We’ve all heard the familiar complaint: “I just don’t get anything out of Mass.” At a time when many of us are (perhaps overly) concerned with changes in our texts, Passionist Father Alan Phillip has written a brief 125-page book that responds to that objection with warmth and joy as he shares his insights on the Eucharist, the greatest of our sacraments.

The book’s title says it all: “Our Hearts at Sunday Mass: 10 Steps to a Joyful Life” (Spirit of Hope Publishing, Irvine).  Most of us bustle through the week attending to the needs of work and family and community. But on Sunday, we are called from the cares of the world, to gather with the priest who leads us in procession to worship at Mass. It is the time when we gather those cares and needs and give them to God as we raise our hearts and minds in prayer.

This book presents a practical guide to our worship at Sunday Mass. In 10 steps Father Phillip (a member of the Passionist community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center) shows us how to prepare, how to enter more fully into this Eucharistic celebration, and in doing so, how we can live a more joyful life the rest of the week. For example, in steps one and two, we prepare for Mass with a humble and a forgiving heart.

Father Phillip begins step one --- on humility --- with a quote from Kate Halverson: “If you are all wrapped up in yourself, you are overdressed.” In other words, we prepare by recognizing our dependence on God. Humility breaks open the way for our full participation at Mass. The companion to a humble heart is a forgiving heart. We cannot enter into the celebration with hearts clutching anger and resentment toward another. We prepare by praying, “I forgive you.”

The 10-step guide (with a foreword by Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala) continues with the Liturgy of the Word and a listening heart, and moves to the Eucharist with a grateful heart. By the Rite of Sending Forth, we are prepared to go back out into the world with a serving and compassionate heart. Father Phillip writes with clarity and simplicity about something he knows and loves deeply and this book will help to know and love the Mass more deeply.

---Deacon Manuel Valencia

Deacon Manuel Valencia ministers at St. Rita Church in Sierra Madre and is a member of the preaching team at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center.

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