Living the Year of the Eucharist
An Author Interview with Michael Dubruiel, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist
by Lisa M. Hendey
I believe that our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II left us a precious gift prior to his death when he declared this to be the “Year of the Eucharist”. In the weeks since his passing, I have felt myself drawn compellingly to the Eucharist and to quiet time spent in Eucharistic adoration. Attending memorial masses, and now masses of Thanksgiving at the election of our new Pope Benedict XVI, I have seen the beauty of the “Body of Christ” in the faces of my fellow parishioners and those around the world witnessing the unfolding of these historic events. I am trying, in my own very little way, to live out and to fully embrace the Year of the Eucharist.
A guide and enlightenment to me in the past few weeks has been a new book written by noted author Michael Dubruiel. How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist (Our Sunday Visitor, March 2005, paperback, 144 pages) offers Dubruiel’s “SACRIFICE” model, nine concrete steps to take to maximize one’s experience of the Eucharist. In practical yet inspiring terms, Dubruiel writes for people like me who are striving in their own simple ways to embrace true communion with Jesus Christ. One of the many highlights of the book is the recurring segment “Lessons Learned from a Three Year Old”, inspired by the wise-beyond-his-years philosophy of Joseph, the son of Dubruiel and his wife and fellow author Amy Welborn.
I took time recently to speak with Dubruiel about his new book and this Year of the Eucharist.
Q: With the passing of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, please say a few words about our former Pope and his impact upon the Eucharist in today's Church.
A: St. John Bosco once had a vision where he saw a boat, symbolic of the church being tossed about in rough seas He then saw a pope take the helm of the ship and navigate between two pillars, one on which was the Blessed Virgin Mary the other a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament—that was in 1862. There is no doubt that Pope John Paul II was that pope and what we have witnessed during the last twenty-six years of his papacy is a righting of the ship that is they church by restoring devotion to the Blessed Mother who helps us to focus on Jesus and by recalling both the adoration due to the Eucharistic Lord but also the sacrifice required of each of us who participate in the Eucharistic banquet that the Lord has prepared for us by His Sacrifice. In declaring a Year of the Rosary and the current Year of the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II has set the course for a new evangelization that God willing we will all witness in the coming years.
Q: Given this “Year of the Eucharist”, your book is very timely. What prompted you to take on this topic? What is your goal for the book?
A: I had been giving a talk to various groups around the country with the title "Setting Your Heart on Fire at Every Eucharist" after The How-To Book of the Mass was published by Our Sunday Visitor in 2002. At the end of most of those talks during the question and answer period people would share their dissatisfaction with the way the Eucharist was being celebrated in their parishes. Now this "dissatisfaction" was all over the place and usually reflected the ideology of the group that I was speaking to—my original intention when I began the book was to address this "dissatisfaction" that I encountered but in the meantime Pope John Paul II released an Encyclical on the Eucharist and a year later an Apostolic Letter. After much reflection on both, what I ended up doing does address the dissatisfaction--but in a way that even people who aren't dissatisfied will find a way of being at Mass that will benefit them even more. The goal of the book is to restore a sense of our personal responsibility at the Eucharist: to both encounter Jesus there but also be united with Jesus there by giving ourselves fully to Him. Many of the reasons the Holy Father had given for declaring this the Year of the Eucharist are the very fabric of what I deal with in the book.
Q: I was moved by your comments emphasizing the importance that we approach the Eucharist from a sacrificial perspective. Why is this so important, and yet so difficult?
A: In preparation for writing How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist I asked for feedback on the internet at my Annunciations blog, http://michaeldubruiel.blogspot.com), from other Catholics on what were the principle obstacles that kept them from getting the most out of the Eucharist. Their responses came in quickly and in large numbers and they were passionate. They varied from dissatisfaction with the music used in their parish to the poor quality of the homilies preached, interestingly no one commented that they themselves might be the biggest obstacle to what they were experiencing.
I was commenting on this one night to my wife Amy and she thought about it for a second and said "they are frustrated because they have no control."
I knew from conversations I had with priests and liturgists that this was exactly what they felt too!
Pope John Paul’s Encyclical on the Eucharist came to my mind when I was trying to respond to this very real angst. I thought about what the Holy Father had said about the "sacrificial" aspects of the Eucharist not being stressed or understood by many modern Catholics. It also called to mind that many of the older people that I knew had a different attitude that they brought with them to Mass—an attitude that is reflected in the old adage to “offer it up”—that those things that trouble us can be beneficial not only to us but to others if we see them as our sacrifice to offer.
Now, I think sacrifice is always difficult if we forget the reason for doing it—and that reason is usually related to love. When we love, sacrifice makes sense but when we no longer love, sacrifice can become almost unbearable. The love aspect is dealt with in this How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist when I talk about the need to "adore" Christ—to rekindle devotion to Him, to be reminded that He is the reason that we come to Mass, that He has first loved us and is worthy of all our love and sacrifice.
This is a topic that I'd like to deal with further in two future books written along the same lines as this one. I envision a "How to Get the Most Out of the Rosary"—by contemplating on the face of Christ with Mary (again inspired by the Holy Father) and "How to Get the Most Out of the Bible"—by reading it to fall in love with Jesus all over again.
Q: Your concrete “SACRIFICE” model offers readers nine concrete steps to take to maximize their experience of the Eucharist. Could you please say a few words about these steps and how you developed this model?
