Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I began my “tour of duty” this last week on the confirmation circuit – affectionately referred to by my brother bishops as the “Chrism trail.” One of the tasks that a bishop has is to read the letters prepared by the candidates for confirmation. The letters often disclose something of the spiritual journey the confirmandi has undertaken, sometimes a little about family, the reason their sponsor was selected and the choice of their confirmation name, which is usually a saint that has had an influence on their young lives.
This is now 13 years of reading letters here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and I have noticed a distinct development in the letters presented to me by the candidates: the saints seem to be taking on greater significance.
The confirmation candidates know that I will be asking them about their saints. The former Pope, now St. John Paul II, canonized more saints during his pontificate than any other Pope in the history of the Church. Some wonder why he was so intent on these numerous canonizations. St. John Paul II would tell you without hesitancy that these men and women are inspirational in the stories that form their lives. As such, they create a pathway for adoption of their virtues and charitable deeds for those who discover them.
The beauty of the lives of saints is that there is something for everyone. The letters depict that the candidate finds something to emulate, identify, or hold aloft as a tribute. Whether the candidates are involved in the arts, athletics, music, academics, drama or the military, there is always a saint who may become their patron. I love it when the candidate will write, “I really like this saint because he or she is so like me.” I smile to myself, thinking, “Great – you’re on your way to holiness.”
I have witnessed saints in the making right here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Individuals who catch the fire of the Holy Spirit, and perform some incredible acts of charity. They do so with all humility, and do it out of the love of Jesus and His Church.
Do you remember your confirmation name? Do you know the story of your saint? Have you prayed for your saint’s intercession?
Yesterday was the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. He is the patron of the Diocese of La Crosse. I offered a few prayers for Bishop William Callahan, and all the priests, religious, deacons and faithful of my former diocese.
My confirmation name is St. Lawrence, a deacon in the early church who was martyred by being burned alive. The emperor charged him to present the treasures of the Church, and he responded by producing the widows, orphans, and the handicapped. “These,” he said, “are the treasures of the Church.” This infuriated the emperor who then ordered his execution. He was placed on a spit and roasted alive.
An apocryphal story has him looking at his executioner while the flames surrounded him, saying: “Turn me over, I think I’m done on this side.” I imagine the power of his faith and courage in Christ as he faced his death. The Church declared him to be patron of cooks and comedians. I cannot cook, so you do not want me to prepare a meal for you, but I do pray that St. Lawrence will help me put some smiles on the faces of the people I serve.
Asking our patron saints to assist us in our goal to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the May 2, 2023, "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.