Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face

On Thursday, October 1, 2015 I was honored and pleased to celebrate the Mass and preach the homily for the Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face at Holy Trinity Carmel in Arlington, Texas. The Carmelite sisters have dedicated their lives to prayer for the sake of the entire Church and especially for the priests, deacons, religious, and people of the Diocese of Fort Worth. Please remember to pray for the sisters of this Carmel.

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

Homily: Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face
Holy Trinity Carmel
October 1, 2015

Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13
1 John 4:7-16
Matthew 11:25-30

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
Public Domain
In our Gospel, Jesus admits that the Galilean ministry has not gone well. We see that the religious experts of His day have rejected His message. We also see that the little and simple people on the outer fringes have embraced it. Jesus shares His mutual knowledge and love of the Father with those whom He chooses and with those whom He calls. This love is His free gift to us and, as Therese teaches us so often, her Jesus will never be outdone in generosity!

Those who have received this Good News of love are not to hoard it but to share it. St. Therese knows that her very vocation is love. Her vocation of love is beyond even the confines of the dates of her earthly life, "I will spend my Heaven doing good on earth." Her vocation is Love. Love is at the very heart of Christian discipleship. It is first love that is fully manifested by Jesus Christ on the Cross.

There are very many times when injustice, especially an unjust system, seems to rule the day---but Therese shows us through her little way of confidence that it is love that will never be outdone---it is Jesus Himself who wins the day when we are overwhelmed by injustice and evil.

"His yoke is easy and His burden is light." The yoke that Jesus speaks of is for all of us; it is Jesus Himself; it is love; it is for us, the little way of confidence in God’s complete and loving Providence as shown us by St. Therese, the greatest saint in modern times. In today’s Gospel, it is the Scribes and Pharisees who are seeking to find the norm for living exclusively within the Law. They are trying to live within the Law without accepting it as a Covenant that involves personal conversion and confidence; they want the Law but without God Who has revealed the Law and Who has revealed Himself in the Law. They want the Law of self-sufficiency without the sacrifice of authentic love. The Pharisees and the Scribes are not unlike much of the religious leadership of Therese’s day inside her Carmel and also throughout much of Jansenist France. The trust in Grace is too frightening to them and cowardice scatters the flock as it exchanges love for politics or privilege.

Public Domain
Therese is fierce and courageous in her vulnerability---the vulnerability of the Cross---on which Christ is first wounded. She promises to die "with weapons in her hands". The weapons of spiritual abandonment in trust in the unconditional love of God---trust that God loves each of us unconditionally; trust that is tenacious in the face of a spirituality of self-will and arrogant denial of reality that more often than not---passively colludes with evil through cowardice and sins of omission. The weapon of loving trust will not surrender to self-sufficiency and isolation from God or from Therese’s brothers and sisters in the Church. The weapon that loves God for God’s sake and not because of what He gives me.


The arrival of Pope Frances here in the United States!

Pope Francis smiles as he leaves the airfield at Joint Base Andrews in a Fiat Sept. 22 outside Washington. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard) See POPE-US-ARRIVE Sept. 22, 2015.
Pope Francis smiles as he leaves the airfield at Joint Base Andrews in a Fiat
Sept. 22 outside Washington. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann,
Catholic Standard) See POPE-US-ARRIVE Sept. 22, 2015.

“He’s here! The Pope is here in the United States of America!” My mind and heart rushed with excitement as I viewed the images of Pope Francis and the President walking on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews displayed on the television above the baggage carousel at Reagan National Airport. As I waited for my luggage, the feeling soon changed to a sober realization that “I am here, present.”

