Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Time is one of those concepts that we must always confront, and yet it presents us with all sorts of contradictions. When we are young, we long to be older. When we are older, we long to be young. In our younger years, “time” seems to drag by; things take forever. When we grow old, time is short; there never appears to be enough time.
When we are young, we fight to stay up as late as we can. When we grow old, we tend to go to bed early. Even the seasons present a different face. For the young, winter is exciting and fun, with snowball fights, making snow angels and decorating a snowman. When we are older, winter means back breaking shoveling, traffic jams and achy arthritis.
As I have grown old, I find that I just do not have enough time to do the things I want to do. I am much more aware of the end than the beginning. I try and take stock of my life and begin to wonder, what would I have done differently? Even the great theologian St. Augustine lamented in his famous work, “The Confessions”: “Late have I come to Love you, O Beauty so ancient, O Beauty so new. Too late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside myself and there I sought you!”
Some of the great saints had lives that spanned no more than 33 years. I always considered that a “holy” span of life because that was the number of years that Jesus spent on earth. In those 33 years, these saints managed to accomplish so much as witnesses to the faith. I do not think they asked how much time they had left; instead, they spent every ounce of their energy bringing their brothers and sisters to God. I have been granted more than double the 33 years, and I can only pray that I, too, did what God demanded from me.
I was privileged to attend the installation of Bishop Robert Barron to the Diocese of Winona/Rochester. I have known Bob for 40 years. Interestingly, he chose a quote from St. John Henry Newman for the back of his commemorative card. It was a good reminder to all of God’s plan.
“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I never may know in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His Purposes … I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work …”
My life has been influenced by many great men and women of faith; they were believers. They never looked to the end, but rather the celebration of God’s presence here and now. They were going from life to Life.
I remember a friend of mine who was particularly good to me and my family. I was caught in a scheduling conflict, and my priestly duties would not allow me to break away to say goodbye and wish him, well as he and his wife were leaving the state. I talked to him by phone and explained to him my dilemma. He was up in years and suffering from cancer, which meant that each encounter could be the last. I and he knew that time was precious.
He could hear my distress over the phone, and without hesitancy, he said, “Fr. Jerry, never worry if I don’t see you here. I will see you in heaven.” He was a believer and reminded me that time is not the enemy. Time belongs to God; it is God who brought us together and it will be in God that we will rest. It is God who directs us in all things.
When people question me as to what I will do with the short time I have left as Archbishop of Milwaukee, I respond that hopefully I will continue to encourage all of us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the May 16, 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.