The Eucharistic celebration is the source and summit of our faith. This fact has inspired many to put pen to paper in order to write down their thoughts, observations and reflections on the Roman Catholic Mass.
But with literally hundreds of titles available, how does one go about finding a book on the Mass the resonates with his or her spirit? That is the aim of this page.
Many of these titles were first published before the reforms of Vatican II. Those who never attended a Latin (Tridentine) Mass and read one of these books may find the contents confusing. It would refer to instances in the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy in which they have little or no reference.
Most titles available today, however, were written after Vatican II and focus on the Novus Ordo Mass (also known as The Mass of Pope Paul VI) which presently is the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. This is the Mass with which the majority of Roman Catholics around the world today are familiar.
There are many ways to categorize the books written on the Roman Catholic Mass. It may be done by content—those titles that cover the Tridentine Mass vs. those that focus on the Novus Ordo Mass. They can be divided by the author’s vocation—lay authors vs. religious ones. It may even be by length—some titles are not so much books as they are pamphlets, while others span several volumes. I prefer to categorize them by audience:
• The Pastoral Approach
• The Academic Approach
• The Centrist Approach
The Pastoral Approach
Some authors of Liturgical titles choose to take a pastoral approach and write books on the Liturgy that provoke introspection. They are written for those wanting to nurture the relationship between the Mass and their daily lives. Typically, these types of books have reflection questions at the end of each chapter in order to help the reader more easily find a connection between the Mass and their daily lives. These authors are not overly concerned with the historical development of the Catholic liturgy and rarely cite Ecumenical Councils, the Catechism or the Church Fathers. They are written with the people in the pews in mind rather than specialists in liturgy.
The Academic Approach
Others write from a more scholarly point of view. These books are written for those who have a more academic bent and are interested in the history of the liturgy. They are more concerned with how the Catholic Mass evolved over time. These types of books often have copious footnotes and citations that prove their author’s assertions. At times, these authors may quote in Greek, Latin or Hebrew and provide no English translation assuming the reader is well versed in these languages. A theology degree would be helpful in order for these works to be fully appreciated.
The Centrist Approach
Sill other authors aim to strike a balance and have some historical data without forsaking practical application.
The ultimate goal of some authors (regardless of whether they take a scholarly or more pastoral approach) is that their books be used for group instruction. They may have study questions at the end of each chapter or may even be accompanied with a separate workbook, DVD and supplemental material.
Below are some of the books I’ve read in order to create the MassExplained online book and app. These books are available from several online retailers. Most titles allow you to read a few pages online. I suggest doing so to see if it resonates with you.
Some of these titles are out-of-print and can only be found through used bookstores. For that reason, no links are provided since a link will become invalid once the book is sold.