Written, programmed and developed by Dan Gonzalez over a period of two years, the app is a thorough, in-depth and really exceptionally beautiful resource.
Some of us complain – a lot – about the relatively lame quality of Catholic resources. The aesthetics of our resources often reflect a paradoxical marriage of frameworks and design that are about half a decade behind the times along with an almost resolute refusal to dig more deeply into the profound resources our tradition has produced over two millenia. Well, here’s an opportunity to benefit from a resource that doesn’t suffer from those limitations, and that, like the Catholicism series, should be a model for anyone seeking to produce engaging and substantive catechetical and evangelical materials. Yes, I’d put it at that level.
You are going to remark on the price. Let’s get that out of the way. Spoiled by our free and .99 cent apps, we see a 24.99 pricetag and don’t even bother to look at it – we just swipe the screen and move on. Don’t. As Dan has explained, the cost of the app is related to its quality, the necessity of paying for the right to use various visual and audio resources, and the fact that it was produced by him – without institutional support. For 24.99, you are getting a book, really. An excellent reference book with a wealth of multimedia resources. (Dan has chimed in on the comments here with more details. Go here for that.)
(And there is an educational discount available.)
We have been going through it here at home – me, the 12- and the 9-year old. It’s substantive and thoroughly accessible. The boys read through it willingly, exploring the visuals (which include 360-views of various sites and objects), watching the videos, listening to the music. The app is more inclusive than most other contemporary treatments of the Mass, pulling in references to the Extraordinary Form and Eastern Catholic liturgies as well as the Latin Rite.
I think one of the things I appreciate the most about The Mass Explained is Dan’s emphasis on helping the reader see the deep roots of Catholic liturgical practice and symbolism in human experience. This is not in the sense of “other human cultures did X, and since we find X in Catholicism, that means it’s nothing unique or special,” but rather in the deeply Catholic sense of understanding how Catholicism baptizes all of human experience into Christ, into an act of praise and thanksgiving.
So, for example, this section on bowing and reverencing explores the role of this action in other cultures. What that does, among other things, is help the modern reader formed in a culture marked by a focus on informality and individual expression, understand the deep, cross-cultural roots of this type of sign. Basically, alerting us to the fact that this is not just a crazy Catholic thing that happens for no reason and that might just, in some way, act to repress one’s true feelings, but is an authentic, meaningful expression of a particular attitude that it is important – vital – to cultivate as we enter into liturgical prayer.
Love. This. App. I can see many uses for it: by individuals and families, of course, but also in schools and parishes. A parish could purchase an app for each catechist or school teacher – for people in the music ministry and other liturgical ministers. RCIA? Absolutely.
Thanks Dan Gonzalez for this incredible effort - and I’m looking forward to the next volume. (Yes this massive, intricate app only covers the first part of the Mass!)