ListeckiResponses of “Take 5,” an interview with a myfaith co-editor and Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, are edited by myfaith Staff.

1. What’s the best valentine you’ve received?

I receive a lot of valentines. Categories from spiritual, funny –
(I get) a lot of funny valentines.
To pick out one is very difficult.

But what about one that you’ve received from someone, even the smallest gesture?

When I became a priest the valentines that I would receive were from the little kids, the first graders. The teacher would have the kids prepare the valentines. Those take on a bit of a precious sense. There’s a innocence about the children sending valentines. There’s a stark honesty. They don’t mean to be funny but they’re funny. “Teacher said to send you my heart on Valentine’s (Day), but I want to keep it.” (Laughs) To pick out one to say this is the best valentine I’ve received almost discredits everyone who takes the opportunity to take that moment to write a card and send it to you. That’s why each is unique.

2. What motivated you to play the guitar as a child – were you self motivated or did your parents have to tell you to practice?

I picked the guitar up actually in college. I played piano when I was a kid growing up, and that was under the aegis of my mother. My mother sang in a choir. She had a beautiful voice so there was a tremendous appreciation for music by her, and she wanted that to be shared with her children. The exposure to the arts was important for my mom so, therefore, piano lessons. My sister and I both took piano, that was a part of us. When I went to college, the guitar was the instrument. There was a group that played for Masses. The secret of the guitar is if you learn four chords you could play 150,000 songs, mostly popular rock songs. The four chords and a progression, you can pretty much play a lot. Music is a wonderful aspect that helps individuals. It lifts the spirit of individuals in this world and helps them express things that are inexpressible any other way.

3. As a former basketball coach, how do you feel about Marquette and several other Catholic universities joining a basketball-only conference?

I’m glad for Marquette. Oftentimes, when you get a university that chooses not to participate in a major sport like football, it becomes a secondary child of the league. Many of our Catholic institutions, with the exception obviously of Notre Dame and maybe Boston College, have programs that are not as well-known in terms of football, nor are Catholic universities prone to support the amount of money that goes into a football program. But then basketball becomes a significant sport on those campuses. I’m happy that Marquette will be with others that share similar status and I don’t think it’ll be hurt by it at all. In fact, hopefully, it’ll enhance Marquette’s status.

4. Are there pictures (drawings) of the Masses said in the catacombs or pictures of the way baptisms were done in the early church to show people of other faiths why we use the mode of baptism we use?

Pictures or drawings, of course, there are pictures of the early church of those being baptized. Of course, the most famous baptism of all is of our Lord in Jordan, which for the baptized was more of a purification symbol that it was the actual baptism that Jesus offers. But it becomes a precursor of the baptism Jesus offers in his crucifixion, the aspect of baptism is the incorporation of his life. (There are) various pictures. Most important is understanding the use of water and the symbol of water, and how water and the Trinitarian formula are actually life-giving, transformative actions. If you think of water, it’s an ambiguous symbol. It can be a symbol of life, which, we know we need water to survive, we need water for growth, we need water for cleansing. Water is pretty much a staple in our lives. But too much water (leads to) destruction. So that’s where the symbol comes and is transformed by Jesus. Through the waters of baptism, the old life is destroyed so that new life can come about. In the early church in fact, the ministers were told to hold the head under the water. Well you know what happens, if you’re fooling around at the beach or something and somebody holds your head a little bit too long, you’re struggling. And so when the minister feels the struggle he is to release the person so the person can break the water. What’s the first thing they do? They breathe in, a sign of the ritual of the new life. The most famous are the early depictions of this baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. In the catacombs, you have some of the sacraments depicted in some of the etchings of the catacombs, (sketches) of the influence the early church had on them. We get the greatest picture of baptism in word in the New Testament.

5. St. Patrick’s Day has become known for green beer, beads, clothing…why should we be celebrating?

People, especially the Irish, celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because it’s a tribute to their nationality. But the beauty of celebrating St. Patrick, and I think what’s being missed, is that it’s really connected to the faith that brought a people together. So when you’re celebrating the saint that introduced Christianity to Ireland (know that the celebration) has evolved over the years to (be) a celebration of the people of a nation. So in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, for the Irish in particular, it’s a celebration of their identity, who they are. For the rest of us, it’s a celebration of a good time. We have an opportunity in St. Patrick to share in the festivities of the Irish. But at the same time, if we’re going to be honest, we also have to know what that festivity actually meant. It’s an appreciation for the faith that brought people together.