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True Tour Stoppers: Tracing the Steps of St. Paul

I’ve always enjoyed musicals. A good musical has a well-written playbook, memorable songs and creative staging.

Archbishop Listecki

Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee


I’ve always enjoyed musicals. A good musical has a well-written playbook, memorable songs and creative staging. A great musical has all of that, plus a moment in the show called a “showstopper.” Les Miserables (my favorite musical) has the scene “Master of the House,” and when it’s done well, the audience wants to stop the show and respond with a standing ovation. In Cats, Grizabella, the cat who is cast off, sings "Memories" under a lamppost. Again, a showstopper. In Guys and Dolls, there is a scene made famous by Stubby Kaye in the movie version, where the gamblers and gangsters find themselves hiding in a mission. He performs, “Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat.” All great musicals have a showstopper which, when done, lifts the audience from their seats in gratitude for the moment. 

I have just returned from my Turkey and Greece pilgrimage. Like a good musical, there were many memorable scenes: the visit to Patmos, and the cave of St. John the Evangelist, the patron of our archdiocese, where he wrote Revelations; a visit to the Acropolis in Athens where St. Paul challenged the Greek philosophers to abandon their dependency on the gods and accept the new religion; the beautiful island of Santorini and the cable car ride to the top provided for some breathtaking views; at Corinth, we celebrated Mass under a shade tree, in the shadows of St. Paul, who called people to reform their lives and accept the new religion. St. Paul’s mark is on everything. He truly is the apostle to the gentiles. The wonder of Hagia Sophia, the largest church of Christendom in its time —truly a testimony to divine wisdom.

However, for me the “tour stopper” was our visit to Ephesus, and the home of the Blessed Mother. Remember, at the foot of the cross, Jesus said to John, “Behold your mother,” and to Mary, “Behold your son.” Jesus was more than taking care of his mother, he was turning her over to St. John, who represents the Church and all the faithful who would be guided by her motherly care. It was fitting that we celebrated Mass, and within the Mass administered the sacrament of anointing of the sick to all who came forward. 

Remember when you would skin your knee, or fell and had a bruise as a small child? Mother often would kiss it, and make it better. Through the sacrament of her Son, she was making it better for all of us. After Mass, we returned to her home and prayed the rosary outside her dwelling. It was a serenade to Our Lady, using the devotion, which has captured the attention of so many Catholics. Everyone seemed to feel the sacredness of that moment. It deserved a standing ovation, being in the home of our Mother and singing her praise. Truly, it was a tour stopper.

Throughout the trip, Mass was celebrated and Fr. Richard Simon (Relevant Radio), Fr. Neil Zinthefer (retired priest of Milwaukee), Fr. James Lobacz (Vicar General) and Deacon Jim Leggett preached, offering insights to the scriptures. Dr. Dan Scholz, Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs at Cardinal Stritch, kept us informed of the relationship to St. Paul and our journey. In one memorable moment, he read the sermon given by St. Paul to the Athenians at Acropolis. It was a good group to be with, and truly, as St. Paul said, “Love is patient and kind.” Jenni Oliva and Gwen Fastabend kept us on track, and made sure no one was lost.

I can tell you that St. Paul’s letters will never be the same. The urgency of spreading the Good News, and a willingness to suffer the consequences, is permanently etched in my faith life. I and the other pilgrims will remember our responsibility to take care of Jesus’ mother, and remember the last words of Mary recorded in Sacred Scripture: “Do whatever he tells you,” and what he tells us is to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Note: This blog originally appeared as the June 26, 2018 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.

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