Books by Fr. Benedict Groeschel

The genesis of this book was inspired by a set of talks that Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R., gave several years ago in the Diocese of Manchester, NH. At the time while researching material for a project I was working on I came across an advertisement for the talks and found both the title and topic striking. The topic seemed to fit Father Benedict’s lifetime of working among the poor and raising money to help their plight. I approached him, shortly after listening to the tapes and asked him to consider doing a book version. He liked the idea but was reluctant to pursue the project alone due to the shortage of time available to work on it.

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Unwilling to let go of the project, I approached another friend of the poor, Bishop Robert J. Baker of the Diocese of Charleston. I knew that Bishop Baker’s priestly ministry had been devoted to finding Christ in the poor and with a wealth of experience he had in this area that if I could join his thoughts with Fr. Groeschel’ s we would have a book that would be of great benefit to the rest of us. After approaching Bishop Baker with my request he agreed and then Father Benedict agreed to collaborate on this book.

While the Bishop and Father Benedict were working on the written text of the book I came across a stunning work of iconography one day while visiting an Eastern Catholic church. On the back wall of the church was an icon of the Last Judgment taken from Matthew 25. I found that the great iconographer Mila Mina had written the icon. I immediately contacted Mila and asked if the icon might be used as an illustration for this book, her response was “anything to make the Gospel known!” Thanks to Mila and her son Father John Mina for allowing Joyce Duriga and David Renz to photograph the icon at Ascension of Our Lord Byzantine Catholic Church, Clairton, PA.

Fr. Groeschel has written the introductory text that begins each section as well as the final “What Should I Do?” at the end of the book, and Bishop Baker has written the individual meditations and prayers contained in each of the six sections.

While this book was being written, Father Benedict was involved in a horrific accident that nearly took his life. At the time of the accident the text he was working on was in his suitcase. He had just finished the introduction to “When I was a stranger…” as you read over the text for that section you might sense that he was having a premonition of what was about to happen in his life-where he would soon be in an emergency room under the care of doctors, nurses and as well as his family and religious community.

You will find that this book provides you with keys to finding Our Lord in the poor, and to overcoming the fears and obstacles (represented by the seven deadly sins in each section) that prevent you from responding to His call.

RCIA Confession Resource

For a brief, pointed and helpful guide,

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All of Michael Dubruiel’s books listed on Amazon.

The Power of the Cross free download and audio files.

The New Version of the Stations of the Cross link

Lent Stations of the Cross

Lent begins on February 26. It’s time to order parish and school resources.

In 1991, Pope John Paul II introduced a new Bible-based interpretation of the Stations of the Cross. This devotional guide invites readers to prayerfully walk in solidarity with Jesus on his agonizing way of the cross—from his last torturous moments in the Garden of Gethsemane to his death and burial.

Now with full-color station images from previously unpublished paintings by Michael O’Brien, this booklet creates an ideal resource for individual or group devotional use, particularly during the Lenten season.

Thomas Aquinas – January 28

From 2003, by Michael Dubruiel

Aquinas Thought of Everything

Below is a quote from Summa Contra Gentiles. I’ve been familar with the notion that St. Thomas said we’d all be 33 in Heaven regardless of when we died (before or after that age), but no one every seemed to know where he’d said it. Well here it is, along with an interesting discussion on the other qualities of the glorified body:

From Jacques Maritain Center: GC 4.88:

“STILL we must not suppose, what some have thought, that female sex has no place in the bodies of the risen Saints. For since resurrection means the reparation of the defects of nature, nothing of what makes for the perfection of nature will be withdrawn from the bodies of the risen. Now among other organs that belong to the integrity of the human body are those which minister to generation as well in male as in female. These organs therefore will rise again in both. Nor is this conclusion impaired by the fact that there will be no longer any use of these organs (Chap. LXXXIII). If that were any ground for their absence from the risen body, all the organs bearing on digestion and nutrition should be absent, for there will not be any use for them either: thus great part of the organs proper to man would be wanting in the risen body. We conclude that all such organs will be there, even organs of which the function has ceased: these will not be there without a purpose, since they will serve to make up the restored integrity of the natural body.*


