Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Report

As a presenter on the new missal, I have spent the past year immersed in the texts and in texts about the texts. Today I just finished yet another book about the Roman Missal, this one by a Chicago priest (and consultant for Cardinal George). Of all the titles I have read this year, this is the book I would most highly recommend, both for the more sophisticated members of the "daily Mass crowd" and for parish staff members, especially those on liturgy committees.

Father Tuzik doesn't just give the background to the new translation of the Mass prayers or the lengthy process of the translation and its approval. (Hey, you've gotten a lot of that from me already!) As the subtitle says, he really offers "pastoral reflections" on the prayers themselves, highlighting texts that the earlier translation had not really delivered (with a kind of "before" and "after" treatment in columns, so you can see the precise word changes and appreciate the difference). He also (and this is where the book is truly unique and useful) goes into the less-frequented parts of the Roman Missal: not just the various votive Masses, but the abundant ritual masses (Baptism, Confirmation, etc.) which are now included in the altar book, and the other optional masses--and they are many! (Each category has its own chapter.) Within the treatment, he will give a few examples of specific prayers, and then offer suggestions about when that particular set of mass prayers would be best used in a parish setting. As Tuzik observed, most of the time priests use the Sunday prayer texts, when there are so many optional prayers that match the readings for the day and put into relief a dimension of faith that deserves a bit more attention.
Among the Masses for various needs and occasions, there is the Mass "for the Progress of Peoples"; one "for Refugees and Exiles"; "In thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life." There is one Mass of thanksgiving whose prayers are suitable when people have been rescued from peril, and another Mass of thanksgiving where the prayers reflect more a sense of gratitude for successful endeavors. There are Masses for seedtime and Masses for harvest; Mass prayers for public officials (prayer may not be the most spontaneous thing that would occur to people when thinking of elected leaders!). There are Masses for the sick, and a Mass "for the Grace of a Happy Death" (which, Tuzik points out in that ever-present pastoral spirit, can be really suitable in the case of the terminally ill, acknowledging that they may even be longing for the Lord to come for them soon.) There's even a (how appropriate to our times!) Mass "for Chastity" whose prayers remind me of Ronald Knox's observation that virginity is not something slight and fragile, but something bold and grand, like a parade coming down the street: "Through the Sacraments we have received, O Lord, may our heart and our body flourish anew..."

His style is consistently pastoral and personal: refreshing in the field of liturgy! So, if you enjoy hearty reading of a theological bent, and haven't heard enough yet about the Roman Missal, or (above all) if you serve on your parish staff and assist the priests with liturgy planning, this is a book for you!

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