Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki celebrated Mass to kick off the Eucharistic Revival Preparation Day at Mater Christi Chapel at the Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center on Saturday, Oct. 22. (Photos by David Bernacchi)

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Eucharistic Revival Preparation Day began with Mass in the Mater Christi Chapel at the Mary Mother of the Church Pastoral Center, setting the tone for a morning of workshops and talks on the centrality of the Eucharist to Catholic life and faith, aimed at parish leaders from across southeastern Wisconsin.

In his homily, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki noted how auspicious it was that the day fell on Oct. 22, the feast of Pope St. John Paul II, who was so formed, inspired and energized by his own devotion to the Eucharist.

Calling the late pontiff “a real treasure of the Church,” Archbishop Listecki recalled the occasion of his first meeting with Pope John Paul II, when the former was a young priest studying in Rome.

Then-Fr. Listecki greeted the pope by saying, “Praised by Jesus Christ” in Polish. John Paul embraced him, commenting on his Polish last name.

“He said, ‘Listecki, when are you going to Poland?’ I said, ‘Your Holiness, I hope to be there this summer,’” said the archbishop. “He said, ‘Good.’ And then he whispered in my ear, ‘You know, I have a few friends there.’”

Archbishop Listecki said he keeps a framed photograph from that meeting. “He has his arms wrapped around me and the two of us are looking at the camera. With that picture, I’ve declared myself a second-class relic,” he said, as the congregation laughed.

Remarking that John Paul showed the same care and attention to each of the hundreds of young American priests he met on that day, the archbishop emphasized the saint’s famous energy and dedication, not just to the physical demands of the papacy but to a life of Christian discipleship.

Where did the motivation and the stamina come from, wondered Archbishop Listecki, to do all that he did?

Contextualizing the morning’s Gospel reading, the Johannine narrative that depicts Christ thrice asking Peter the question “Do you love me?”, the archbishop noted that, in his questioning, Christ uses the Greek term for unconditional love, while in his answers, Peter uses the Greek word for brotherly love.

Christ is trying to make Peter understand that the love he desires of Peter is of a higher nature, one that mirrors Christ’s own love of humanity — “a total surrender and giving and sacrificial love,” said the archbishop.

The archbishop went on to say that he had recently returned from a visit to the Dominican Republic, and while interacting with missionary priests there, heard their reports of how “befuddled” non-Christian peoples are by the fact that Christians have “a God who gives his life for us.”

“The (pagan) gods don’t do that. We’re (just) creatures,” said the archbishop. “But in the Christian faith, God surrenders himself so that we might be saved and have life.”

It was that very sacrifice which served as the impetus for John Paul II’s seemingly boundless energy, said Archbishop Listecki. The late pope was someone who “surrendered everything to God.” Recounting the many personal tragedies John Paul II suffered in his early life — the loss of both his parents and his only brother — the archbishop remarked that “through his own challenges and sufferings, (he was able) to live for Christ, to dedicate himself to Christ, to be for Christ in this world.”

“At the end of his prediction and prophecy of his own death, Jesus offers the ultimate challenge: follow me,” said the archbishop. “It’s that spirit that draws us here today and helps us understand what we, too, must do: that we must recognize in the mystery of the real presence that Christ is calling to us. That’s why it’s such a vital aspect and doctrine and teaching of the Church. Because it says that Christ will never leave us. He’s food for our journey, and he challenges us in his words to Peter: follow me.”