Neither is the weakness of the female sex inconsistent with the perfection of the resurrection. Such weakness is no departure from nature, but is intended by nature.* This natural differentiation will argue the thoroughgoing perfection of nature, and commend the divine wisdom that arranges creation in diversity of ranks and orders. Nor is there anything to the contrary in the expression of the Apostle: Till we all meet and attain to the unity of faith and recognition of the Son of God, even to a perfect man, to the measure of the full stature of Christ (Eph. iv, 13). This does not mean that in that meeting in which the risen shall go forth to meet Christ in the air* every one shall be of the male sex, but it indicates the perfection and strength of the Church, for the whole Church shalt be like a perfect, full-grown man, going out to meet Christ.*


Again, all must rise at the age of Christ,* which is the age of perfect manhood, for the sake of the perfection of nature, which is at its best in this age above others.

What is a Novena?

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his Apostles to stay where they were and to “wait for the gift” that the Father had promised: the Holy Spirit.  The Apostles did as the Lord commanded them. “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Nine days passed; then, they received the gift of the Holy spirit, as had been promised. May we stay together with the church, awaiting in faith with Our Blessed Mother, as we trust entirely in God, who loves us more than we can ever know. 

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Divine Mercy Novena

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist – part 12

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

From chapter 2 – Serve. Part 8

O S T E R I N G   A N AT T I T U D E     O F E R V I C E

If you have ever held a position in a service industry then you know that one of the principal ways of fostering an attitude of service is by presuming that the customer is always right.Having been in that position myself in many different jobs over the course of my life, I know that many times the customer isn’t right,but I also know that when you treat them as if they are they are more apt to come to the truth than when you treat them in an arrogant manner.

ELP FROM THE FATHERS OF THE HURCH

Let your prayer, then, be no mere pronouncing of words with the lips. Devote your whole attention to it, enter into the retreat of your heart, penetrate its recesses as deeply as possible. May he whom you seek to please not find you negligent. May he see that you pray with your whole heart, so that he will deign to hear you when you pray with your whole heart.

— S T. A MBROSE

Fostering an attitude of service toward God in the Eucharist is not exactly the same thing as assuming that the customer is always right, however, because unlike the human customer, who may in fact be wrong, God is always right! Believing that can lead us to some rather startling conclusions,when we come to Mass and with every moment of our lives. A great illustration of this attitude of service is found in the Second Book of Samuel when King David flees Jerusalem after it has been taken over by his son Absalom. As David flees, a kinsman of King Saul named Shimei comes out as the king passes by and begins cursing him, continually throwing stones at David and his servants.One of David’s servants,Abishai, says to David,“Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head” (2 Samuel 16:9).

King David’s response is to rebuke Abishai and to wonder “If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him,‘Curse David,’who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ ” (2 Samuel 16:10). They travel on and Shimei continues to follow them, cursing while throwing stones and dust.

What if this were our attitude? What if we were to take a second look when something happens that isn’t in our plan, perhaps even to think that the person cursing us might be doing so because God is telling him or her to do so?

A servant is always ready to serve.This is a sacrifice that Christ demands of his followers, and one that when we embrace it will help us to get the most from the Eucharist we celebrate.

The Conversion of Paul – January 25

The Cross of Christ Illumines. . . Blindness “ by Michael Dubruiel


As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ And I answered ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.” Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go to Damascus, and you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ And when I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.” ACTS 22:6–11 



Jesus said, “For Judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” JOHN 9:39–41 

The most unique Holy Saturday I ever experienced occurred when my wife and I decided to go to a monastery for Holy Week . Saturday was a rainy day and we decided to go to a nearby spot that was advertised up and down the interstate as the place to visit when you were passing through this part of the country— it was a cave. What better spot to spend Holy Saturday, I reasoned, than under the earth? After all, Jesus’ body had lain in a tomb on that first Holy Saturday.

