Yesterday morning, I spoke in Milwaukee to a smaller, but quite interested and engaged group at the Milwaukee Archdiocesan center. Auxiliary Bishop Sklba offered a few thoughts on the canon of Scripture before it was my turn and Archbishop Dolan was in attendance, as well. I’d never given this talk in front one, much less two bishops before. It’s a good thing that the talk, even with its various permutations for different groups, is etched in my brain, and it’s a good thing the bishops were sitting off to the side, out of my direct line of sight, else I might have found it a bit unnerving.

(Note – the Archbishop Cousins Center is a former high school seminary, and it’s big. It’s rather astonishing to think of the halls filled with young men considering the vocation to the priesthood.  In his walking through the halls with the stroller-imprisoned Michael the Baby during my talk, Michael studied a display outside the Archdiocesan archives – materials from the Vatican II era, including a letter written by, I believe, the Archbishop (or perhaps an underling) to the priests of the Archdiocese in September, after the Council ended. He wrote them that beginning on the First Sunday of Advent, the Mass would be in the vernacular instead of Latin, and that should be time enough to prepare the people for the change. 3 months.  Wow. I’ve often said here that if I were in graduate school these days, I’d pick as my research topic the implementation of the liturgical changes after V2 – I’d love to get down to the nitty-gritty and read over the diocesan communications and so on to see how it was done, and what was foreseen.)

Then it was over to Archbishop Dolan’s residence, where we enjoyed a very nice lunch – Archbishop Dolan is amazingly energetic, enthusiastic and very patient with children (he has 12 nieces and nephews, he said.). Someday perhaps I will have a meal with a bishop in which I am not constantly on edge about my children potentially destroying their historic homes (remember Charleston and Bishop Baker…that’s even a more historic home, and we were actually supposed to stay there until Michael thought the better of it considering artifacts like the Samuel F.B. Morse paintings and all).

Heck, someday I will have a meal in my own home without being on edge about potential destruction. And then I’ll be all sentimental about the good old days. Yeah, I know.

Then to Chicago- actually St. Charles, a far western suburb of Chicago where the RBTE is always held. This was a shorter visit than usual – we got there around 3, I had to go do a photo shoot for OSV, which was using the occasion to do publicity shots for 4 of its authors who were present. Outside of a Methodist Church – why? Because the Methodist church was older, beautiful stonework. The Catholic church – well, standing in front of a greyish brick wall with no character would sort of miss the point.

Saw many old friends – Jim Manney and Joe Durepos of Loyola, Jim Cosgrove, associated with John Michael Talbot’s ministry, Joan Wester Anderson, Fr. Jim Schmitmeyer, the "Blue Collar Preacher," and Vinita Hampton Wright, who edited a couple of my Loyola books, and who is the author of several novels, including her newest, highly acclaimed Dwelling Places, a copy of which she kindly signed and gave to me.

And yes, Ron Rolheiser and the St. Louis Jesuits were there at the big massive book/CD  signing session. I saw them. They were seen. Anything else you want me to say?

What’s coming out that’s new and exciting? Not much. I haven’t looked through the catalogues yet, but what was on display there didn’t grab me. I’d actually read several of the big titles publishers were pushing – Jim Martin’s excellent and engaging My Life with the Saints, the John Cornwell memoir Seminary Boy and that dreadful book describing how the bishops killed women’s religious orders,  Double Crossed. I did grab a bunch of bound galleys from the Doubleday table – Ben Witherington’s What Have They Done With Jesus? , due in October, which promises to be another contribution to the growing, accessible body of literature inviting us to reexamine the assumptions so many of us have absorbed about what can and cannot be learned from early Christian texts.

The History at the End of the World by Jonathan Kirsch is about the impact of the Book of Revelation on world history, and David Gibson’s new book on Benedict, of which I am skeptical, I confess, but will wait until reading it (naturally) to comment on.

On the trip, I read a couple of books – Philip Jenkins’ newest, coming this fall, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South, and Philip Roth’s Everyman. No, I did not make a vow to read books only by men named "Philip."

More later…

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