The Good Shepherd, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land (Ezekiel 22:30).
Bishop Olmsted is no stranger to pastoral care for the flock that Christ has given him. A hero on many fronts, he has always embraced truth.
In 2009, responding to the University of Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama to give the commencement address and receive an honorary degree, Olmsted said:
It is a public act of disobedience to the bishops of the United States. Our USCCB June 2004 Statement “Catholics in Political Life” states: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” No one could not know of the public stands and actions of the president on key issues opposed to the most vulnerable human beings.
In 2012 he admonished a then-Catholic hospital, St. Joseph’s, to either stop advocating for an abortion that was allegedly performed to save the life of the mother or to no longer consider itself Catholic. Knowing that the proper procedures had not been done in advance of the abortion, Olmsted stressed the facts that “an unborn child is not a disease” and that the “the end does not justify the means.” To make his point clear, he followed up by saying, “Catholics and all people of good will are advised that they cannot be guaranteed authentic Catholic health care at St. Joseph’s Hospital.”
Today he has carried forth his commitment to truth by issuing one of the most profound apostolic exhortations we have ever read. The short video that introduces it to the men of, I hope, the entire nation, describes the bishop’s message as “an exhortation from the heart of a bishop to the hearts of men.” The title, Into the Breach: An Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic Men, My Spiritual Sons in the Diocese of Phoenix, indicates why it is it is clear that Bishop Olmsted remains the consummate shepherd—he loves his flock enough to tell them the truth as a man committed to bringing souls to Christ.
The exhortation begins with these words:
I begin this letter with a clarion call and clear charge to you, my sons and brothers in Christ: Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.
The bishop tells the men of his archdiocese:
Ever since Jesus chose the Twelve Apostles, formed them in his presence, and sent them out in his Name, He has continued to choose and form men through his Church and to send them out to the wounded. This is the meaning of the word apostle—men who are sent. With this letter, then, my sons and brothers, I urge you to heed Jesus’ call and to let him form your mind and heart with the light of the Gospel for the purpose of being sent. That is why this letter is an apostolic exhortation. I am hereby exhorting you to step into the breach—to do the work of Christ’s soldiers in the world today.
Though I am tempted to quote the entire exhortation here, I will not. Rather, I invite you to sit down with a cup of coffee, and with a mind focused on learning what a real man in the image of Christ is called to do this day, and read this profound document. You will not be disappointed. You will be inspired!