So we drove a few miles away from the monastery and joined a group of other travelers in an out-of-the-way location to descend into the earth and explore one of nature’s wonders. What I remember most about the tour of the cave had little to do with the stalactites or the stalagmites but something else that we experienced once we had gone deep into the cave. The tour guide asked us, “How many of you think you have experienced total darkness?” A few people raised their hands. He then told us that he was going to turn off the artificial lighting that illuminated the cave so that we could experience what the first people who had discovered this cave experienced when their light went out. There was nothing but total, pitch darkness. I held my hand in front of my face but could see absolutely nothing. I knew that it was there because I could sense it but I could see absolutely nothing, no shadow, no outline—just a horrible darkness. It was the closest that I have ever come to having some understanding of what it must be like to be totally blind.

In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, in a chapter entitled “Seeing,” Annie Dillard wrote about people born blind whose sight was restored by a medical procedure. The reaction of those thus healed wasn’t what one might expect. Some wanted to go back to the darkness—they found the light too much. Others enjoyed the gift of vision, but to those who had been in darkness since birth it seemed to them that everything was made of light. Blinded by the Light In John’s Gospel, Jesus divides the world into two camps: those who encounter his light and have their sight restored, and those who encounter that light and are blinded. Jesus told Nicodemus, “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

In John’s Gospel, Jesus heals a blind man, who has not only his physical sight restored but also comes to see that Jesus is worthy of worship. The Pharisees who question the blind man refuse to believe, no matter how much evidence is brought forward to prove that Jesus had healed him. Another Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, later persecuted the followers of Jesus. While setting out on one such mission, Saul was struck by a light from heaven, and heard the voice of Jesus, the suffering Christ. Saul was blinded on his way to Damascus, where a follower of Jesus healed him. Saul became St. Paul, one of the greatest followers of Christ. The preaching of Paul would focus on the crucified Christ, leading many artists to portray the scene of Paul’s conversion as an encounter with a cross of light.

None of the Pharisees, including Saul, thought that persecuting the followers of Christ was evil; in fact, they thought they were doing the will of God. We all risk falling into the same trap. How well do you and I truly see? Do we see everything made of light? Or do we only partially see reality as it is?

A World Made of Light 

There have been times in my life when I have called upon God to save or help me, and God has answered in dramatic ways. At

first I gave thanks for God’s intervention in my life. But with time my inner Pharisee began to question the events: Was God really responsible? There are those who believe that we live in an age when miracles have ceased, but I know better. Miracles abound—we just don’t always recognize them. Those cured of physical blindness perceive the world to be made of light; the same is true of those cured of spiritual blindness. What seemed dark and hopeless suddenly becomes a path to glory. The psalmist reflects this spiritual vision when he prays in perhaps the best-known psalm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4). Today there are eye surgeries that allow people to see clearly without corrective lenses. We need the “surgery of the cross” to restore our vision, allowing us to see the world as God sees it. The person filled with the Light perceives light, even in apparent total darkness. As we read in the Gospel of Matthew: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22–23). Lord Jesus, touch our eyes that we might see!

The Power of the Cross is a book well-suited to daily reading during Lent. The book is available here in pdf version. Daily excerpts will be reprinted in this space during Lent.

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Michael Dubruiel

January 24 – Francis de Sales

Today is the feast of St. Francis de Sales the Patron Saint of Writers

To read more about him, check out the CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Francis de Sales

There are two elements in the spiritual life: first, a struggle against our lower nature; secondly, union of our wills with God, in other words, penance and love. St. Francis de Sales looks chiefly to love. Not that he neglects penance, which is absolutely necessary, but he wishes it to be practised from a motive of love. He requires mortification of the senses, but he relies first on mortification of the mind, the will, and the heart. This interior mortification he requires to be unceasing and always accompanied by love. The end to be realized is a life of loving, simple, generous, and constant fidelity to the will of God, which is nothing else than our present duty. The model proposed is Christ, whom we must ever keep before our eyes. “You will study His countenance, and perform your actions as He did” (Introd., 2nd part, ch. i). The practical means of arriving at this perfection are: remembrance of the presence of God, filial prayer, a right intention in all our actions, and frequent recourse to God by pious and confiding ejaculations and interior aspirations.