I paused to take in everything. The excitement of seeing the Vicar of Christ in the United States is a periodic, but familiar feeling in my life. It first charged me in 1979 as a thirteen-year-old eighth grader awed at seeing Pope John Paul II ride through streets of Chicago’s ‒ my ‒ northwest side. I listened and heard him encourage me to say “yes” and to trust Christ and not to be afraid of actually seeing myself as His priest one day. The feeling revisited me in 1987 in Columbia, South Carolina at an ecumenical prayer service at Williams-Brice Stadium ‒ when as a college junior I heard the same Vicar of Christ speak to students, including me, “you must prepare yourselves to make your own contribution to society.” The feeling came again to me as a seminarian in Denver in 1993 at World Youth Day hearing the Saint challenge me not to be afraid as I would approach priestly ordination within the year. The feeling returned again in 2006 as a priest in Washington, DC, present with Benedict XVI who expressed “respect for our vast pluralistic society” at the White House.

The realization of “I am here, present” involves a shift to zeal from excitement. While excitement is purely emotional, zeal is a diligence for the shared mission of Christ that He personally gives to us. Zeal is authentic to the Gospel of Jesus that changes each and all of our lives through service and love of God and neighbor. I am here, present, having been ordained as the Bishop of Fort Worth, so appointed by this Successor of Peter, Pope Francis. I am here, present, not alone this time, but with the responsibility to care for the hundreds of thousands of the People of God from the 28 counties in North Texas whom I serve. They, you, accompany me here, not just emotionally but present in my heart as the flock entrusted to me by Christ. I am here; present, to listen not to a celebrity, but to the Vicar of Christ. I wonder what I will hear him say to me and to all of us.

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


The Ordination of Matthew Tatyrek to the Transitional Diaconate

Photo by Lance Murray

Homily for the Ordination of Matthew Tatyrek to the Transitional Diaconate

Holy Family Catholic Church
Vernon, Texas
July 25, 2015

Readings: 2 Corinthians 4:7-15; Matthew 20:20-28

Today we celebrate this ordination on the Feast of Saint James; he is one of the sons of Zebedee mentioned in our Gospel reading that we just proclaimed. In this Gospel we heard how the mother of the sons of Zebedee makes her request of Jesus based upon an understanding of a kingdom in which membership in the king’s court or family opens up entitlement to material and political benefits of power and status. It is established upon a political system that always imposes the ruler’s will oppressively upon the kingdom’s subjects. It is a political system that utilizes power in a way that is defensive of the status quo — viewing all who are new and different with a suspicious eye, shaded by fear.  It is a system that takes care of the leaders first. The mother asks her question out of an earthly understanding of kingship in which political power and status come from inclusion in the king’s family or national identity — the maintenance of that exalted status also depends upon the willful exclusion of those who do not belong, who are not welcome, who are different, and who are useless — throughout the Old Testament these have included the poor, the migrant, the widow, and the orphan.

It is important to note that Jesus does not respond directly to the mother — whose voice represents the political system of entitlement. Jesus does not address a political system. Instead, Jesus clearly addresses His response to His chosen disciples whom He has called lovingly by name. Jesus’ response is made in the form of a question of discernment — “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”

Their response is not one made in easy presumption — for it is asked of them by Jesus. Their answer is one made in the faith of His disciples, called by name, and in direct discourse between Christ and His disciples.  

Ellos responden "sí" porque ellos conocen a Jesús y ellos saben que Él las conoce. "Somos", responden en la fe y en la confianza en Cristo, que los ha llamado. El cáliz de la que Santiago va a beber es el cáliz de ministerio (diaconía), el cáliz del martirio, el cáliz del amor sin condiciones, el cáliz de la Cruz de Cristo.
They answer ‘yes’ because they know Jesus and they know that He knows them. “We are,” they respond in faith and in the confidence in Christ who has called them. The chalice from which James will drink is the chalice of ministry (diakonia), the chalice of martyrdom, the chalice of unconditional love, the chalice of the Cross. 

