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Homilies of the late Fr. Leonard Klein emphasize reality of sin, the need for grace

A Grain of Wheat: Collected Sermons of Father Leonard R. Klein is full of wisdom and insights and will surely be an excellent and vibrant resource for priests, laymen, and scholars alike.

(Image: clunymedia.com)

Selected from over 500 sermons preached as a Catholic priest, A Grain of Wheat is a collection of 65 of the finest homilies given by the late Fr. Leonard Klein and arranged by his wife Christa Klein. Fr. Leonard Klein served as a Lutheran pastor for many years. He left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America due to its many doctrinal confusions. He then came into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2003 and received permission to be ordained to the priesthood. He was ordained in 2006. He was the first married man to be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.

Fr. Klein served in the Diocese of Wilmington for nearly 13 years. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2018. In her preface to the book, Fr. Klein’s wife, Christa, recounts how he continued to preach until September of 2019 and even continued writing in his worsening condition: “He preached his final homilies in September 2019 when complications developed requiring his return to the hospital. There, through the middle of autumn, he continued to write his weekly commentary on the lectionary readings for the parish.” Clearly proclaiming and explaining the Word of God was at the heart of his pastoral ministry.

On December 4, 2019, Fr. Leonard Klein passed on to his eternal reward.

The series of sermons in this collection are broken down into five separate groups revolving around the Liturgical Year. The first deals with Advent, Christmas, the Epiphany, and the Baptism of Jesus. The second treats Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. The third section contains sermons given during Ordinary Time. The fourth section is on assorted feasts and solemnities; while the fifth and final section is a compilation of sermons given on various occasions including funerals, weddings, and his farewell sermon for his Lutheran congregation.

In his sermons, Fr. Klein pulls from the rich traditions of the Church often referencing or citing excerpts from the Divine Office as well as the Extraordinary Form. He also quotes the saints, popes, and magisterial documents to emphasize the point he is trying to make. Likewise, he discusses current events taking place in the world and draws parallels with the Scriptures for the day.

A common motif that Fr. Klein emphasizes is the reality of sin in the world. He does not try to sugarcoat it. For him, sin is the root of all evil in the world even though the world would like you to think otherwise: “Sin is powerful. Although the evidence is clear, the flesh wishes to deny it, wishes to deny that limp, that ‘mysterious limp’ that unbalances even the best of our efforts, as theologian Henri de Lubac described it.” While asserting the reality of sin in the world, he also emphasizes Divine Mercy. He states that the Church’s emphasis on Divine Mercy is not meant to downplay sin. Rather, Divine Mercy shows the reality of sin and the need for grace. Jesus came to heal the sick not the healthy. If there was no sin there would be no need for God’s Divine Mercy.

Throughout his sermons, Fr. Klein warns against social media outlets, governments, science, and technology. He warns that they try to make themselves out to be the savior of the world and that they often contribute to the darkness of sin and vice that pervade our world:

Washington, Wall Street, and Hollywood would like you to think that it all depends on them. So would Harvard and John Hopkins, the UN, the EU, CNN and Fox, and the New York Times. Science and technology will deliver us, many imagine. If any were declared Messiah and Lord, we would be wise to run for the bunkers.

The true Savior of the world is, of course, Jesus Christ. The world searches in vain for their messiah among the media and in this world without looking forward to the next life.

This then brings us to one of the main overarching themes of Fr. Klein’s sermons: the idea that we are not made for this world. We are made by God and for Him – He is our ultimate goal. This life is but a pilgrimage. He reminds the reader that the world will come to an end; that this life will come to an end, and that there will be a final judgment for each of us. Therefore, he recommends that we live our lives as a preparation for going to meet the Lord at our particular judgment when we have passed on from this life.

The concept of Christian freedom is also treated greatly by Fr. Klein. He notes that God has given man great freedom – the freedom to choose or to reject Him. This is clearly seen from the very first pages of Genesis. God permits man to choose between God and sin because man could not truly love God without such freedom: “God gives us the freedom to say yes or no, to serve or to rebel, so that we might respond to him in a fully human manner.”

Another running theme is Fr. Klein’s staunchly pro-life attitude. This is evident since he served as the director of Pro-Life Activities and Chair of the Respect Life Committee for numerous years in the Diocese of Wilmington. He frequently speaks of the dignity of human life so often threatened by contraception, abortion, and euthanasia not only throughout the world but especially in the United States. He notes well that children in the womb are “invisible to American Law.”

He also recognizes that those who do not respect life are ultimately unhappy: “But most of the taking of life in our culture, including the most common, abortion, and the growing threat of euthanasia, can find no justification. Where life is cherished and protected everybody is happier.” Man is always searching for happiness – often in the wrong places. Man’s happiness and joy ultimately lie in God and doing His will. Cherishing and protecting life does just that.

In one of the last homilies given by Fr. Klein in September of 2019, he discusses the poll taken on belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist and offers his own advice for a Eucharistic Revival. He attributes such disbelief to many different causes including:

poor catechesis, lack of reverence at Mass; casual and improvisational behavior by priest-celebrants, sterile architecture that does not bespeak the sanctity of what occurs in the building, weak discipline of the clergy by the bishops, and the sex-abuse scandal that calls everything into question.

Fr. Klein further suggests that the most important way to show the truth of the Eucharist is through a reverent celebration of the Mass: “There is little question that a reverent celebration of the mass may be the most important factor in conveying the truth about the Eucharist.”

The theological virtue of hope underlies every liturgical season in Fr. Klein’s sermons. Hope calls one to avoid the temptations of despair and presumption at the same time. In Advent and Christmas, one hopes for the coming of Christ, not only the recalling of His Birth at Christmas but also of His Second Coming at the General Judgment. In Lent and Easter, one hopes in the unprovable reality of the Resurrection and one’s own resurrection at the end of this world. For Ordinary Time, one should have hope in knowing that this life is only a journey to union with God.

In a world of sin and darkness, Fr. Klein’s sermons bring light and guidance for all and are a true treasure for not only the Church but also the world. His wisdom and insights will surely be an excellent and vibrant resource for priests, laymen, and scholars alike.

A Grain of Wheat: Collected Sermons of Father Leonard R. Klein
Edited by Christa Ressmeyer Klein
Foreword by George Weigel
Cluny Media, 2022
Hardcover, 338 pages


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About Joseph Tuttle 1 Article
Joseph Tuttle is the author of An Hour with Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (Ligouri, 2021). His work has been published with or is forthcoming with The St. Austin Review, Adoremus Bulletin, The University Bookman, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Aleteia, and Word on Fire Blog among others. He graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Theology from Benedictine College.

1 Comment

  1. To obey God is to love God. To sin is hatred for God. The only thing in existence worth allowing free will, through which all hatred, sin, death and damnation flows, is the glorious free-willed gift of love to God.

    John 14:15
    If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

    John 15:22
    If I had not come and spoken* to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me also hates my Father. If I had not come to them and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; now, however, their sin cannot be excused. To hate me is to hate my Father. If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father.

    Catechism 2083 Jesus summed up man’s duties toward God in this saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This immediately echoes the solemn call: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.” God has loved us first. the love of the One God is recalled in the first of the “ten words.” the commandments then make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Ten Commandments
    https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P7A.HTM

    1 John 5:3
    For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome

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