A: I've mentioned above how the idea of using "sacrifice" as the guiding attitude necessary for getting more out of the Eucharist, as it is also for living the Christian life. The idea of building the book on the word came to me when I was running one day and it seemed to fit perfectly with what I wanted to cover in the book. The first three letters are a play on the traditional Catholic understanding of the purpose of life –to know, love and serve God.
S stands for Serve. Every Holy Thursday the Church presents us with the Gospel of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the first Eucharist and telling them that He was giving them an "example", a model to follow. It is easy to forget how important service is to following Christ until the Church reminds us.
A stands for Adore, if we forget about who Jesus is, God and all that we owe God we are apt to approach Him in a way that doesn’t fully acknowledge the all important acts we are partaking.
C stands for Confess, and I use it in both of its meanings to confess our belief in God and to confess our sins. They both our related and when we really know who God is then we come to know who we are and how we fall short of living and trusting in His love for us.
R stands for Respond and it seems to go without saying that if we want to get the most out of the Mass we need to respond—yet it is amazing how difficult this can be for all of us at times because we often have to sing songs we don't particularly care for or stand or kneel longer than we feel like. Responding for many is the greatest sacrifice asked for and often reminds me of the way people responded to Jesus with a list of excuses rather than a "leaving everything to follow Him" response.
I stands for Incline your ear, to make a strong effort to listen to what God might be saying to you at Mass.
F stands for Fast, making sure that we come to the Eucharist with a hunger to truly enjoy what the Lord is giving us.
I stands for Invite; to consciously as the Lord to "stay with us", to invoke the prayer of the early Church at the Eucharist Maranatha meaning "Come Lord."
C stands for Commune; to truly give ourselves to Christ and to accept new life in Him when we receive His Body and Blood.
E stands for Evangelize; to share what we have been given realizing that the very life of our family, friends and those God places in our path depend on hearing about Him.
Q: As always with your writing Michael, I found this book to be a wonderful combination of insightful philosophy and readable, workable advice. A particular favorite of mine in this book are your “Lessons Learned from a Three Year Old” comments in each chapter, which provide simple, real life instruction. How did your relationship with your son Joseph impact on the writing of this book and your experience of the Eucharist?
A: Joseph was two when I was preparing a lengthy talk on the Eucharist for an event in St. Louis a few years ago. He kept coming to see what I was doing and at the time I was having difficulty coming up with a way to illustrate the idea of "giving thanks always"—something that appears in the "Adore" chapter of How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist. I was sending him away with a gentle reprimand and in response he said, "Thank you" something he did at that age (I think he though it meant "okay"). I realized that God had just sent me my illustration.
Over the course of the next two years (Joseph is about to turn four in April) Joseph continued to put what I propose in the book to its toughest test and yet confirmed that what I was putting forth was indeed practical. I am reminded of one time when Joseph was clamoring for attention to have help with his runny nose and as I fished out a handkerchief and bent down to wipe his nose I heard the priest proclaim from the Gospel "whatever you did for the least of my brethren you did for me." I realized that Joseph and all of his young peers out there have a lot to teach us about keeping Christ in the Eucharist!
Two side notes to this question: the first four people to write me with feedback on the book after reading it, all of them women (my wife, a nun and two young mothers) all shared that they read the Joseph parts first, secondly while I was answering this question Joseph made an appearance to tell me that I really should pick up my books which are all over the floor near my desk.
Q: For those of us looking to truly embrace this “Year of the Eucharist” what are some of the most important steps we can take during the remainder of the year?
A: The most important element is to understand it all in terms of Jesus. Adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, take the Gospels with you to learn again who He is and that He founded a Church with Peter as its head and that he left us the Eucharist as a gift. Read the Holy Father's beautiful writing on the Eucharist, rediscover the "awe" we should have or as my friend Father Stan Fortuna likes to paraphrase the Holy Father "be amazed" at both the mystery of the Eucharist and its power to transform us more perfectly into communion with Jesus.
Q: Your book includes a helpful appendix for those attending Mass but unable to receive Holy Communion. Can they, too, get more out of the Eucharist? How should Catholics with family or friends in this situation minister to their loved ones?
A: I believe that the Eucharist is Jesus and that when we are at Mass we encounter Jesus, so even those who cannot receive Him in Holy Communion can still encounter him if they open themselves up to His grace. Helping our family or friends in those situations to see this (and of course our young children who can't receive yet) opens the door to them getting more out of the Eucharist.
God placed several people in my life while I was writing the book that called my attention to the fact that there are those who attend Mass frequently but can't receive or think they can't (and I address this latter group by telling them to seek out a priest and make sure that it is the case rather than relying on the advice of some well meaning Catholic relative who might not know but might think that they do). I have known people who have attended Mass with a Catholic spouse for their entire lives and have found ways to participate with our receiving communion—one such person recently commented to me that she had read the book and really like it, she didn't say but I'm guessing she liked that I had addressed her situation in the book.
Q: Michael Dubruiel, thank you for another wonderful resource in How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist. Are there any closing thoughts you would like to share?
A: Thank you for taking an interest in this book, I hope this book will help all of those faithful Catholics and not so faithful ones to a renewed experience of Jesus Christ at every Mass.
For more information on How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist visit http://www.catholicmom.catholiccompany.com/product_detail.cfm?ID=6348
Lisa M. Hendey is a mother of two sons, webmaster of numerous web sites, including http://www.catholicmom.com and http://www.christiancoloring.com, and an avid reader of Catholic literature. Visit her at http://www.lisahendey.com for more information.