Many times on WDTPRS people have recounted their first experiences of attending a TLM, either first ever or first in a long time. Very often they relate how hard it was for them to follow what was going on. They were disoriented by the differences. They felt self-conscious because they didn’t know what to do, and it was obvious.
The Angelus Press, publishing arm for the SSPX, has put out a very nice, very helpful little booklet designed precisely For the Visitor at Mass.
The booklet is 40 some pages, on paper, printed in color, and very economical. The colors are bright and engaging, despite the less than high quality, no doubt to keep the price very low. The Angelus Press website has packs of 25 for $75.
The text was from The Queen’s Work by Fr. Richard Ginder, in 1940, but it has been adapted. The intended reader, back in 1940, was obviously a non-Catholic, for many things of common knowledge for Catholics are explained.
There is an introductory section on what Holy Mass is and what people saw in the church. I especially enjoyed seeing explanations such as:"You may have noticed when you were coming into the church that the people, on entering, dipped their fingers into a font of water and traced the sign of the cross on themselves." Non-Catholics might be puzzled about this, but given the lousy state of catechism over the last few decades I think there may be many Catholics who neither do this nor understand what it is. Other examples: "Visible in the center of the altar is either a large veiled vessel or a curtained door…", "You wil also notice a rail which separates the sanctuary (where the altar is located) from the rest of the church)….", "Since the primary purpose of the liturgy is to give honor to God it is not necessary that the faithful understand totally the Latin…." There are other interesting examples intended for non-Catholics, but useful today for many Catholics who have never experienced what was entirely normal for so long before the reforms.
Then each section of Mass is explored and explained, with photos. The priests actions are printed in red, which is a nice tough! Easy to understand background is provided. For example, in the section for the Introit, "He goes to the right and reads the Introit, a verse from the Psalms or Old Testament, then the doxology (a shortprayer in honor of the Holy Trinity), and then the verse again. The Intriot varies with the feast of the liturgical season and is meant to exemplfy the character of the Mass for the day."
There are many photos to exemplify the actions of the Mass, taken at a church in Kansas City, MO. I hope in a new edition some of the photos might be improved. There are a few focus problems. But all in all the photos are well chosen to show what is going on at Mass.
I think a new comer to such a Holy Mass, of various ages (maybe not the very young) could use this book for the first few visits. Also, it could help an old veteran learn phrases and bits of information for their own explanations to others about the differences between the older and newer forms of Mass.
On the back of this booklet is a blank space for "contact Information, and also with the following text:
Unless the pastor indicates otherwise, this booklet is ideal as a keepsake of your assitance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is advisable that anyone consistently using this visitor’s booklet purchase a 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal.
They are talking about their own beautifully bound hand missal which I reviewed here.
I very much like that note on the back. It lets people be at ease about taking it, without feeling wrong or furtive. Also, the contact information space is helpful. The first time I ever was in a Catholic Church, not knowing who to contact to ask questions, I left my name and number with someone and, thank God, got a return call. This space and text on the back is inviting.
Never underestimate the power of an invitation.
"But Father! but Father!", a few of you are probably gasping. "Are you suggesting that this is a good book when it is published by those schismatics? I thought we couldn’t have anything to do with Lefebvrites!"
First, of all, leaving aside the term "schism", if a book is good, it’s good. This is a great little tool. There is nothing polemical in it at all. Even in the introductory section, where there might have been some shots fired there are only helpful explanations.
Second, it is certainly permissible to buy books from a non-Catholic publisher, so long as they are decent. Why shouldn’t one be able to purchase them from a publisher which is Catholic, even though the unity of the group with Rome is not perfect? Also, if it is permissible when attending a Mass of the SSPX (provided that the motives are proper – and I do not recommend Communion unless your circumstances are such that it is appropriate) to make a small contribution at offertory time, why could not one buy a book? Catholics can engaged a non-Catholic construction firm to build a church, so why can’t we purchase books from a publisher of Catholic books to build the faith, even if the publisher’s associations are not in perfect unity? Also, I cannot think of any similar book printed by any group in more perfect and manifest union with Rome. Were there something similar or better, I would have to give that greater consideration. In the meantime, this is a wonderful tool.
Third, it seems to me that the attitude of "embargo" against any Angelus Press products, simply because of the association of the SSPX, is really contrary to the spirit in which our Holy Father Pope Benedict has given us Summorum Pontificum. Someday, I hope, there will be more perfect, manifest unity. In that case, we should desire that the Angelus Press be sound and strong, for it will then be truly helpful in a much wider context. I act in that hope.
I think that parishes where the TLM is celebrated could use this useful and inviting little booklet. Perhaps pastors of parishes might contact Angelus Press to see if they can get samples. I think they will be favorably impressed.