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How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist – part 11

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

From chapter 2 – Serve. Part 7

“ I H AV E I V E N O U     A N X A M P L E 

Jesus told his disciples that he had given them a model to follow. He said,“If you know these things,blessed are you if you do them” (John 13: 17).

The traditional tale of the fall of Satan is that it was due to his refusal to serve: non serviam, “I will not serve,” was the devil’s reply to God.Inflated by pride,he would not obey.Fallen human-

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ity shares this trait, as Jeremiah the prophet says: “For long ago you broke your yoke and burst your bonds; and you said, ‘I will not serve’ ” (Jeremiah 2:20).

In opposition to Satan and fallen humanity is Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. We who follow him are “in Christ”and we are to imitate him at the liturgy.If we want to get the most out of the Eucharist we need to start by fostering the attitude of Christ the Servant.

O U C H O TAT O AT H O L I C S ?

It strikes me that at the heart of every problem we experience in the Eucharist today is a fundamental stance of someone who will not serve but wants to be the one served — sort of a couch potato Catholic.

St. Benedict, in his Rule, explains the proper attitude the follower of Christ is to have at prayer: “If we do not venture to approach men who are in power, except with humility and reverence, when we wish to ask a favor, how much must we beseech the Lord God of all things with all humility and purity of devotion? And let us be assured that it is not in many words, but in the purity of heart and tears of compunction that we are heard.”7

Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,

as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he have mercy upon us.

— P SALM 1 2 3 : 2

If someone very important were coming to your house, you would want to make sure that the person was at ease, you would look after his or her comfort, and that person would be the center of your attention until his or her departure. Likewise, if we truly serve God at our celebration of the Eucharist, God will be our focus. Our hearts and minds will be raised to him.

If your role is to preside at the liturgy, you must serve the liturgy faithfully

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as the Church has handed it down to you. If you are a musician, the music must serve the liturgy, helping all to raise their voices as one to God. If you function as a lector you must proclaim the readings with great care so that all may hear the Word clearly. Every person in the congregation has a role to serve in the Eucharist.

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist – part 9

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

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From chapter 2 – Serve. Part 5

“DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HAVE DONE FOR YOU?”

When Jesus had finished washing the feet of his disciples, he rose and resumed his place at the table and asked them a simple question: “Do you know what I have done for you?”

There are several ways to take this question which Jesus posed to us, his followers; let me suggest two.

What Jesus Has Saved Us From

The first possible meaning relates to what Jesus has done for us by his sacrificial act on the cross:Do we know what Jesus has saved us from?

You may know enough to say,“Jesus has redeemed us from the bondage of original sin,” but unless you know what the lived consequences of this sin are, you cannot fully appreciate what Jesus has saved you from.The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells out the nature and effects of original sin in paragraphs 397–412. Here I briefly summarize this teaching and contrast it with how Jesus has reversed the “curse” of original sin. First, in the sin:

  • Man “let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and,abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command” (CCC 397).

— Jesus trusted in God completely, even to death on the Cross, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, “not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

  • Man “preferred himself to God,” thereby turning his back on the Creator (CCC 398).

— Jesus, though he was the form of God, did not deem equality with God; rather, Jesus lowered himself, taking the role of a servant (see Philippians 2:6–7).

As a result of original sin:

  • People are “afraid of the God of whom they have con-ceived a distorted image” (CCC 399).

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— At the Conception of Jesus, his Mother was told: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). — Jesus told his followers, “I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten by God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:5–7).

