Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
During times of crisis, we learn a good deal about ourselves. We disrupt our normal routines and adjust our lives accordingly. But, in this period of social unrest, we experience insights, especially into our personalities and our communal resolve.
The imposition of social distancing (at least six feet from one another) for most is not an imposition. However, I have discovered that I am a “space invader.” I assure you that it’s not that I am from a different planet. But, my natural social engagement is to have my hand on someone’s shoulder, to extend a hug or a peck on the cheek. In my family, it was always expected that all uncles, aunts and cousins – and everyone who was an extended family member – received the traditional hug or kiss as an acknowledgment of our relationship and respect. Now, I am much more aware of the space that surrounds us. When you watch television, observe how often a handshake seals a deal or a hug expresses affection. Our sensitivity to those actions has been heightened.
My patron saint is St. Jerome. For a period of his life, he was a hermit. He lived in a cave apart from the social order of the day. I now understand that I could never be a hermit unless God directly ordered me. Although we have access to social media and can keep in verbal contact, we are still limited in our physical presence with others. Now, I am a celibate, so do not return home daily to be greeted by a wife and children. Still, I have been blessed to be a member of many quasi-families, thanks to parishes and deep friendships established throughout my 45 years as a deacon, priest and bishop. At this moment, I am isolated from exercising my random visits, spontaneous breakfasts, lunches or dinners, or the ability to schedule meetings to keep in touch. I realize that I do so for the safety of those I care about, and it is the price we must bear at the moment.
I always talk to God, but at this time, I talk to God more than I have in the past. I know some secularists will say that I am talking to myself. But, believe me, I do know when I am talking to myself as opposed to God. When I am arguing with God, I never win the argument. No matter how hard I try to feel sorry for myself, or the parishes, or the archdiocese, or our world, I am confronted with those who have it infinitely harder.
I feel like Job asking God why He is permitting all this, and hearing His response, “Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me if you have understanding. Who determined its size? Surely, you know? Who stretched out the measuring line for it? … Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from it? (Job 38:4)
I also wasn’t there when His Son was crucified and died for my sins. Can anything compare to His suffering? Can our inconveniences, our difficulties, our pains, compare to the fact that He suffered and died for us, conquering our two greatest enemies, sin and death?
Probably, the most significant lesson I have learned from this experience is just how much I love being a priest. I miss the public celebration of the Mass and the sacraments, the parish gatherings, the meetings with committed priests, religious, deacons and parish leaders, just to name a few. This current crisis will pass, but my gratitude to share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ will be forever increased.
Practice the instructions given by our health care professionals. Stay healthy, safe and holy, directing all of your actions as to intentionally fulfill Jesus’ command to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the March 31, 2020, "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.