‘The Mass Revealed’ Teaches Young People the Parts of the Mass

In a recent book, a priest from the Diocese of Rome explains every step of the Holy Sacrifice, helping young people to experience it more fully.

Two pages from ‘The Mass Revealed,’ written by Father Ricardo Reyes Castillo, translated by Paolo Strudthoff and illustrated by Eleonora Maria Calvo.
Two pages from ‘The Mass Revealed,’ written by Father Ricardo Reyes Castillo, translated by Paolo Strudthoff and illustrated by Eleonora Maria Calvo. (photo: Ricardo Reyes Castillo)

The difficult but necessary realization that Western countries have become mission lands to the full, due to the advance of de-Christianization everywhere, is beginning to make its way into the minds of Church leaders. At a time when more and more people with a Christian culture are completely ignorant of their faith, and thus unable to pass it on to new generations, many understand the need to re-catechize minds by returning to the fundamentals forgotten by the crowds, foremost among which is the Holy Mass and its meaning.

It was with this mindset, reinforced by the alarming figures on the collapse of young people’s belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, that Father Ricardo Reyes Castillo set about writing a book, small in size but opulent in the teachings it contains.

Originally from Panama, Father Reyes Castillo has been a priest in the Diocese of Rome since 2003. He has held various positions within the Vatican as a liturgical expert, and is the author of several popular books, notably about the centrality of the Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Mass Revealed, published in spring 2023, fulfills the mission of explaining the course of the Holy Mass and the deeper meaning of each of its steps, encouraging young participants to become more involved. “Why do we make the Sign of the Cross and utter the name of God at the same time? Why the Cross? What does ‘And with your spirit’ mean? What is the Gloria? What is the Collect? Why do we pray the ‘Our Father?’” These are some of the questions posed in a didactic dialogue between a child and a wise monkey, enhanced by illustrations by Sister Eleonora Maria Calvo.

It was precisely through contact with young people in greatest need of Gospel proclamation — a community of people with addiction problems, in a treatment center near Lourdes (France) — that Father Reyes developed the content of the book. “I met some truly special youngsters who deeply cried out from their hearts to find meaning to their lives,” he wrote in the introduction of the book, in which he also recounts the period of spiritual aridity and fatigue that afflicted him the year he decided to take this extended sabbatical in 2021, at the age of 45.

Over the years, he had held a number of positions of responsibility in the Vatican, and his life had boiled down to a pursuit of prestige that robbed him of the missionary zeal he had felt in his youth — a zeal that had led him to embrace the priesthood.

Far from the pomp and noise of Rome, Reyes returned to the simplicity of the land, in the heart of the French Pyrenees, to find the breath and inspiration he’d been missing, alongside young people wounded by life.

In assisting these people in their day-to-day lives, trying to give them a living witness to Christ’s love, he reclaimed for himself the pure joy of celebrating the Eucharist. 

“The Eucharist is the encounter with the Beloved, who desires to lead us to absolute fullness, to the unity of both our inner and outer self, to true freedom,” he wrote about his personal experience.

“If we are to meet Him, however, we need to lay ourselves bare. We need to go out to meet Him without our garments, stripped of all our certitudes, to allow ourselves to be held by His presence. This is like interlocking: we were created for Him, and in finding Him we find ourselves, and in finding ourselves again we see Him in a much clearer way.”

In unfolding his thoughts on the Eucharist, he also revisits a number of Catholic dogmas and concepts, explaining them with poetic clarity, whether it be sin as a “missed target,” the Virgin Mary as the ultimate model of the “free Woman” who allows the Word to become flesh and dwell in her womb, or the liturgy as a “movement” comparable to that of the cosmos, of the universe as a whole.

“The liturgy is a sinuous movement filled with ascents and descents, an outstretched wave that spirals upward to connect us to the cosmic dimension of God’s creative act,” he wrote. “The liturgy is indeed cosmic, for we make real contact with the God who turns chaos into cosmos. This is the key moment of the celebration.”

This mix of practical teachings, personal anecdotes and profound reflections on the meaning of life, death and faith in the Risen Christ makes it an excellent tool for catechesis and evangelization, to be widely distributed to today’s young people, at any stage of their faith journey.