  • The original “harmony in which they [Adam and Eve] found themselves … is now destroyed” (CCC 400). — Jesus set the example of reversing this disharmony, so that St. Paul would pray, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” (Romans 15:5).
  • “The control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered” (CCC 400).

— Jesus’s death and our incorporation into it at baptism restore the right order, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:12–14).

  • “The union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination” (CCC 400).

— Jesus  said, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:4–6).

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— St. Paul instructed the followers of Christ that “the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does” (1 Corinthians 7:4) and in an often misquoted passage he told the Christian husband to love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

  • “Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man” (CCC 400).

— Jesus commanded nature and nature obeyed, both in healing the sick and calming the storm. He told his disciples, “In my name … they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17–18).

  • “Death makes its entrance into human history” (CCC 400). — Jesus raised the dead and was raised from the dead, and promised eternal life to anyone who believed in him, proclaiming himself to be “the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).

Knowing what Jesus has done for us will give us a greater appreciation of the Bread of Life that we receive when we approach his altar at every Eucharistic celebration. It is literally a matter of our life or our death!

LIVING THE UCHARIST

Is your Christian life dominated by the fallen worldview?  Do you strive with the help of the Holy Spirit and the nourishment of the Eucharist to live the new life of the kingdom that Jesus offers?

Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday

From 2004 by Michael Dubruiel


This past summer on our way to Florida, Amy and I stopped at the gravesite of Martin Luther King Jr. I had been there before, a number of times. Though it is close to downtown, there is a quiet that persist–obviously this was not the case the other day when President Bush was there–but the times I’ve been there, although a crowd is present, most are quiet, reflecting.




What are they reflecting on?




Non-violence, peaceful protest, offer no resistence–the teachings of Christ! For what made Dr. King’s message different and in the end successful was the apparent failure of it. Like the master he preached–his tomb stands like a cross planted squarely in the middle of the south. The relecting pool surrounding it reflects the faces of humanity who walk around it.




It was Christian faith, radical belief in the message of Jesus that led the civil rights movement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and sadly that very faith has been forgotten by many who wish to follow in his footprints. But who can blame them when they see the tomb of Dr. King, they see the price of the taking up one’s cross and following the master.




We also visited the Ebenezer Baptist Church nearby. I had never been inside the church before–since it was undergoing renovations. Amy and I were both shocked at how small it was–having seen in on television countless times, it seemed large. But alas it wasn’t…”if you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to that mountain.”




There will be many talks given today, that will laud Dr. King and his contribution to our society. There will be many proclamations about the progress we have made and some lamentation about how much further we have to go. But the saddest indictment will not be that we have not moved far enough in recognizing all people as our brothers and sisters–but rather that most of us have forgotten the one Father that we share that makes us all brothers and sisters!




At the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN where Dr. King was shot there is a historical marker with a quote from Genesis…”here comes that dreamer, let us put an end to him and then see what becomes of his dream.” Of course the dreamer spoken of in Genesis is Joseph and his dream was given to him by God and nothing men could do could destroy or keep that dream from coming to fruition. Ultimately God always wins…

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist – part 8

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

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From chapter 2 – Serve.  Part 4

G E T T I N G T H E M O S T O U T       O F T H E E U C H A R I S T

If you want to get the most out of the Eucharist you have to check your “I” at the door.The “I” that wants things, that endlessly critiques the way things are done, and  that demands things be done in exactly a certain way (meaning “my way,” not God’s way). I think it was Peter Kreeft who once said that the famous song, “I Did It My Way,” sung by such great artists as Frank Sinatra and Elvis, is the national anthem of hell. The way of the world may be to do things “our way” but the way of Christ is to do things his Way.We therefore consciously have to leave “my way” at the door and in exchange take up an attitude that asks “how may we be of service to you, Lord, in this celebration of the Eucharist?”

