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How Not to Say Mass: A Guidebook on Liturgical Principles and the Roman Missal (Revised Edition) Paperback – November 3, 2003

4.0 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

It is a fine compendium of dos and don'ts, offered in a firm style, enlightening for clergy and lay alike. -- James Martin, S.J., Editorial Essay, America, Feb. 2, 2004

About the Author

Dennis C. Smolarski, S.J., who holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is associate professor in the department of mathematics and computer science at Santa Clara University.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Paulist Press; Revised edition (November 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809141647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809141647
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #542,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The author does and excellent job in an interesting manner on "how not to say Mass". It give the bad practices that are so often seen in parish liturgies. He gives a no nonsense approach to the liturgy and gives the reasons from Rubrics and the instructions of the Sacramentary on why things are done. He is not a liturgist by training but has done more than most liturgists in explaing the ritual(s) and making them more meaningful
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This a very short book, and a quick read. If you are in formation to the priesthood, this has a lot of thoughtful principles. It is not the most thorough, and at points it does seem more like a rant, but you will get a lot out of it.
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Fascinating little book. It will certainly give you pause about many things. Although you should be careful because you might agree with the author and find yourself irked when you now notice the myriad of things that are done wrong or poorly at Mass.
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I disagree with the previous reviewers.

Smolarksi's attitude about the Catholic liturgy is characterized by self contradiction and what seems to be a downright phobia for the pre-Vatican II liturgy. In fact, this phobia seems to drive Smolarski to the point of self contradiction.

On the one hand, he admonshes the reader not to make "too much or too little" of the Mass. Yet, he also admonshes those who "can't sing, don't." If a priest does not sing; the Gloria for example, sung by the angels at the birth of Jesus, or the Sanctus, sung by the angels in heaven, isn't this making too little of the Mass?
Then he contradicts himself by stating that the Alleluia before the Gospel must be sung. Must be sung or must be sung by only those who sing well?

Also, in an attack on pre-Vatican II practices, he exhorts the priest to wash the whole hands, not just the fingers. This seems reasonable, and if he wants to encourage priests to attend more to this detail, fine. However, he goes on to back up this exhortation by advising the reader that the Jews and the Shintos include washing of the hands in their rituals. But, while emulating other religions seems to be commendable, "CAUTION SHOULD BE USED (emphasis mine) not to reintroduce pre-Vatican II practices into the post Vatican II liturgy." So by all means, taking your liturgical lead from the Shintos is great, but for GOD'S SAKE don't do anything that Catholics did for over 800 years, that would be awful!

Smolarski obsesses over the Altar, and not in a good way. He says that one should not show excessive reverence to the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle during Mass,or to the crucifix, that such reverence is misplaced from the altar, which is the true focus during Mass.
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The author entitled his book "How not to say Mass"; I agree with the title, but not in the way the author probably meant. I suggest that a good general principle for Catholic liturgy would be to take whatever the author advocates, and do the opposite.

In brief, two facts are evident: the author's poor understanding of traditional Catholic beliefs, and the heterodoxy of what he proposes as replacement.

The introduction provides a good example. Fr Smolarski writes: "In the "good old days" (although many would debate how good they actually were), we (thought we) knew what the Mass was about--it was the mystery of transubstantiation--it was the sacrament of Communion."

First, please learn how to use dashes correctly. Second, the author certainly doesn't hide his dim view of the first 1,965 years of Catholicism. I guess somehow the Church bumbled through those two millennia without really having much idea what the Mass--the center of its existence--was. Thank goodness folks like Fr Smolarski came around to finally correct the Church's ignorance. Third, the Mass is obviously not the same thing as Communion. Mass can exist without Holy Communion for anyone except the priest; Holy Communion can happen separately from the Mass. The Mass is the sacrifice (thought I fear Fr Smolarski would not like that description), Holy Communion is what unites us to that sacrifice.

Instead of this traditional definition, Fr Smolarski offers the following (quoting fellow Jesuit, Fr Tad Guzie) as a better understanding for our new, enlightened times:

"A sacrament is a festive action in which Christians assemble to celebrate their lived experience and to call to heart their common story."

Please pass the emesis basin.
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At the time this book was first published in 1986, Jesuit Dennis Smolarski was on the mathematics faculty at the University of Santa Clara in California. He has also written The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 1969-2002: A Commentary, Sacred Mysteries: Sacramental Principles and Liturgical Practice, Eucharist and American Culture: Liturgy, Unity, and Individualism, Pre-Calculus Problem Solver, etc.

He explained in the introductory "Prenotes" section, "This book is NOT exclusively geared for priests. It is directed to ALL who have an active role in the liturgy of the Church, i.e., bishops, priests, deacons, readers, acolytes, musicians, liturgy committee members, active Christians. However... I decided to address my remarks primarily toward the presiders of the eucharist. Nevertheless, these remarks, in many cases, can also be taken to heart by many others... My major concern is to awaken people... to the authentic celebration of the renewed eucharist in the Roman Rite... Re-writing prayers, re-arranging sections of the liturgy, re-assigning liturgical roles will not, of themselves, lead to a 'better' liturgy, if the ... leaders of the liturgy ignore the basic symbols and fundamental gestures involved in the 2000 year old tradition of Christian worship." (Pg.
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