A Remembrance of Father Thomas Dubay

Word is just getting out that Marist Father Thomas Dubay passed away over the weekend. May He Rest in Peace.

I first heard of Father Dubay shortly after my conversion to the Catholic Church. I used to attend daily Mass at St. Louis King of France in downtown St. Paul before going to work at the Science Museum of Minnesota each day. Fellow parishioners told me that Father Dubay was there, but at the time I didn’t know who he was.

My second encounter with Father Dubay was through his writing. As the leader of a weekly men’s book discussion and prayer group, we read a few of Father Dubay’s works, but none touched myself and the other men in quite the same way as his book Happy Are You Poor.

It taught many of us, for the first time, what is meant by Gospel poverty. It was, and still is, a book that continues to challenge us.

My past decade as a Catholic journalist brought me in touch with him occasionally. He was always so kind to take my calls, and when it was possible for him (because he was often traveling or doing retreats), he would take my questions and get back to me. He was an incredibly knowledgeable and loving priest.

In 2006, I interviewed him for an article on priestly celibacy. His insights were, as always, poignant and provided a succinct summary of the theological basis for priestly celibacy.

“Celibacy is imposed on no one,” he told me. “There’s a vast difference between a vocation and a career.” Father Dubay provided five theses for priestly celibacy.

“First, celibacy in Scripture is a privileged sphere of the sacred,” said Father Dubay. “They are set apart for the Lord.”

“Second, celibacy is a radical readiness in pursuit of the Kingdom. Third, celibacy is an immediate ecclesial bridal union. The priest has a marital relationship with the Church. Fourth, it’s a fulfillment vocation. A priest gives up the good for something greater. Finally, it is an excluding fullness. It orients one directly to God so that the person cannot give one’s heart to another in a marital way. It’s a psychological sundering. The virginal charism is a gift for the Church.”

Many others know Father Dubay through his other writings, his retreats, and his many series on EWTN. Father Dubay will be greatly missed. His teaching and his insights were invaluable to many, many lay Catholics over the past few decades.

The last time I spoke with him was three years ago. I interviewed him on St. Teresa of Avila. He is well known for his book on St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, Fire Within, as well as some 19 other books which he authored.

Talking about the legacy that she left the Church, Father Dubay said, “She left a large, flourishing order that still today is doing a tremendous amount of good. She also left her writings, which are extremely rich. As you can see, I’m in love with Teresa. She’s really something. She and St. John of the Cross are, in my judgment, the best we have on the whole subject of intimate union with God.”

I pray that Father Dubay is now experiencing the kind of “intimate union with God” that he so often wrote and spoke about. Father Thomas Dubay, RIP.