THE INSTITU TION OF THE EUCHARIST BY JESUS On Holy Thursday, the day on which the Church celebrates the institution of the Holy Eucharist,the gospel reading for the Mass does not mention Jesus taking bread and wine but rather an act of service that Jesus performed at the Last Supper.The Lord taking bread and wine and declaring it his body and blood is mentioned in the Second Reading for that Mass,but not in the gospel.

The gospel for Holy Thursday is from John’s gospel. It is the story of Jesus rising from the table and shocking his disciples by doing something totally unexpected, washing their feet.

Peter refuses to have his feet washed at first but acquiesces when Jesus tells him that it is necessary if Peter is to have any inheritance in him.

If you are like me, you can relate to Peter.There is something in Peter’s character that perfectly illustrates what we all are like in our fallen nature.We are proud.We want to be in control.We like Jesus, and we want to be part of his crowd, but we also want to tell him what to do.

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How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist – part 7

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

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From chapter 2 – Serve. Part 3

H O S E WAY R E R E PA R I N G ?

Every Sunday when I come to the Eucharist and am confronted by the words inscribed in stone over the entrance of my parish church, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” I am reminded that the first sacrifice I must make at this Mass is my own ego, and as I strive to relinquish the need to be in control of what will happen at this Eucharist I ask, “What does my lord bid his servant?” (Joshua 5:14).

We all face the same struggle. Some of you may protest:

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  • “The ushers don’t make me feel welcome in my church.”
  • “My parish priest preaches too long.”
  • “The musicians in our church are out of control.”
  • “People are too loud and talk too much before theEucharist.”
  • “The people dress too well or too poorly.”

Each of us, if given the opportunity to share what we think is keeping us from getting the most out of the Eucharist, is apt to come up with our own list. Recently I asked this question online and received a deluge of responses. Many were true abuses of the liturgy,and were worthy of being reported to the diocesan bishop, but just as many were not.

When I shared my amazement at the number of responses with my wife,she very keenly mused,“They all feel helpless,like they have no control.” As soon as she said this I realized that this was exactly the same thing I had heard from priests and musicians, the two groups who are most often the target of the congregation’s ire.Priests who come into a new parish and encounter established ways of doing things with which they do not agree and yet are powerless (at least at first) to change and musicians who are hired to provide a parish with beautiful music yet find themselves restrained by parish staff or established practice to playing pieces they feel are less than worthy of the liturgy often express frustration at their lack of control.

This brings home a point that we do not like to admit: None of us is in control, no matter what our function is in the liturgy. Yet we are all tempted to think that if we were in charge we could make it all perfect.

The greatest suffering that I’ve endured at any celebration of the Eucharist has been the few cases where someone, whether it was the presider, a musician, or, as in several cases, a member of the congregation, thought he or she could  make the liturgy more perfect by his or her own inventions. Here are some examples of this type of behavior, all of which actually happened:

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  • An Easter Sunday where a visiting priest tried to woo thecongregation by creating a “Mass” of his own making, never once using the words prescribed by the Church from beginning to end.
  • A musician who saw himself as in a battle with the cele-brant and who continually and loudly played music over the presider’s attempts to pray the prescribed prayers of the Church.
  • A congregant who screamed out for the priest to stopbecause “no one” —meaning herself — “knew where he was” in the liturgy.
  • A congregant who held up a crucifix as he processedtoward the altar to receive the Eucharist and then, after receiving the Eucharist, turned and exorcised the congregation with loud prayers and wild gesticulations of the cross.

Now, you may think of some of these people as being mentally ill, and perhaps some of them were, yet a case could be made that when any of us “lords” it over another we are a little off in the head, especially if we are doing so and claiming to be a follower of Jesus. None of this is new, of course; even in Jesus’s time there were those who sought to take control and lord it over others.Yet Jesus addressed this issue directly,and clearly specified the subservient attitude that would be required of his followers:

Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many.”

— M ATTHEW 2 0 : 2 5 – 2 8

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist – part 6

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

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From chapter 1 – Serve. Part 2

H E O R D

Jesus told his followers that when they had done all that had been commanded of them they should say:“We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10).

