The full title of this amazing app is The Mass Explained Volume 1: The Introductory Rites & The Liturgy of the Word (iPad: $25), and its title page lays out its goals: “Fostering a deeper understanding of and appreciation for thee Ordinary Form of the Roman Catholic Mass.”
And boy does it do that: in spades.
I’ve had The Mass Explained for a couple weeks, but I wanted to make sure my initial gee whiz impression of the technical aspects wasn’t influencing my appreciation of the content. This is, really, a book, but it’s a book for the digital age. It does things you wish some books could do, and it does them extremely well.
The author, Dan Gonzalez, merges solid research with a strong catechetical style and a superb sense of design to create something new in Catholic circles: a high-end multimedia learning experience that fulfills the promise of new media in the new evangelization.
The book itself begins with an introduction by Mike Aquilina, and then walks through–step by step–the origin, meaning, development, and practice of the mass from every angle. We begin with a look at the passover seder, then take guided tour through the practice and meaning of the Liturgy of the Word all the way to the Prayer of the Faithful in the course of about 330 pages.
A quick guided tour of Chapter 12: The Gloria should give you a clue of what’s inside:
The main part of the screen is book text, which explores in some depth the meaning of the Gloria. Footnotes are on the left, and flesh out certain elements of the main text (in this case, the sacred music of Vivaldi). At the bottom of the first page, you’ll notice a sound icon. This brings up examples of the Gloria from Palestrina, Vivaldi, Mozart, Schubert, and Puccini.
Page two continues the lesson by adding more audio file as well as an embedded video of a priest reciting the Eucharistic Doxology:
Page three of this chapter shows an example of the art elements, which can be zoomed and scrolled to examine the details:
The chapter (which is about 13 pages long) ends with a summary of its content:
Some sections also include fully panoramic views of locations such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher…:
…as well as 360 degree views of certain objects:
The book is undeniably impressive in both content and execution. It’s a catechist’s dream, at least if the catechist is teaching a room full of people with iPads.
Here’s where we come to my one reservation: at $25, it’s expensive for an app and even expensive for an App Store book. As they say of big budget movies: it’s all up there on the screen. The production values are top notch and the writer has done a great deal of work producing the text and adding multimedia content. There’s no denying it’s a slick piece of work. I don’t begrudge the creators their price point, but it does limit the audience.
The good news is that, purchased in volume (20 or more copies), it qualifies for Apple’s Volume Purchase Program, which offers a 50% discount.
Honestly, though, the price is my only reservation. This is an excellent app that explains the richness of the mass in the format and depth it deserves. It’s one of the best Catholic apps I’ve ever used.
And for those concerned with fidelity, don’t be. It’s a faithful catholic work with a Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur:
The app has received two declarations from the Church assuring that it is free of doctrinal or moral error. The Nihil Obstat was granted by Monsignor Terence E. Hogan, SLD, Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry at St. Thomas University. The Imprimatur was granted by The Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski, Archbishop of Miami, FL on October 14, 2013. The app was also reviewed by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Approval from the USCCB was granted on December 20, 2013 by Monsignor Rick Hilgartner, Executive Director, Secretariat of Divine Worship.