I once told my local Ordinary that the Rule of St. Benedict should be required yearly Lenten reading for bishops. This festschrift for Archbishop Weakland of Milwaukee confirms that opinion by illustrating how a Benedictine spirituality of leadership might influence the exercise of episcopal ministry. The collection of essays includes general reflections on the office of bishop (David Coffey, Susan Wood, Francis Sullivan), as well as accounts of how Archbishop Weakland's living out of that office incarnated the theological principles that undergird it (Walter Burghardt, Michael Himes, Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb). The ideal of the Abbot, as portrayed in the Rule of St. Benedict, is a recurrent point of reference for understanding the particular charism the Archbishop brought to his office and that might serve as a template for envisioning the possibilities of a renewed leadership among U. S. Catholic bishops.
A more explicit treatment of the influence of the Archbishop's Benedictine identity characterizes the contributions of Daniel Kucera, O.S.B. (Archbishop Emeritus, Dubuque, IA) and Bradford Hinze. I would suggest reading these essays first; the Abbot's duty to listen to all, including (and especially) the youngest members and the guests of the monastery provide the hermeneutical lens for the volume's treatment of the Archbishop's ecumenical and interfaith dialogues, his listening sessions in the Milwaukee diocese, and his influence on the consultative processes used by the American Bishops for their pastoral letters, Challenge of Peace and Economic Justice for All.
January 2002 marked an abrupt shift in the attitudes of many Roman Catholics toward their priests and bishops. The book was edited in the "between time" —too late to totally ignore those events, yet too early to do them justice. The Epilogue, "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them," by David Stosur, is an insightful analysis of how the sacramental treatment of children in the Church renders them all but invisible in the liturgical community, which perhaps contributed to the appalling lack of consideration for the victims' pain in the Bishops' (non)reaction to their abuse. There is ultimately a sense of irony—if not poetic justice—that a book honoring a man whose own conduct was not entirely outside the shadows of those dark days, should highlight those aspects of his conduct which is also most promising for a renewed charism of episcopal leadership in the hoped-for brighter days ahead.