“A Biblical Walk Through the Mass: Understanding What We Say and Do in the Liturgy” by Edward Sri. Ascension Press (West Chester, Pa., 2011). 157 pp., $12.99.
“The Mass in Scripture” by Stephen J. Binz. Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, Ind., 2011). 191 pp., $9.95.
“The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass” by Mary DeTurris Poust. Alpha Books (New York, 2011). 314 pp., $16.95.
The arrival of the new English translation of the new Roman Missal on altars this coming Advent provides the church with an opportunity to teach and learn about the Mass – so that Catholics can understand, or better understand, what they do Sunday after Sunday, and why they do it. If there is an awakening that takes place in such teaching/learning, it will require Catholics to familiarize themselves with Scripture and to strengthen a prayer life of which the Mass is at the center.
It is fitting that Edward Sri describes “A Biblical Walk Through The Mass” as a “biblical tour,” but the “tourists” should not expect a passive experience. Rather, they will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in learning the scriptural connection to each part of the Mass. He proves to be a good tour guide, patiently explaining why specific words are prayed and actions performed.
For some, it might be too detailed, but for those who are unhurried and who wish to know the particulars of the worship that is at the core of their profession of faith, the investment of time in the tour is a worthwhile one.
Stephen Binz’s work, “The Mass in Scripture,” is another in the Lectio Divina Bible Study series. Those familiar with “lectio divina” know the process of listening, understanding, reflecting, praying and acting. They also know that time is not a factor, that it might take hours, days, even weeks to move from one part of the process to the next. The word “study” should be taken seriously as this is no quick read.
For some, this might be a course in Scripture and liturgy if they are willing to embrace each step of the process faithfully. For others, this could be a retreat in a paperback. The text lends itself to both – the group wanting the course and the individual wanting the nourishment of a retreat.
The detail and scholarship that Binz includes in each chapter provide the tools with which readers can deepen their understanding of the Mass and act upon that understanding. Expect to bend pages, mark them and return to them.
Those who find comfort in the traditional will appreciate “The Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass,” Mary DeTurris Poust’s compilation, examination and explanation of Catholic devotions and prayers, including the Mass. Her premise is a simple one: Prayer is a “critical activity” for one to grow closer to God. Don’t take this as the start of a finger-pointing sermon on prayer. Rather, in a tone and style that are encouraging and supportive for those who struggle with the question, “How do I pray?” Poust provides options.
It isn’t until chapter 13 that she writes about the English translation of the new Roman Missal. More conversational than lecture, she shows what will change and explains why. The text is aided by highlights – definitions, prayer practices, quotes from saints and other holy people, and miscellaneous information – that are interspersed throughout the copy.
Poust includes traditional Catholic prayers and a glossary of Catholic terms – her final what and why of a handbook that Catholic families seeking to create a prayerful environment in their homes will find useful.
Olszewski is general manager of the Catholic Herald, the publication serving the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.