Bishop Gilmore pens last of three-volume book series:
‘Like the Dew Fall’
Special to the Catholic
A new book by Bishop Gilmore appeared this last Lenten Season, and has sold well in this country and in Canada. Like the Dew Fall, it is called. The last in a three volume series, it is now available for purchase at the GRACE THAT REIGNS website, gracethatreigns.com. The cost is $25, plus shipping.
- We understand you have a new book out this year, and that it ‘completes a series.’ How did all that come about?
- When I came to Dodge City in 1998, I began writing a column for the Catholic paper. Listen to Him, it was called. As time passed, people would tell me they liked this or that column; that they cut one out of the paper and posted it on the refrigerator door; that they ran another through the washing machine, and could they have a new copy … that they helped them, in other words, a little or a lot.
Around that same time, Father Rene Guesnier, OSB suggested that it would be good thing to gather them together in the pages of a book, to allow people to keep them in one place.
Years later, when GRACE THAT REIGNS started in the Diocese, Jacqueline Loh took on the daunting task of collecting the columns, of editing them, and of designing an attractive way of presenting them in book form. She took a mass of words (a “mess” of words, it sometimes seemed), and tamed them, and coaxed them into a pleasing form. She did the same with the columns of my retirement years (Another Way, that one was named), and the last of her work appears in this newest volume, Like the Dew Fall.
- You pique my curiosity. Why a set of three?
- Our ancestors in the Faith thought long and hard about numbers, and their symbolic meanings: the One God, the Three persons in God, the Four cardinal virtues, the Seven sacraments, the Forty days of Lent, the Fifty days of Easter, and on and on. Our spiritual tradition is awash in numbers. I simply follow its lead in this.
In this world, there is just something pleasing about a series of three things. Pleasing to the eye, and to the ear, and to the mind. And this is not surprising because they were made by one God who is three persons. He left his mark on all He made, you see. As a preacher, a speaker, a writer, just as a Catholic, I have found myself instinctively drawn to sets of threes. In my private moments, when no one is listening, I tell myself there is a divine reason for such a fondness.
This new set is a tad quirky, however. Chronologically, you would expect a “1” to be followed by a “2,” and to be ended by a “3.” But the volumes actually saw the light of day as 2, 1, 3. Just how that happened, I do not now remember. I have always been more at home with words, than with numbers. Maybe that explains it.
- People say they are pleased with short pieces, and with the photographs. They love being able to dip into them in vagrant, quiet, moments. Was that part of the hidden plan in the series?
- We wanted them to be attractive, of course, and especially to be useful for the average reader. People are busy with so many things nowadays. So, yes, they were short by design, and punctuated here and there by photographs. As a child I found unbroken blocks of print intimidating. Still do, in fact. Each piece is complete in itself, not intimidating or taxing in that sense, and the whole can be read at any pace the reader chooses. But for me there was more to it than that.
- “More.” How do you mean?
- When I was a child, I was fascinated by “time.” The usual thing, you know: how birthdays seemed never to come, how Christmas took forever to get here. I could not put it into words then, but I was always struck by how slowly, and mysteriously, time unfolded. It was never a question for me of what I could make of time, but a question of what time could make of me.
I devoured many “diaries” while growing up. The letters and diaries of politicians, of painters, of writers, of musicians, of Saints, and of the people who settled in southeast Kansas, those who gave shape to the town, and the Church in which I grew up: it was pleasing to see, from the inside, what time had made of them. Their secret pages, often meant for no other eye, appealed to my imagination.
This set of books has something of all that in it. Read chronologically, it is a record of what one rural bishop was seeing, and feeling, and thinking, and doing at the end of the 20th Century in Southwest Kansas. All its problems are there, the worries, the fears, the dented hopes, the occasional tears, and the frequent smiles, they are there too. These were the things that struck me, as one day ran into another, and exercised me, and kept me grounded in the Real, where God likes to work. The set helps me make sense of what He … and Time … did in my years as Bishop of Dodge City.
- What comes next for you? Will you continue adding to this record? What are you working on now?
- There are no plans to extend this record at the moment. I leave that to “circumstance,” which is what our contemporaries call “Providence.” The “grace of the moment” is important to me: its inspirations are always to be sought, and always to be obeyed. So, I’ll let the Lord decide on any extension.
I am working now on a book about Prayer: where it starts, what it is, how it grows, and where it ends in this life. It is a large and amorphous subject, and most of us, down deep, are functional illiterates about it. I have stumbled into, and over, and around, prayer for 77 years now. Maybe my stumbling, and struggling, can help someone else. I do not want to demystify prayer, mind you, I want to help others see it plain with all its mystery intact.