It is very important to note that James will be the first of the Apostles to offer lovingly his life in martyrdom for the truth of the Gospel — the first to follow Jesus in the act of sacrificial love. Jesus gives James this grace for James to keep his promise because Jesus always keeps His own promises. Just as it is important to remember that James is the first of the Apostles to become a martyr, it is also significant that the very first martyr of the Faith was Stephen, the first deacon — called and chosen to assist the Apostles by caring for the widows, the orphans, the poor, and the aliens among them — those who were being excluded because they spoke a different language and had no useful standing in the community and probably were not welcome. There is a connection between care for the poor and martyrdom; the connection is the Love of the Cross. This love is the marrow of the diaconal character of ministry.

Without the diaconal character of ordained ministry — the priesthood can too easily be reduced to an exclusive club, a society of entitlement, with an unfocused drive to maintain the status quo for its own sake. It can easily suffer from the symptoms of the inward looking church that is sick — against which Pope Francis warned us in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. When bishops and priests are mindful of the diaconal character of their ordination, their ministry and identity is clarified in the light of the Gospel of love fully revealed in Christ crucified — the presumptions of the fearful human condition manifested in the request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee are dissipated. 

Un hombre está ordenado a ser un diácono antes de que vaya a ser ordenado sacerdote, porque para ser sacerdote de Jesucristo está primero y siempre que sea su siervo. Un siervo escucha a su Señor antes de hacer. Él sigue a su Señor porque Él conoce a El y primero es amado por Él. 

A priest and bishop are mindful of the diaconal character of their ministry when they place the needs of the poor and vulnerable first — and do not hesitate in decisively seeing to the prompt and thorough protection of the vulnerable that are prone to manipulation by those who willingly collude with evil.

Today, Matthew, you are to be ordained to the diaconate in the celebration of this Eucharist. You are to be so ordained because Christ has called you to this ministry and the Church has discerned with you the authenticity of this call. Matthew, you will say, “Yes, I am,” when Christ asks you, like He asked Saint James, if you are able and willing to drink of His chalice. Never forget that your willingness to say “yes” is itself His gift to you. Your “yes” to Christ is to be spoken in your promise of celibacy, in your promise of obedience, and in your willingness to pray for the Church, and in your ministry to proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Christ—the Gospel of Love, the Gospel of the Cross.

The Church depends upon your promise of celibacy to clarify the unconditional love that Christ has for Her.

La Iglesia depende de su promesa de celibato para aclarar el amor sin condiciones que Cristo tiene para Ella. Su amor célibe debería mostrarnos a Jesús. Su celibato debe manifestar claramente el amor de Cristo célibe.

Your celibate love should show us Jesus. Your celibacy should clearly manifest Christ’s celibate love. For this to happen, your celibate commitment depends upon your living as a friend of Jesus who selflessly loves His people for love of Him. Celibacy is not an avoidance of marriage. As Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI said, “The avoidance of marriage is based on a will to live only for oneself, and therefore a ‘no’ to the bond. Celibacy is a definitive ‘yes’ to give oneself into the hands of the Lord. It makes present the scandal of a faith that bases all existence upon God.” Our celibacy makes us poor; our celibacy makes us to rely on God alone; it shows the generosity of the love of Christ. Without a friendship with Christ, our celibacy can quickly become sterile and unclear, self-directed and isolating, and embittered with fear.

Your promise of obedience is not an initiation into an exclusive society or club. It is not the blind obliteration of your conscience for the maintenance of the status quo of a very human institution by an unreflective compliance to orders. It is your willingness to surrender your well-formed judgment to that of your bishop in an act of trust in God for the sake of the common good of the local and universal Church. Your promise of obedience is a free gift by which Christ connects you intimately with the mission of justice entrusted to the Church. 

Para ser obediente no simplista significa seguir las reglas. Esto significa que se ha comprometido a seguir a Cristo, presente en la responsabilidad de su obispo para unir y para cuidar el rebaño -- especialmente a los miembros más pobres e inútiles de la Iglesia. 

For to be truly obedient, you must begin by humbly acknowledging that your will is to be directed toward the service of others — not at your initiation but at that of the Church guided by the Holy Spirit. Your obedience is a readiness and availability so that the institution of the Church serves its mission, and not vice versa. As Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI said, “Jesus does not come in the guise of a master of this world but the One who is the true Master comes as a servant. His priesthood is not dominion but service: this is the new priesthood of Jesus Christ.”

