Friday, February 06, 2009

The How-To Book of the Mass

Michael Dubriel, a Catholic author and blogger, died suddenly a few days ago, as announced on the site of his wife Amy Wellborn, also a Catholic author and blogger.

I'd forgotten until today, but Dubriel wrote a book I really like: The How-To Book of the Mass. I read it two years ago when I'd just decided to become Catholic and I knew I needed to get a handle on the Mass. There seemed to be a lot of meaning in it that I was missing; the gestures and words would flow by in a stream so swift I couldn't catch and examine any of them. Dubriel's book was exactly what I wanted. He explains all the basics I didn't know and was too shy to ask-- how to genuflect, how to cross yourself with holy water, even why some Hispanics look like they're kissing their hands after making the Sign of the Cross (turns out they're making a little cross with forefinger and thumb and kissing that, as a sign of devotion). Then he also explains the theology of the Mass, the Sacrifice and the Real Presence, with heavy use of Scripture and quotes from the early Church Fathers. For each part he usually says something about its development: what it looked like in the year 300 A.D., what the Eastern Catholics do at this part, what Scripture it's taken from, what Pope stuck this prayer in there and why. And he writes quite a bit about how to enter spiritually into the Mass. One very useful recommendation along those lines was to kill your ego, especially if there's something about the way the Mass is being offered that you don't like. :)

It was a much richer book than I'd hoped for, given that it's written in a simple familiar style and looks like part of the "For Dummies" series. A few weeks after finishing it I started going to Mass every day-- mainly because I found a great parish (and even more mainly because of grace), but I know Dubriel's book helped.

Incidentally, I'd recommend it as therapy for traditional Catholics who love the Extraordinary Form of Mass but want to cure themselves of retching at the thought of the Ordinary Form. This book is entirely about the OF, and although it won't make you love the OF better than the EF, it does make the most of what the OF has got. Most opponents of the EF are so pleased to emphasize the hermeneutic of rupture as applied to the OF, but this book emphasizes the OF's historical continuity. It also plays up the ways that participation in the OF can be spiritually fruitful, and how to have a "full, active, and conscious participation," not superficially but interiorly.

So anyway, having been reminded that Dubriel wrote this book I loved, I feel a sense of gratitude and am sorrier for his loss. I highly, highly recommend the reading of his last column, which seems to have been written at the inspiration of God for the comfort of his family. "The big lie... is to think that if we say all the right prayers and live correctly, then nothing bad will ever happen to us."


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

He wrote this book?...:)

Erin said...

(Hi, this is Rachel S.'s friend Erin.)

I just bought this book a couple of weeks ago, but hadn't started reading it yet when I heard this sad news. I recognized his name, but I wasn't sure what I recognized it from until I went looking through the books he's written on Amazon. Turns out I've read a few of them (and own one, which I haven't finished reading yet, but finally started yesterday).

Rachel Gray said...

I remember seeing your comments on that fascinating blog of hers. :) Which of Dubriel's books did you read? I've only read that one.

Erin said...

I've read both of his Pocket Guides at some point, although I can't remember where I encountered them. I recognize the covers as something I've read, but I thought that would have been in 2005 or 2006--both of those came out in 2007. (I'm hoping this is an indication that I read too much to remember clearly when I read things, rather than an indication that my memory is just bad. LOL.)

I've browsed through his guide on the Rosary, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for--not that it was bad, though, just not what I wanted.

And I actually do know for sure that I've seen "How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist", because I browsed through the copy that belonged to a classmate of mine that I met in Campus Ministry at St. Martin's U. I never bought a copy, however, because I can't take the Eucharist (unbaptized--entering RCIA later this month though).

I don't think I ever realized how much of this guy's work ended up in my hands at various points until I went looking. :)

Rachel Gray said...

I didn't even know he'd written all that till I checked Amazon. The Eucharist one looks interesting... Of course I already own about twenty books I want to read.

You're joining RCIA? That's awesome! :) :) :) I'll pray for you.

I spent more than six months not receiving the Eucharist at Mass while I was going through RCIA. It was a bit conspicuous because I would always sit right up front, and at Communion time I'd sit down instead of going up with the others to at least receive a blessing (I was shy). I found out later that the woman who usually sat behind me was worried about me, praying for me and asking God why I never received Him. Apparently she thought I might be trapped in a sinful life. I ended up asking her to be my sponsor, so that answered her question. :)

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