QUAERITUR: Resources for explain Mass and things to children

I think you readers can help with this one.


Dear Father Zuhlsdorf,

I am a cradle Catholic with three children, we have a family rule that on the way home from Mass the children can ask me questions about the mass itself, the readings, homily etc rather than asking during the mass when we should be paying attention and worshipping.  However as they get older the questions they ask me are more involved and regard the symbolism used and other more theological questions. Some of these I can answer easily, and others stump me. This makes me want to learn more both for myself and for them. I strongly believe my vocation as their mother is to teach them in their faith.

I went to my local Catholic book store but they did not have the type of book I was looking for so I am wondering if you can recommend to me a good book that teaches about the Mass and why we use the symbols and so on that we do. Our Parish Priest and Deacon are very happy to answer questions, but I would like to be able to learn more about this and answer my children’s questions when they arise on the way home from Mass rather than making them wait to as Father the next week.

That’s a nice practice, getting the kids to ask about Mass and the preaching.  That would help them pay attention.  Well done!

And now you are up against a wall.

I think there could be different sets of reading material divided in a couple ways.

First, things for you or for your children… we don’t know their ages.

Second, things about the older form of Mass or about the Novus Ordo… we don’t know which you attend.

So, folks, how about chiming in with suggestions for these possible permutations!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Anne Scanlon says:

    Personally I found The Incredible Catolic Mass to give the most extensive and beautiful explanations on all aspects ….including vestments and vessels. It is older therefore based on the Tridentine Mass….but works just fine for both forms. It is available from Tan

  2. Anne Scanlon says:

    p.s. this would be for Mom to read

  3. Chris says:

    A great book — it’s actually in the form of a comic book — is mass produced by the SSPX and other traditional publishers and is called “Know Your Mass.”

    It answers probably every question your children could come up with and all about the Traditional Latin Mass and Faith.

    Everything from what happened to Christ that we pray the Mass to the vestments and what the colors mean, to everything on the altar and their purpose, to every aspect of the mass (what the prayers at the foot of the altar mean, what the Mass of the catechumens is, the Mass of the Faithful, the Last Gospel, etc.)

    All of our traditional friends have this as well.

    You can buy it here for $15:


  4. Alan says:

    The How-To Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You

    I would also have to recommend a website that helped me with a lot of questions about my Catholic faith, and not just the Mass.

    Good Luck!

  5. Houghton G. says:

    If the children are getting “older,” the “Know Your Mass” cartoon book, which is written for elementary school children may be too simple (and users need to realize that the allegorical interpretation of each and every tiny segment is pious devotion, not dogma). For junior high and up, Ronald Knox wrote _The Mass in Slow Motion_. It’s probably out of print but might be available in libraries (it’s short). For Mom herself, as reference sources, there’s, of course, Adrian Fortescue’s Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, revised by J. B. O’Connell is due out in a new revision by Alcuin Reid this December. I suppose it doesn’t deal so much with “symbolism” but it’s certainly a fundamental reference source that Mom might find useful.

    For theology (she mentioned some of the questions are theological), where to start? Joseph Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy, . . . . — the readers of this blog will have a hundred favorites.

  6. Westsider says:

    We find that the Gospel Weeklies by Pflaum are pretty good and we use them for Children’s Liturgy of the Word. They would not be overly helpful with the order of mass, but they are quite for the lectionary-based catechesis process.

  7. Willebrord says:

    Heh, I was just about to mention “Know Your Mass.”

    Also, The Mass Explained to Children, by Maria Montessori, is good as well.

    As for older children… I don’t know.

  8. Professor says:

    There are three things I can highly recommend as regards liturgical symbolism:

    Fr. Romano Guardini’s “Sacred Signs”, available at http://www.ewtn.com/library/LITURGY/SACRSIGN.TXT

    Fr. Damasus Winzen’s “Symbols of Christ,” used copies of which are still available

    and my favorite, because it’s short, sweet, and to the point:

    Fr. Cassian Folsom’s “Sacred Signs and Active Participation at Mass,” available at http://www.adoremus.org/Folsom-Signs-598.html

    Fr. Cassian often summarizes Guardini, but the Guardini text is wonderfully rich. One could do an entire catechesis from Guardini’s book.

  9. Ray Marshall says:

    Scott Hahn’s book, “The Lamb’s Supper” is wonderful in relating the Mass and its symbolism to the Old and New Testaments (especially the Book of Revelation). It would be difficult for younger children.

  10. Royce says:

    Angelus Press has re-printed Fr. Joseph Dunney’s rather good book “The Latin Mass” which is written for middle school or high school aged children and explains all the parts of the Mass (in the extraordinary form). I would highly recommend it for older children.

  11. John Hudson says:

    If they were attending the traditional Roman rite, I would recommend Monsignor Ronald Knox’s _The Mass in slow motion_ for anyone over the age of, say, ten years. It is based on a series of talks he gave to students and a girls’ school.

