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Catholic author and columnist George Weigel on the late Father Leonard Klein: ‘Friendship built around the Gospel’

George Weigel, left and the late Father Leonard R. Klein.

Catholic author and scholar George Weigel is coming to Wilmington in mid-November for the release of a book of homilies by his friend, the late Father Leonard R. Klein, a priest Weigel says offers a lot to everyday Catholics. In an email interview with The Dialog, Weigel discussed Father Klein and his impact.

The book, “A Grain of Wheat,” was compiled by Christa Klein, the priest’s widow. It is 372 pages and organized by where the homilies fall on the church calendar, with a section on solemnities and feasts. Another section is for occasional sermons, Christa Klein told The Dialog over the summer.

The event will take place Nov. 17 at Salesianum School’s Centenary Hall. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m., with the presentation commencing an hour later. Sponsored by the St. Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Wilmington, the event is free and open to the public.

Copies of “A Grain of Wheat” will be available for sale, as will Weigel’s latest book, “To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II.”

Father Klein, who died in 2019, was a Lutheran minister who became Catholic and was ordained to the priesthood in 2006. He served in parish ministry and as a hospital chaplain and in pro-life activities for the diocese.

Weigel met Father Klein through Father Richard John Neuhaus, himself a former Lutheran who became a Catholic priest. Father Neuhaus founded the journal First Things, where Weigel was a longtime featured author.

Weigel said he knew Father Klein for many years and had the opportunity to introduce him to Cracow, Poland, and sites connected to St. John Paul II.

“Our friendship was built around a common commitment to the Gospel in full, to the pro-life movement, and to the evangelization of culture,” he wrote.

He said Father Klein was an effective homilist “because he preached ‘from’ the Bible and not about the Bible. Expository preaching is a somewhat lost art these days, but Father Klein was a master at unpacking a biblical text so that the real meaning of the word of God came through to his congregants.”

A common theme in the priest’s preaching, according to Weigel, was the message that Christ is the center of history and the cosmos, and thus he should be the center of our lives.

Asked if the Catholic Church could use more priests like Father Klein, Weigel wrote that the church always has room for more priests “who are manifestly in love with Christ and the Gospel, who know how to preach ‘up’ rather than down to their people, and who can make orthodoxy interesting and compelling.”

During his presentation at Salesianum, Weigel said he will try to connect Father Klein’s life trajectory with St. John Paul II.

You can hear an interview with Christa Klein about the book “A Grain of Wheat” on the Nov. 5, 2022 Catholic Forum program airing at 1:30 p.m. on Relevant Radio 640 then available on Apple, Spotify, iHeartRadio and Amazon Music podcasts.