Finally, to pray for the Church you must first pray with the Church.  Your prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours unites you closely with Christ’s love for His Church. It transforms your heart to be more like His heart — to be willing and eagerly to give of your time through interruption by attentiveness to Christ’s voice spoken by the poor and the members of His Church. The Liturgy of the Hours is the means by which you become a friend of Christ and also a friend of the People of God. 

En las palabras de Santa Teresita, La Pequena Flor,Para mí, la oración es un impulso del corazón; se trata de una sencilla mirada lanzada hacia el cielo, es un grito de reconocimiento y de amor tanto desde el juicio y la alegría".

It is the means by which you accompany Christ on His mission of justice shared with the Church and by which you accompany the Church in its pilgrimage of faith to restore justice and remove the oppressive injustice that is the bitter fruit of sin; sin that is vanquished only by the unconditional love of Christ through His Cross. Again, as Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI reminded us, “Whatever the demands that arise, it is a real priority to find every day an hour to be in silence with the Lord, as the Church suggests we do with the breviary, with daily prayers, so as to return within the reach of the Spirit’s breath.”

Never forget, that you are not joining any club by your ordination. Christ trusts you with a share in His mission of mercy and justice, of love and of compassion, the mission of His Church which is its reason for being. He has called you because He loves you and He loves His Church — He seeks your friendship.  He shares His chalice with you — the chalice of diaconal ministry, the chalice of unconditional love, and the chalice of the Cross of Jesus Christ.


In Light of Pope Francis: Sport & the New Evangelization

I was pleased and honored to speak at the 10th Annual Leadership Conference of Play Like a Champion Today: Character Formation through Sport at Notre Dame University on June 27, 2015. It was also a joy for me to be the principle celebrant and homilist at the Vigil Mass for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time that same day at Sacred Heart Basilica on the campus of Notre Dame University.

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

This video is a great example of how sports can help us “recognize one another as brothers and sisters on the way” and foster such virtues as character, teamwork, prudence and solidarity.

Notre Dame University
Notre Dame, Indiana
June 27, 2015

The advancements of modern civilization, unhinged from such moral absolutes as human dignity, have created a culture where all is to be treated as disposable. This approach especially assaults the dignity of the weakest and most vulnerable of human beings within our worldwide community: including the poor, the sick, and the unborn. In his most recent encyclical Laudato Si, the Pope has written that in this "Throwaway Culture," "Human beings are themselves considered to be consumer goods to be used and then discarded."

Several questions arise for us at this conference in light of this fresh insight regarding what Pope Francis has called the "Throwaway Culture." How does sport address the wounded and sick aspects of our culture? How has sport been wounded by such a culture and how does it wound the culture? How do we address this through the new evangelization?

The popular culture presents athletes as celebrities who are indistinct from celebrities from other areas of the popular culture like music and the arts. Celebrities are famous for being famous. In today’s popular culture celebrities are glamorized because of individualized lifestyles of self-determination and unique expression (no matter what is said by that expression). In today’s popular culture, the athlete’s prowess within sports is celebrated only as accidental to his or her celebrity by a fragmented society that exalts the individual’s achievement over and above that of the community.

I observe that much of the contemporary interest in athletics and sports (certainly at the professional level) within our dominant culture is directed to the spectator’s participation in "so-called" fantasy sports teams. The interest in the competition of teams has been reduced to the compilation and arrangement of statistics that mark in a utilitarian manner the performance of individual athletes. In such fantasy leagues, the performance of the athlete is isolated from the context of the structure of the game (including rules) and denuded from its participation in teamwork. This can be seen in that so many of our young (and not-so young) people would rather "own" Paul Goldschmidt than play like Paul Goldschmidt, or "own" Aaron Rodgers than to play like Aaron Rodgers. Many of our young people’s understanding of teamwork is reduced to the compilation of statistics of a group of individual players as a mathematical aggregate, and not as a unit exercising a cohesive performance within a structured competition known as a game.

