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April 2011

Vol. XVII, No. 2

A "Catechetical Moment": New Book Gives a Fresh Look at the Mass

Reviewed by Helen Hull Hitchcock

The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition
by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina. New York: Random House-Doubleday, 2011. (224 pages; $21.98)

A very timely new book, co-authored by Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Catholic writer Mike Aquilina, is a step-by-step guide through the Mass written expressly in anticipation of the new translation of the Missal.

The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition was released February 1, with a book-signing held on the same day at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

“We begin the book by saying the Mass is ‘what Catholics do’”, Cardinal Wuerl said in an interview. “The most clearly identifiable action of the Catholic Church is the Mass.... It is the identifying quality of our Catholic life”, he said. “The Mass is how the salvific redemption of the Cross reaches Christians today, nearly 2,000 years since the death of Christ”, he stressed. “And that’s why there is nothing the Church does that is more important, more significant, more grace-laden, than the Mass”.

Cardinal Wuerl pointed out that the new Missal translation expresses more fully the “richness” of the Church’s language, and this will make the proclamation of the faith more full and complete. In the present translation some words and phrases were not translated. One example is the Gloria: the new translation restores the missing phrase. We will soon pray, “We praise you, we bless you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory”.

“The changes are not substantive, but the Mass is going to sound a little different”, Cardinal Wuerl commented. “I think we simply need to be helping all of our faithful people to get used to and prepare for some of those new sounds”.

Cardinal Wuerl said that he has asked priests to begin explaining the forthcoming changes to the people in the archdiocese. “In a very short period of time, we’ll become accustomed to them [the changes] and we’ll simply take it as the normal way in which we celebrate Mass”, he said. “I encourage every one of our Catholic faithful to use this as a moment now to reflect on what is happening at Mass, what these words signify, what they communicate, and what mystery is being re-presented on the altar.”

The authors say they wrote the book because while the Mass “is ever ancient and ever new ... it’s time for us to take a fresh look, from where we sit now — and from where we stand and kneel.”

The Mass: The Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition provides this “fresh look”. The book’s very clear and accessible explanations of every facet of the liturgy — from the preparation, vestments and altar appointments to the detailed explanation of each section of the liturgy itself — make it an invaluable teaching (and learning) resource for all Catholics.

***

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