision and the sadness of not belonging to anyone.

How do we come to recognize with clarity that He has chosen us? The Gospel from today offers us some insight. The Gospel includes a series of sayings that alternate between commandment and love. These are held in tandem, commandment and love; they express the rhythm of Christian life and discipleship. Follow Christ’s commands, do so out of love — His for you and the Church, and yours for Him and His Church. The more we obey, the more we love, and the more we become His friends. In this friendship we hear His invitation and are able to respond to it and to trust Him.

Christ’s choice for us is permanent and lasting and far from being indifferent. He will never take it away. In order for our choice to respond with reciprocal permanence and love to His choice, His assistance is required because of our weak and wounded human condition. This assistance is brought about through the grace of anointing with chrism. Anointing with chrism marks us as belonging to Him and to each other as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of His Church. It is His brand upon each of us the baptized as His sheep, the sheep of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep. Anointing on our heads with chrism at Baptism and Confirmation makes us belong to Him, and each of us to each other as brothers and sisters and as sons and daughters of the Church born through Baptism. The anointing with chrism is permanent and far from being indifferent. It shows us as belonging to Him by His choice and by our choice to accept His choice.

Today’s celebration involves a further choice by Christ to call these men into deeper belonging and particular service with a further response required by our candidates for ordination. Therefore, another anointing with chrism is required to bring about sacramentally the permanence of Christ’s call and their response to a priestly vocation. Dear sons, your hands are to be anointed with chrism. This anointing of your hands makes them belong to Christ as His hands. He remains in you and you in Him manifested by the ongoing tandem of obedience and sacrificial love. Your hands belong to Him and His hands belong to you. Never forget that Christ’s hands constructed and created as a carpenter at work, His hands healed the sick, His hands cleansed the leper, His hands imparted mercy as they wrote upon the ground to free the woman caught in adultery and to admonish the self-righteous to conversion. His hands washed the feet of the disciples, His hands offered the bread and wine at the Last Supper in instituting the Eucharist, His hands were pierced and bloodied by nails in the freely-offered sacrifice of His life at the crucifixion, and His wounded hands were glorified at His Resurrection and they dispelled the darkness of doubt by their open display to Thomas. He gives you His hands to become your hands in the anointing with chrism that you are about to receive. He gives you His heart, the heart of the Good Shepherd who cares for the lost sheep through the imposition of my hands accompanied by those of your brother priests with whom you will soon belong as brothers in the priesthood.

You will belong even more profoundly to Him in a deeper way through your use of these anointed hands for His mission of salvation in your perseverance in ministry as His priests. Use these hands well. Offer the sacrifice of the Mass daily with them, absolve sinners with them, anoint the sick with them, baptize and mark new members of His Church by using chrism with them, bless His people with them, comfort the afflicted with them. Remind those who are on the margins of the sheepfold that they belong to Christ through their anointing with chrism at baptism, for you will today be anointed to anoint them and to mark them as belonging to Christ, to the Church, and to nobody else as a possession. Because your hands belong to Christ through this anointing, do not fill them with lesser goods and possessions selected by indifferent choices. If you were to do so, you would go away sad like the rich young man who could not decide to answer Jesus’ call to follow and to belong to Him or to anyone else.

In our contemporary world, in which we are to bring joyfully the Gospel of Christ, the people of God especially need your ministry as priests to be reminded that they belong to Christ and to each other and are not isolated from either. Joyfully receive this share in His mission with which He entrusts you.