It is true that what has contributed to the decrease in loyalty among local sports teams is the mobility of people within our society. Yet, what has sped this decrease is the philosophical approach to life that values only that which can be quantified, that is, that which can be materially measured through the conventional arrangement of statistics for the sake of utility. When the athlete’s statistical productivity disappears, the athlete is discarded. This approach of the "throwaway culture" to life values individual achievement at the expense of and the eventual annihilation of teamwork–thereby damaging the very nature of sport. This philosophical approach can be fostered by parents and educators especially early at the level of collegiate and high school education.

What do we do? How do we further Christ’s Gospel of "love thy neighbor" in our contemporary world through sport; thereby transforming sport and also what Pope Francis has called our throwaway culture? I believe that two distinctions are helpful in ordering our evangelization of the contemporary culture. I first came upon these distinctions as a college student at the Catholic University of America when I read the book entitled, Sport: A Philosophic Inquiry by Paul Weiss. I attribute the originality of insight to the late Professor Weiss from whom I learned much. All quotations and references from this work are taken from the 1969 edition published by Southern Illinois Press.

The first distinction is that between the activities of sport and war. The second distinction is that between the activities of sport and gambling. I would offer that sport rests in the mean between the extremes of war and gambling; much in the same way that Aristotle, writing in the Nicomachean Ethics, placed a particular virtue in the middle of a continuum between two extreme vices, an extreme vice of deficiency and an extreme vice of excess of the virtue in question. I hope to articulate how and why it is important for educators, coaches, parents, and athletes to make conscious these distinctions in as many ways as possible in teaching so as to contribute to the right formation of character among our young people.

The Distinction between Sport and War

It seems that sport, because of its competitive aspects, is so often cast as the culprit in fomenting the hostile "win at all cost mentality" indicative of the exploitive character of the throwaway culture. So many times we read and hear of the violent activity of bullying being perpetrated by the athletes who attend our schools upon other youth who fall in the margins of our student populations. An empirical observation of the problem indicates that so many times incidents of bullying are perpetrated by individuals or even groups of athletes (even excellent athletes) from our schools’ sports teams. It is also observed that it is seldom the Latin club members or the robotics team that are involved in bullying, so one might be able to deduce that the aggressiveness of sports is the x factor causing this very serious societal problem. I would offer that sport only contributes to this terrible activity when the necessary distinction between war and sport is ignored or blurred by our coaches and administrators. In other words, bullying occurs when sport ceases to be true to its nature and instead takes on the characteristics of war.

It is true that both war and sport involve aggressiveness. As Paul Weiss notes, "The athlete must have a strong urge to defeat his opponent, and must carry out that urge in the form of actions which will enable him to outdistance all. This requires the athlete to be aggressive (Weiss, Sport, 176)." Yet, this aggressiveness is never unbridled when it remains within the structure and purpose of sport; sport requires rules to measure success and failure of the participants within its activities.

A sporting event, a game or a match, is produced by collaborating opponents; a war is produced by antagonistic enemies. Sports must conform to rules; wars begin with a passionate disagreement that precludes the acceptance of common rules. Once again Paul Weiss writes, "The intent to cripple and destroy goes counter to the purpose of the game. The aggressiveness of sports is an aggressiveness which conforms to rules, or else one is doing violence to the game (Sport, 178)." The primary purpose of sport is not to express aggression directed at the annihilation of the enemy. "Sport is a constructive activity in which aggression plays an integral role together with dedication, cooperation, restraint, self-denial, and a respect for the rights and dignity of others (Weiss, Sport 185)."

