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A how-to-book of the Mass for new Catholics and old

Our Sunday Visitor

Russell E. Saltzman - published on 02/05/17

This step-by-step guide is not just "for Dummies"

You need to remember, I still regard Paula Huston’s One Ordinary Sundayas the best literary introduction to the Catholic Mass I’ve read. She combines story and sacrament, spirituality and meditation, exactly the way it is in real life, and handles the sometimes complex theology with ease. She describes the Mass with elegance.

What she doesn’t have are drawings, those little graphics enclosed in boxes with bulleted points describing what’s happening and how to do it. You know, like those guides with yellow covers and titles like An Insiders’ Guide to Hedge Fund Management for Dummies? That’s what she doesn’t have. I love those things. (I made that title up, by the way.)

While the late Michael Dubruiel’s The How-To Book of the Mass (2007 edition) isn’t exactly literature, he does have many, many fine boxes, and I enjoyed every one.

All the same, this isn’t for dummies. It is, exactly as the title has it, a step-by-step explanation of the Mass: origins, history, development, and goes about covering “how to”:

  • bless yourself
  • make the Sign of the Cross
  • genuflect
  • join in singing the opening hymn
  • be penitential
  • listen to the scriptures (and a box on the mysteries of the three-year lectionary cycle)
  • hear a great homily every Sunday
  • intercede for others
  • be a good steward
  • give thanks to God
  • share the peace
  • receive the Eucharist
  • receive a blessing
  • evangelize others
  • get something from every Mass you attend

Oh, he also covers why people should not skip out early after receiving the Eucharist and what you should do as you watch them leaving (say a prayer for them and think Christian thoughts).

There is one jarring note, p. 95, on the books that make up the Bible. “If you have a Jewish Bible, you may find that it only has the first five books of the Bible in it.”

Um, no. The Jewish scriptures in whole properly have 24 books: the first five, the collections of the Prophets, and what are called the Writings. I suspect he was referring to the Torah (“the Law”), the first five books kept on ceremonial scrolls in the synagogue ark and read aloud in worship. Christians call it the Pentateuch, the “five scrolls.”

Still, this is a helpful guide for new Catholics and not a bad one for Catholics digging deeper. Dubruiel died unexpectedly in 2009, leaving a very rich body of work for Catholics who want to know more.

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