Book Review: Living the Mass by Fr. Dominic Grassi and Joe Paprocki

Loyola Press had a promotion where people participating in a parish RCIA program either as candidates for full communion with the Catholic Church or as team members could receive a free book from their catalog. I looked at the books they were making available through the program and selected Living the Mass: How one hour a week can change your life by Father Dominic Grassi and Joe Paprocki. I didn’t really have high expectations for the book, as I had a hunch based on past experience with Loyola Press that the book would be somewhat fluffy and lightweight. Plus, you get you what you pay for, right?

Well, I wasn’t wrong… The book was kind of light and fluffy and I didn’t find much new in the way of insight. And the authors got some stuff wrong: they belittled the “old” Mass for giving people the supposedly mistaken notion that the priest alone, without participation from the laity present, performs the consecration, changing the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Of course, this is exactly what happens, as the priest-author should know, especially since he relates that he often celebrates the Mass alone, as priests are encouraged to do on days when they are not publicly celebrating the Mass. If the laity’s attendance were essential to the consecration, then he couldn’t perform the consecration alone. (I don’t think I misinterpreted what they were writing; I read the paragraph a number of times.)

In addition, they seem to develop a false dichotomy between the body and the blood of Christ saying that receiving under the appearance of bread expresses our unity with all of Christ’s baptized people, since “through baptism, we become members of his mystical body”, while receiving from the cup expresses our “commitment to the mission of the church.” There are a number of problems with this section. First, there is no separation between the body and the blood under the two different species. Receiving either under the appearance of bread or under the appearance of wine gives us the fullness of Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity. Receiving under both species is not necessary. While describing that way might be helpful and make it more meaningful, implying that both are necessary is incorrect and against the long-held teaching of the Church. Additionally, if receiving under the form of bread expresses our unity with all the baptized, why has the Catholic Church always restricted reception to those in full communion and good standing with the Catholic Church, excluding those Catholics not yet admitted to Communion, those not in a state of grace, and non-Catholic Christians?

I can’t really recommend this book. The theology is shaky and I think it really fails in its main mission of inspiring us to live the Mass during the week.