Rules alone do not suffice in characterizing the nature of sport. Sporting events also demand the equalization of advantages (e.g. leagues or conferences are composed of similar sized schools, home-field advantage is alternated in scheduling, time for off-season conditioning and practice is codified); war thrives on the possession of advantages in power and capability by one party over another (deception, intelligence, spying, and reconnaissance are expected to be used in acquiring advantages over an enemy). When the principle of the equalization of advantages is ignored in sports, cheating occurs, and the nature of sport and its concomitant benefits, including fun, are destroyed. In a game, it is appreciated that the opponent might be strong enough that a victory by it could be reasonably expected. This possibility makes victory that much more a measure of excellence in performance displayed through the competition of both teams. In a war, one party maneuvers to make his enemy as weak and disadvantaged as possible; excellence and balance are in no way of interest to the combatants.

Sport and war have different objects. Sport has victory as its object. War has obliteration of the enemy as its object. Victory of the better team is sought in an athletic game or competition; conquest of an enemy is the object of a war. In a game, victory is judged impersonally in accordance with agreed upon rules. Victory in sport is through the display of excellence in players, even in those who are defeated. Victory in a war is defined by the surrender of the enemy to the demands of the victor. In a war opposition is to be annihilated; it is only to be momentarily surpassed in a sporting event. The victorious are harmed and lessened in a war just as are the conquered.

When we encounter incidents of and problems with bullying among our student-athletes, these aspects of the distinction between sport and war might prove helpful in self-examination of our educational approaches to coaching and administration. How do we direct aggression in practice and in a game? How do we consciously bracket off the event of the game or match from other endeavors of our students’ lives? Is our approach to rules and to the equalization of advantages honest and clear or deceptive and opaque? Do we direct our teams to excellence or to annihilation?

The Distinction between Sport and Gambling

Another aspect of our throwaway culture is the prevailing opinion that everything in our world is simply a product of contingency or chance without any underlying commitment to a discerned goal or inherent purpose in nature or human action. The contemporary and unspoken wisdom presupposes that there is simply a human lottery with winners and losers. Success or failure is a matter of luck without any personal commitments beyond the immediate moment. This unreflective presupposition influences the way that we approach such matters as marriage, the conception of children, the care for the marginalized and sick, and the social responsibility we have to the poor, and our interaction with the ecology. The throwaway culture parasitically depends on a narrative of excuses instead of the clarity offered by reason’s accountability. We sense that we are simultaneously individual beneficiaries of contingency, but at the same time we believe that we are personally entitled to such benefits.

Such contingency is often referred to as "luck." "Luck refers to what blends together, to what is fitting. He who believes in it, believes that there is a trend in the course of events which will produce the results he desires (Weiss, Sport, 186).” In such an approach to life, it is luck, not free and intelligent human agency that prevails in our success in such human experiences like health, schooling, sexuality, employment, and life in general. When human action is employed in a world dominated by luck, it is employed as a magic or superstition. Yet, luck is different than magic. As Weiss writes, "A magic produces, luck simply appears. Luck can be cajoled but it cannot be controlled (Sport, 186)."

Sport and its formation shows that luck is only an addendum to athletes’ preparation for their performance. An athlete’s preparation constructs how he or she will respond freely and intelligently to the contingency of luck, the unexpected, and the rhythm of the game–the odd bounce, the sudden wind, the fracture of the hockey stick, the slickness of the basketball court–all are part of luck. The response of the athlete to the contingencies of luck in a game make known their practical judgment exercised more freely because of their intelligent and disciplined dedication to the practice of the fundamentals of their sport. Dedication involves discipline. Discipline means to be a student or a learner.

Luck and contingency are a part of an athlete’s world, but luck does not dominate the athlete’s world. The athlete’s interaction with luck reveals his or her character developed through practice and their commitment to his or her own excellence, the excellence of their team, while maintaining an awareness of his or her opponent’s own excellence and dedicated commitment. Athletes respond to luck or benefit from it during a game, but they are not identified as excellent as athletes if they are simply lucky but undisciplined.