Our lives often are like a field of weeds with pressing concerns that can seem to take priority, but indeed the weeds are not as powerful as they might seem, and remembering who is Lord, Master, and God can help us put everything into perspective.

LE S S O N S LE A R N ED F RO M A H REE -Y E A R -O L D

Anyone who has a young child has a built-in reminder that coming to the Eucharist requires servitude. Preparations have to be made so that the child will be taken care of during the celebration. Sometimes this means making sure that a child’s prayer or Mass book is in his or her possession. At other times it simply

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means having tissue for a runny nose or having an extra dose of patience to deal with any outburst that might occur. One thing is certain: any parent who has a young child is already bringing the attitude of a servant to the Eucharist. If I get a little too comfortable in the pew and lean back in the posture of a spectator, my three-year-old will pretty quickly remind me that I’m not there to relax but to serve.

“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me; for he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

— LUKE 9 : 4 8

Having a young child in our midst, whether it is our own or someone else’s in the next pew, is a great reminder to us to humble ourselves, that in serving the child we may serve the Lord himself.

How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist – part 5

From How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist by Michael Dubruiel

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Chapter 1 – Serve, Part 1

“You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”

ATTHEW 4 : 1 0

In my home parish, St. John the Baptist in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the words Parate Viam Domini are inscribed over the front doors. The two years of Latin that I had in college and my knowledge of Scripture are enough for me to figure out that the message greeting me each Sunday are the words of St. John the Baptist in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” It is an excellent message to set the tone for the mystery that is about to be celebrated.

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P R E PA R AT I O N

I remember how differently I approached the Mass when as a young man I began to serve at the Eucharist as an altar boy.Before I could serve for the first time, I had to attend training sessions so that I knew what gestures and movements I was to make, and had to study the Latin responses so that I could answer the prayers of the priest at the appropriate time.Sometimes school was sacrificed so that I could serve a funeral mass,or a Saturday afternoon so that the priest could be attended to as he witnessed the marriage vows of a couple celebrating the Sacrament of Matrimony.

The thought and preparation that went into serving at the Eucharist required a sacrifice on my part but kept me focused on why I was there. Adults who serve as lectors, ushers, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist,and choir members often mention feeling similar sentiments when they first take on these acts of service. Yet with time we are all apt to find ourselves going through the motions without much preparation and indeed without much thought about the fact that we are serving God in our respective roles at the Eucharist, and this inattentiveness is to our detriment. Making preparations is the work of a servant, and in the celebration of the Eucharist it is the work of every disciple of Christ.

T H E WAY

“The Way” is one of the oldest names for the first followers of Christ. Jesus often told his disciples that he came to show them “the Way” to the Father, that God’s ways were not our ways, and that He was the Way. The routine that we can fall into at the Eucharist happens precisely when we stop seeing what is taking place as “different”from everything else that we experience in life. Not only is it different, but if we truly enter into the Eucharist with a spirit of sacrifice,it will change the way that we view everything in our lives. The tension between Christian beliefs and the beliefs of “the world” is understood only when we come to embrace “the way” of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Most converts to Christianity have a clear sense of the saving power of Jesus as “the Way.” Faithful, lifelong Catholics may not have as keen an understanding until they experience the difference their faith has made to them in contrast to the rejection of that faith in one of their children.Yet understanding that “the way” of Christ is not business as usual can keep us from thinking that we have nothing to prepare for when we celebrate the Eucharist. Once we realize that God’s ways are not our ways, we will always see the need to “prepare ourselves for these Sacred Mysteries” we are about to celebrate.

LIVING THE UCHARIST

Throughout the day,when the events of the day do not go your “way,” before frustration has a chance to set in, stop and ask yourself what God’s way might be for what the day has given you. Try to think of a similar incident in the life of Christ to the one in which you find yourself — how did Our Lord handle the situation?

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