  12. Geoffrey says:

    Check out “Dictionary of the Liturgy — Illustrated” by Rev. Jovian P. Lang, OFM., published by Catholic Book Publishing Co. in 1989. It is a massive book with entries for anything and everything liturgical… patens, palls, chalices, dialogue Masses, minor orders, etc.

    As this was put together in the 1980s, it refers to the now called Extraordinary Form in the past tense (perhaps it is time to update this book?). Overall I think it is a great book.

  13. Nicola C says:

    That’s my email quoted above (Father Z is really fast!)

    My kids are 8, almost 10 and 12. They are asking questions such that most of the children’s books I have seen seem to be too young for them. For example the most recent question was why does the priest add the water to the wine during the preparation of the wine, which I could answer myself (this question was from the one who’ll be 10 in a few weeks). But the days of simple questions like why does the priest wear different vestment colours sometimes, are gone

    We attend a N.O. mass, I would love to take my children to a T.L.M. mass but need to find one in our area.

    Thank you for the advice so far and that to come. I’m off now to look up these books!

  14. Ann says:

    I don’t have a book to suggest, but a suggestion based on a similar experience with my own children: at these ages the questions the kids will raise will sometimes stump anyone. Rather than risk under-estimating the questions actual depth, I’d suggest that mom start with the books for adults.

    I found THE LAMB’S SUPPER to be the very best expression about the Mass that I’d read when I was first coming into the Church and had questions. You might consider it as a read-aloud book for the whole family.

    I also spent a lot of time scouring the books written to “explain” Catholicism, even the “Dummies” books, for explanations of various things. One such general book was titled something like WHY DO CATHOLICS…? and it was useful.

  15. Matthew says:

    As someone who has come to the faith in the last year as an adult, who has been asking all those questions himself, I have found some of the booklets published by the CTS very useful, succinct guides. One other book which has been really fruitful to me is Cardinal Ratzinger’s (as was then) ‘Spirit of the Liturgy’.

  16. An excellent book for older children, and adults too, is Fr. Ronald A. Knox’s “The Mass in Slow Motion.” It is beautifully written and highly insightful. The book originated in a series of sermons that Knox gave when he was the chaplain at a girls school during WWII. It is out of print but available. It is long out of print but avialble from used booksellers.

  17. Calleva says:

    The How to Book of the Mass – Michael Dubreuil; not sure if he covers the colours of vestments etc, but this is a nice run-through of the NO Mass.

    Why Do Catholics Do That? – Kevin Orlin Johnson; I don’t have this book, but it is often recommended as sound. Not specifically about the Mass but the Faith in general.

    Don’t forget the internet – make a note of any questions that stump you and try googling. This would work for topics such as vestments and you can then print out anything that is especially helpful.

    Even with Catholic schools I think that catechesis is now mostly a do-it-yourself affair. My four children are now in their early to mid 20s and I realise I didn’t do enough myself, so I really respect and admire Nicola’s intention of explaining things after Mass.

  18. For children, I recommend St. Patrick’s Summer by Marigold Hunt. Produced by Sophia Institute Press, it’s an “adventure catechism,” a story which takes young readers (or listeners as it makes a great read aloud text) on a tour of the faith. It was written in 1950 and contains several chapters on the Mass in its “older” form. My older children, ranging in ages from 7 to 12, love it as an alternative to sometimes dry catechisms.

  19. Peter says:

    For younger children I would recommend this book: “A Child’s Missal”. Look at it at: http://www.patmos.us/P01_missal.htm

    It is for the Extraordinary Form.

    We have is for our 4 year old and it is very useful.

  20. Peter says:

    ps on “A Child’s Missal”. Some very nice pictures in this book.

    See some at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Childs-Missal-Patmos/dp/0974174815

  21. Chironomo says:

    It’s strange that in the modern Church, the title of liturgist, or Director of Liturgy, is often applied to the Director of Music. Although I have a considerable background in things liturgical, I’m not sure why these two are combined. To me, the “liturgical” preparation part of my job usually requires little more than consulting the appropriate liturgical books or documents. Is the degree just to give the appearance of credibility or something? What would this “liturgist” do? Is there really such an official title in the Catholic Church, or is it something like “Pastoral Minister”?

  22. chironomo says:

    Oops! somehow I posted this on the wrong thread… need more coffee!

  23. cordelia says:

    we attend the NO regularly (not by my choice) and i found the comic book KNOW YOUR MASS

  24. cordelia says:

    sorry bout that,
    i found KNOW YOUR MASS very informative for ME and my 11-18 y.o. crew. it’s helpful no matter which form of the mass pray.

  25. Eric says:

    As long as other people are posting links.

    This is a great resource for explaining the TLM.


    Pro Multis media also has a Rosary in Latin. It’s not the pope but it is very good.
    My children have all memorized their latin prayers in a short time.

