Take Five with the archbishop is a feature allowing MyFaith readers to ask Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki questions. Submit question(s) to email@example.com with “Take Five” in the subject line or fill out the online form, which can be found at www.chnonline.org, under the “Special Sections” tab and “MyFaith.”
1. What does the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 mean to you?
I was a newly ordained bishop at the time, and pastor of St. Ignatius Parish, Chicago, so when Sept. 11th hit, it came as a tremendous shock and we looked for some way to be in solidarity with the people with this great loss. The only thing we could really rely on as a community was prayer and the church, so we opened up the doors to the church; people just started flooding in on an ad hoc basis to pray.
Then what we did is plan a special service on that day, but I remember the tone and the mood that everybody had; this was that they’d talk about what happened to the country at that time and it was almost like the loss of our innocence. We were very innocent in our approach to life, in approach to terrorism, and now it kind of struck home.
I didn’t know anyone who died in the tower, but I did know someone who was in the tower when it was hit. He made a couple decisions coming down out of the tower that actually kind of saved his life and the life of others in it. I got a real vivid sense of what this person kind of went through when they were in the tower. At first they didn’t know what had actually happened. They knew an accident had happened. They didn’t know that we were actually under attack at the time …
Most of my generation and at least one generation after me would kind of point to Sept. 11 as the day that really was a challenge to us in terms of our patriotism, our love for country and our faith. So hopefully what Sept. 11 will remind us all of is the obligation we have to be responsible for the freedoms that we enjoy in this country and the price that we have to pay.
2. If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
If I am fortunate enough to get to heaven, which I pray that I will (be) fortunate enough to get (there), I think there won’t be any questions. It will be an eternal, “Wow!”
But if I had one question … I would ask God, “Why do you love us so much?” Most people always ask the question, “Oh, God, why is there evil in the world? Why am I suffering from this problem?” But my sense is “Why do you love us so much?” when you’re really talking about the God who is the ground of all being.
When two people are in love, or when somebody professes a love to you, it’s an astounding thing …
You might ask them, “Why?” What is it, what’s the great mystery? Well, here we have a God who so loves us he empties himself into the world to be one with us – that’s an astounding feature and mystery.
We’re, oftentimes, like children … It’s like a child who doesn’t understand the great love that parents or that people have for the child. We just take it for granted. But it would be fascinating to hear God’s answer; my suspicion is he says, “I just do.”
3. Can you share a habit you’re trying to break?
Well, like everybody, I’m always struggling with weight….So, I just kind of push away from the sweets at tables, but a habit that I hopefully try to develop in my own life is letting people know what they mean to me and how grateful I am for their presence in my life …
I’m trying to develop a habit that I make sure that I convey to people how important they are to me in my life, how appreciative I am for what they do and try to develop that into a habit which hopefully comes naturally, and so that people know it’s not something that’s contrived.
4. What would be the top three items on your bucket list?
First, I’m going to tell you exactly what I said to Jerry (Topczewski, chief of staff): I don’t own a bucket …
About 13 years ago, I was in the hospital dying. At that time what came to mind is you don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today, and the other thing is I was honestly looking at the fact that I may not have accomplished everything that I wanted to do in life, but that’s OK, I could celebrate all the wonderful things that I have achieved or accomplished or things that I shared with people.
I could do that, so that was important, but if you’re asking three things I’d like to do type- of-thing: One, I’d like to kind of journey to Greece and do a little of the journeys of St. Paul. That would be fascinating. I’m fascinated by the studies during the year of Paul, just the extensive travels this man did without the modern conveniences of modern transportation, like motorized boats, planes and trains … Second thing, I do like Marian devotions. There’s something tremendously consoling about both the person of Mary and her role within the church, so I am fascinated by a lot of the shrines. I visited the major Marian Shrine in India, Our Lady of Good Health, and Lourdes, and ….Our Lady of Guadalupe but I haven’t visited Fatima, so Fatima would be on my bucket list ….
The last thing on my bucket list; I’ve thought doing kind of the patriotic thing – to take a couple days just to see Mount Rushmore or maybe the Grand Canyon, some of the natural sites in the United States. That would be something I would like to do. So, if I owned a bucket and therefore had a bucket list, those would be three things that I would kind of like to do.
5. What’s the most important piece of advice or knowledge you, in your wiser age, would have given to your 17-27-year-old self?
It would have been to enjoy the moments that you’re experiencing from the time you were 17 to…27, because those are real precious moments. You’re young, you’re enthusiastic, you have a vision, and you usually share them with a number of people that surround you. So, my advice would be, as my advice would be to anybody 17 to 27, enjoy the moment.
I know you’re constantly looking at trying to achieve this or trying to accomplish this or trying to get through this or trying to get the next job or trying to get the next (whatever), but there are experiences that are happening to you during that period of time that you’ll take with you through your entire life and you’ll go back and you’ll say to yourself, “Why didn’t I celebrate that with those people that I was involved with? Why didn’t I embrace it more, the moment?”
Jesus always tells us to do that, to be in the moment, and to celebrate the sacredness of the moment when it’s happening, to understand that. So, that would be the wise advice I would go back and tell myself from 17 to 27. Enjoy the moment – enjoy it.