“We Must Be Happy Warriors”

by the Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix
August 24, 2015

It is a joy for me to be here today. I have never been to this campus before, although I certainly had great admiration for the College, learning about the ways that you pursue the truth, wisdom, and also a love of Christ, and also having the privilege of having some of our students from the Diocese of Phoenix come here and study and then come back and enrich our local church. So I pray that all those from the Diocese who have come in the freshman class, and many of the rest of you, come and serve in Phoenix. We would welcome you to be there.

When I was first ordained a priest, the pastor of the cathedral in the Diocese of Lincoln, where I was assigned, would say frequently to me, Si vis pacem, para bellum; “If you want peace, prepare for war.” Those words struck me as very funny in the beginning, but as I have had the privilege of serving the Lord, they have struck as me as having a lot of wisdom. The Lord has put us here on earth with a mission, a mission that draws us ever closer to His beloved son, Jesus Christ. He gives us a mission on behalf of others. It is a mission that, in a world that has been cast off-angle by Original Sin, means that we must always be part of a struggle — but we must be happy warriors in the process.

The first thing to remember is whom we are at war with. St. Paul says that it is not human beings; it is principalities and powers; it is the evil one. It is always helpful to remember that Jesus called the devil the “father of lies.” So what this institution is about, and what those of you who are students here are about, is coming to be soldiers against the father of lies. A society that can do things like what I mentioned in my homily — things that totally twist the notion of femininity, masculinity, marriage, and the dignity of human persons — is one that needs happy warriors for truth, the truth of the human being, the truth of the dignity of every human being.

How do we prepare to be happy warriors? How do we prepare to be instruments that Christ can use in order to raise questions in a way that draws in those who are confused, or those who are at the present time not aware of what is happening around us?

The weapons, it seems to me, are pretty evident just in coming here for these hours that I have had to be with you. First of all there are the theological virtues: faith and hope and charity. These are called “theological” because they come from God. We cannot create our own faith, our own charity, our own hope, but we can receive them and, receiving them with gratitude, we can grow in them. That is, they can have a free range over our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and because of this, as Dr. McLean explains so well, we can come to an awareness of seeking goodness and truth and beauty and how those help us grow within. C. S. Lewis says we are much bigger on the inside than we are on the outside, and that is because we are made for truth and goodness and beauty.

I love the very first line of Fides et Ratio by St John Paul II, that document on faith and reason, where he says that it is on the two wings of faith and reason that we fly toward the truth. That image is one that I think we should continue to keep in mind.

I am so grateful that you have this ceremony for the new tutors, that they make their Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity. That is a great witness to all the rest of us of the great help that comes from using the wings of faith and reason. We make a Profession of Faith. This Profession of Faith and the Oath of Fidelity do not restrict our freedom. They strengthen our freedom by helping to confirm our will and our strength so as to rally around certain things we know because of the great gift of Revelation, the gift of Christ, the wisdom, and the truth and beauty and love of God. So thank you, David Grothoff and Peter Knuffke, for beginning your service as tutors here by making the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity.

When St. John Paul II was preparing for the whole world to celebrate the second millennium of Christianity, he sent an apostolic exhortation for all of America, North, Central, and South. It was entitled, “On the Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion, and Solidarity.” That title expresses what I hope for every one of you freshmen, all of you who study here, and those who help you to study here: that every day you will encounter the living Jesus Christ; that that encounter will swell your heart more and more every day; and that it will also humble your heart because of awe and wonder at Who He is and the fact that He desires to live within you; and that you will accept His invitation to take these three paths on which He always is leading us — conversion, communion, and solidarity.

It is a great gift to continually be reminded of what we need to turn away from. Conversion means being turned, allowing God to turn us away from the darkness and toward the light and brilliance and radiance of Jesus Christ, allowing the Lord to do that within us.

Then there is communion, because when we turn away from those things and toward Christ, He brings us into this great, deep communion. That is what our hearts long for and what we will have forever in Heaven. But already here on Earth we taste that, especially at the Eucharist.

And then solidarity: Pope Francis reminds us to go to the peripheries, that is to those who do not know. He says that we have a great need for a culture of encounter, so that when we go there, we don’t knock them over first with hard truths, but we encounter them in kindness and love and friendship. Building these bridges on the basic virtues that allow human relationships to happen moves us to deeper levels of solidarity for the sake of justice and truth and goodness and right.

So that is my prayer, that the Church in America — north, central, south, and especially all of you within that — will be happy warriors because you know the love of Jesus. You will know that you have entered into a deeper and deeper friendship with Him, and that you have allowed him to freely lead you upon the paths that will bring us to fulfilling our mission in His name.

May God bless each of you, the students, the faculty members, the Board, and all who are associated with this great college.