  26. Pearl says:

    A few years ago, I ordered “Magnifikids” for my youngest daughter to help her keep focused on the Mass. It is a weekly publication that gives the Mass readings, as well as the ordinary for the N.O. And it has a lot more – each week has little bits of catechesis, sometimes a craft or puzzle for the week, and prayer suggestions. Check it out online – I think it would be great for the ages you mentioned. My 14 and 17 year old daughters still sit together in Mass and read along. I have also been helped by reviewing the CCD books as my kids have outgrown them. Sometimes there’s a helpful refresher for me in them.

  27. My Catholic Faith

    “My Catholic Faith” is prepared for those who desire to have a concise knowledge of the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. It is a complete manual of religion for the laity, useful for ready reference, for it takes up in a clear and practical manner the questions and subjects that are likely to arouse the interest of the general reader, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.

    I have this great book. I did a search and found it available online.


  28. Ohio Annie says:

    The Mass in Slow Motion is available from booksforcatholics.com

  29. Nicola C says:

    Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions. I’ll be getting some as soon as possible, and giving my hubby a wish list of others for upcoming gift opportunities.

    I have on occasion googled for answers, but having a book I can bring to Mass with me, with my missal means I can then say to the child with the question, (as I do when they have spelling questions) “Let’s look it up.” Then they can read the answer aloud and we can all learn together.

    I said in my original email that I feel my vocation as mother is to teach them their faith, but I also am coming to believe that theirs is to challenge me to learn more about my faith.

    Thank you again Father Z. and company for providing me with so many references in such a supportive way.

  30. Kimberly says:


    Here is an excellent resource for the parents of TLM Altar Servers. The Tridentine Latin Mass Study Guide by Marie Picard is a workbook format tool for teaching the server responses. Many homeschooling parents are familiar with Mrs. Picard’s penmanship series. The workbook includes: Responses, pronunciation guide, workbook pages, answer keys and response cards help increase understanding and appreciation of the TLM. Quite helpful for adults, as well…an incredible amount of information for $5.00.


  31. George Festa says:

    If they were attending the traditional Roman rite, I would recommend Monsignor Ronald Knox’s The Mass in slow motion for anyone over the age of, say, ten years. It is based on a series of talks he gave to students and a girls’ school.

    I agree with Mr. Hudson, I’ve been reading Msgr. Knox’s THE MASS IN SLOW MOTION and this book has helped me greatly for both forms of the Roman rite (My family and I attend the TLM).

  32. Baron Korf says:

    EWTN televises daily mass (OF) from the chapel a few times a day; you can use this as a teaching tool so they can ask questions as things are happening without having to worry about disrupting any services. They aren’t perfect, but they do the mass reverentially and meticulously. Also, they use a lot of Latin which would be a good way to introduce or reinforce it for them, depending of course on their familiarity.

  33. Castellanus says:

    I wrote about a book on my blog a few days ago and really recommend this book for anyone with younger children. It would work for either the New or TLM Mass as it has less to do with the rubrics then on the meaning of the Mass itself.

    There is a newly re-published book I heartily recommend, especially for those looking to educate their children about the meaning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is titled Behold the Lamb! A Book for Little Folks About the Holy Mass. It was first printed in 1912 and the introduction was written by Fr. Vincent McNabb O.P. It is a only about 100 pages but full of wisdom and information. Each chapter contains a short lesson of instruction on the subject followed by a story, usually about one of the saints, to further illustrate its meaning. I am putting it under my recommended books and if you click on the link to Amazon and purchase it, and/or anything else, the monies I receive support the works of the Order of Malta.

    Here are a few excerpts from the book.

    . . .These things you ought to do are your duties and other peoples rights. Of course you have rights, too, but I hope they will never, all your life, seem as important or as interesting to you as your duties. People who are never interested in anything but their rights are never very noble characters.

    Let us talk for a few minutes about God’s rights and our duties.

    We are obliged to go to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day if we are able, otherwise we should commit a mortal sin; but some, even amongst those who never miss, wish that they were not obliged to go. This is because they do not know enough of the wonders of Holy Mass, and so to them it seems dull ——-a commonplace thing.

    I should like to tell you enough about these wonders to make you realize that nothing in the whole world can be compared with the Holy Mass;. . . and to make you love it so much that your greatest and truest joy will be to hear it, not only when you are obliged, but as often as ever God gives you the opportunity.

  34. Maureen says:

    The Sacrifice of the Mass by M. Gavin, S.J. It’s online at archive.org and in a few other places.

  35. Joan says:

    A Catholic family I know has produced a game called “The Priest Game.” Besides helping kids learn the terms for the things used at Mass, it also includes a DVD of a priest explaining the Novus Ordo. It can be found here: http://www.catholickidsgames.com.

  36. Brian Wisconsin says:

    A great book is “Do I Have to Go?” by Matt Pinto and Chris Stefanik, who works for Archbishop Chaput, and who previously worked for then Bishop Burke. It not only shows kids, yes, you have to go to Mass, but shows them why they should *want* to go. Done in a Q&A format. Available from Ascension Press: http://ascensionpress.com/shop/Scripts/default.asp.

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