As distinct from the athlete, the gambler takes little interest in human action or practice because the gambler exists in a universe that is imperiously governed by luck. The gambler has no interest in ends or purposes of things or of actions; as Weiss writes, "the gambler commits himself to nothing. It makes little difference how long he engages in the activity of gambling; he rarely learns anything about himself in the process (Sport, 187)."

The athlete considers luck to be impersonal. It is simply part of the game. If luck should contribute to the athlete’s defeat, the athlete does not blame luck but rather considers how better preparation and practice could have honed his or her reflexes to respond more successfully to contingencies. The habituation of practice helps an athlete to maximize the benefits afforded by luck and to minimize its detriments. For an athlete, luck is desirable but it is not a guarantee of success nor does it make known anything about himself as an athlete or as a person. The gambler views luck with a presumptuous intimacy. The gambler casts himself as being entitled to luck; when a gambler makes a mistake he never blames himself but rather that luck has failed him at this particular time, only delaying the inevitable successful outcome to which he is entitled by chance.

If this is a world that is structured with an understandable nature as science demonstrates and as faith believes, the gambler must be said to be one who is mistaken in understanding the nature of the world or how he or she should act as a participant in the world. The athlete, if he or she is truly an athlete, must understand the world and how he or she participates in it so that the effects of luck can be utilized to one’s advantage or disadvantage within rules and the structure of the game. This also applies to how a person, formed as a person in part by sport, understands and lives his or her life.

As Weiss writes, "A defeated athlete knows who he is even more clearly than one who is victorious, since the latter provides a measure for the former, but not conversely. But neither the defeated nor the successful gambler knows himself; his self-knowledge is blocked by an unbreakable confidence that he has a virtue that the cosmos will surely reward (Sport, 188)."

Sport as a Means towards Communion

Sport contributes to the new evangelization and can be directed towards it in the area of human formation. Yet, sport is not simply a platform whereby an individual gives his or her individual religious testimony of their private faith in God whom the athlete proclaims to be the cause of his or her private and individualized success. When sport becomes a vehicle for one person’s private and individual testimony, it often times reduces faith to magic or at least to a cajoler of luck. The focus of such testimony subtly becomes directed to the athlete and not towards God. Such testimony ignores the common good of the team, of the game, and of the opponent; it is a testimony not by the athlete but to the athlete, that subtly coopts God as being the athlete’s auxiliary and not the athlete’s Lord and Savior.

Sport can direct us towards communion through the formation of character in the synthesis of interests involved in teamwork; sport can contribute to the formation of prudence in the moral life through the honing of practical judgment in dealing with luck and contingency in a game; it forges the virtue of solidarity in the proper appreciation for the opponent as necessary for excellence and not as an enemy to be annihilated. Sport fosters a realistic understanding of the world in which a person is an active, intelligent, and free participant who belongs to the world; sport prevents a false understanding of a person’s relation to the world as being fundamentally hostile and adversarial or, in the opposite extreme, as being a passive beneficiary of entitlement in life’s endeavors. Athletes are neither entitled to the benefits of luck nor are they automated for war. In sport, as in life, athletes are co-created in freedom through play and participation; they are neither owned nor discarded by utility or luck.

Each of these virtues and qualities of communion are damaged by the throwaway culture; sports can help to form these qualities in our young people as participants in the common good of our society; a society that is filled with opponents and competition but need not be composed of enemies; it is a society that is influenced by contingency but need not foster entitlement to luck. Such qualities can help to restore civility in discourse, a shared and common purpose, the recognition of our limitedness and reliance not only upon God but also upon our neighbor within what Pope Francis calls our common home.

As Pope Francis said to the athletes of the Italian Paralympic Committee on October 4, 2014, "Sport promotes contacts and relations with persons who come from different cultures and environments. It helps us to live by accepting differences, to make of these a precious occasion of mutual enrichment and discovery. Above all, sport becomes a precious occasion to recognize one another as brothers and sisters on the way, to foster the culture of inclusion and to reject the disposable culture."