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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Catholic Update Guide to the Mass: A Book Review

by Kathleen Blease

Edited by Mary Carol Kendzia
St. Anthony Messenger Press
$5.99, 48 pgs., paperback

From the back cover:
What is the Mass?
Why do we need to go?
What do we do when we get there?
The Mass is the central mystery of our faith. Do you know what it's all about? Are you up to speed on the changes in the Roman missal? Does the Mass hold real meaning for you or has it become routine?

This is a little guide that is concise and easy to read and absorb. Read it, dog-ear it, underline it, share it, and study it during your free moments. You know, like when you are waiting at the orthodontist, waiting for soccer practice to end, waiting for Scouts to wrap up. There's lots of waiting in moms' lives. Keep it in the car with a pen and you will be good to go.

The Catholic Update Guide series takes materials from their popular Catholic Update Newsletters to educate readers about the Catholic faith—its doctrine, its expression (the Mass), the Sacraments, and its guiding influence in daily life. You can order a free copy of the newsletter by visiting There is also the Catholic Update Guide to Confession at The Catholic Company.
This particular edition explains the most important prayer on earth—from what the Mass is, to what to do when we are there, to the forthcoming and valuable changes to the Roman missal.
In its first chapter, Fr. Tom Richstatter explains how the Mass perpetuates Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. That means that the three holiest days of the year, called the Triduum, live in real time and during the Mass we witness Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection as He was two millenia ago. Fr. Richstatter explains how the Mass has remained the same in this way even though it has changed in appearance over the years. He provides a beautiful and eye-opening explanation of our sacred and unique Sunday (and/or daily) devotion.

The book's second chapter continues with Fr. Richstatter and moves on to answer a question that infects and haunts many Catholics across the globe. I often hear this question from Catholics I think of as “cultural Catholics” or “secular Catholics.” That question is: Why do we go to Mass? Many Catholics want to know, Why bother? (You might want to read “What Kind of Spouse Are You?” about why it is important that we worship.) Especially when children are preparing for their sacraments and their parishes require them to attend weekly Mass, this becomes a hot topic.

Father Richstatter clearly explains why attendance at Mass is such a critical component of our Catholic faith. Do you wonder why you must attend Mass to be considered a practicing Catholic? I think you'll find Father's answers heart-filling and beautiful.

He also addresses the very basic question: “What can this one hour do for our faith and our lives?” Father gives us five answers (emphasis added):
  1. I need others to pray well.
  2. The Mass enables me to pray with my whole body.
  3. Besides talking to God, I need God to talk to me.
  4. Being borne again once didn't quite do it.
  5. The Mass helps me find the sacred in the ordinary.
The third and final chapter answers the question, “How do we go to Mass?” This is an important chapter for all of us, but especially for those who have been away from the the Mass and are curious yet hesitant about returning home. In this chapter, Fr. Lawrence Mick explains the changes in the new Roman missal and what it means for our personal experience of the Mass. His writing is clear and comforting, helping readers to realize that there is nothing to be afraid of. It seems to me after reading this chapter that this particular change in my life will not be hard.

This chapter reminds me of a recent conversation I had with a priest. He said, “The changes are not necessary but they do deepen the meaning of the Mass and more clearly reflect the original intention of the Mass.” In other words, the Mass is a deep and beautiful expression as it is celebrated today and that the consecration, the summit of the Mass, is complete and truly valid without the changes. However, the changes in the Roman missal will help reveal to us even more so the beauty of the liturgy, and by giving us this gift of understanding it will bring us that much closer to Christ. The changes are given to us as a gift, and as always we must receive this gift with graciousness. To put it simply, give it a fair shake!

Upon our Confirmation, we are given the directive to continue our faith formation. And this Advent, the new Roman missal is coming. The changes are not difficult to learn, but we should be informed and ready!

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Catholic Update Guide to the Mass. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

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