Category Archives: Books

REFORM YOURSELF – a review by Deacon Marty McIndoe

REFORM YOURSELF! How to Pray, Find Peace, and Grow in Faith with the Saints of the Counter-Reformation: written by Shaun McAfee – review by Deacon Marty McIndoe

If the main title, REFORM YOURSELF! doesn’t catch you; take a good look at the subtitle: How to Pray, Find Peace, and Grow in Faith with the Saints of the Counter-Reformation. The subtitle is exactly what this book is all about. For me, it lived up to what it promises. I love to read and some books are really great…..this is one of them. It is easy to read, informative, interesting and causes a change to the very Spirit within us.
I have read two other books by Shaun McAfee; Filling our Fathers House (2015) and St. Robert Bellarmine (2016). I enjoyed both of those and in reading them, saw Shaun as an upcoming author. This last book proved me correct. His writing style has grown to the point that I would say that he definitely is a great author. I am anxious to see what he comes up with next.
Shaun belongs to the same “club” as Brandon Vogt, Jennifer Fulwiler, Peter Kreeft, Scott Hahn, and so many more people do that I don’t have room to mention including myself. That “club” is that we are all converts to the Catholic faith and live much of our life trying to spread the good news of new life in Jesus, especially through Catholic spirituality. It makes me proud, as a convert, to see Shaun do such a great job of this. Shaun is a lay Dominican (Order of Preachers) and this book shows that he continues the Dominican tradition of preaching and teaching.
The book is timely as we recognize the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017; it looks at the Catholic response to the Reformation by choosing ten Saints who ministered during the Catholic Counter-reformation. The importance of this book is that it not just a historical book, but rather a book where we can look at these Saints and bring about REFORM within us. The ten Saints that Shaun chose are all great examples of what we need to do to walk with Jesus and respond to His call to share the Good News. They are all powerhouses of faith. Shaun also shows their true humanity which helps us see that we too can strive to achieve what they did.
There are ten chapters, one for each Saint. The ten Saints are; Francis de Sales, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Robert Bellarmine, Aloysius Gonzaga, Pope Pius V, Philip Neri, John of the Cross, Frances de Chantal, and Charles Borromeo. In each chapter Shaun tells us about the Saint and shares some stories from their lives. He includes some of their quotes and makes suggestions on how we can be more like them. He includes a number of scripture passages to augment his suggestions. When reading many of Shaun’s suggestions I felt like I was listening to a Spiritual Director. Shaun ends each chapter with a conclusion, information for further study and a prayer to the Saint. I definitely grew spiritually through the experience of reading, and praying, this book. I believe that you will too. I highly recommend this book. It is available from its publisher, Catholic Answers (, Amazon ( and other bookstores.

On Being Bullied – by A.J. Avila (PLUS a new novel)

Not too long ago, I published a blog post about how I was spurned in church during the Sign of Peace (see and also shared on this blog).  Then I made a huge mistake. I mentioned the post on a forum.
You would not believe the negativity I got. I was told what a horrible person I am, how being spurned was my own fault, and how I should have been more sympathetic to the woman who had treated me so poorly.
Silly me. I thought it was a teachable moment. I thought I made it clear this was something I needed to work on, that since St. Paul had rejoiced in his sufferings, I should learn to do that too.
I guess I should have known better than to mention what happened since you would not believe the reactions I’ve gotten when I disclose that I used to be bullied as a kid. I’ve grouped those responses into seven categories:
1. “I Don’t Believe You”
You’re told you’re either delusional or making a mountain out of a molehill. Like Holocaust deniers, some folk find it impossible to believe others, especially children, could be so cruel. Therefore, you must be making the whole thing up, probably to gain unwarranted sympathy for yourself.
2. “You Must Have Done Something to Deserve It”
Folks who tell you this also believe others wouldn’t be so cruel—unless, of course, you’ve given them a reason. You must have been a bully first and the treatment you received was simple retaliation. When you protest that you didn’t do anything, you’re not believed.
3. “Why Can’t You Just Shrug It Off?”
People who tell you this have probably experienced some bullying themselves. I agree that most likely few kids get through childhood without such a confrontation or two happening to them. What this fails to consider is that you’re not talking about a couple of isolated incidents. You’re talking about daily bullying, and not just by other children but by those—like teachers—in authority over you. A person who tells you to just shrug it off has no idea how much shrugging this would take.
4. “Grow a Backbone!” You should have a stiff upper lip and let the insults slide off you like water off a duck. After all, sticks and stones may break your bones, but names can never harm you. What the person telling you this fails to understand is that you were only a child and that names can harm your self-image, especially if it’s chronic name-calling.
5. “You Should Have Fought Back!”
This one seems to envision two little boys slugging it out on the school playground, and the bully, once thoroughly whooped, stops antagonizing his victim. Well, golly gee willikers, why didn’t I think of that? Oh wait. I did—with disastrous results. The problem here is that you’re not bullied by just other kids but by those in authority. So if you call your bully a name, she goes whining to the teacher, and then—behold!—now you’re the bully! It doesn’t matter if you do only a tenth of what the bully did to you. In everyone’s eyes, you are automatically wrong. In fact, you’ve just demonstrated that you deserve everything you’re getting.
6. “You Were the Victim of Bullying? Oh, Goody! I’ve Been Looking for One of Those!”
Amazingly, when you mention that you were bullied as a child, adult bullies, like a shark smelling a drop of blood in the ocean, come out in droves. I’ve been told by people who don’t know me at all that I’m a terrible, horrible person who has all kinds of physical and psychological problems.
7. “It Happened to Me Too”
Every once in a while, I come across a soul I can commiserate with. Unless you’ve been a victim of this yourself, you can only imagine what it’s like. Dealing with daily badgering isn’t easy, and I entirely disagree with the extremes of either jumping off a building or shooting up a classroom. So . . . just what do you do to survive this? My own tactic was to retreat into a world of books. When my nose was in a book, I was less likely to be accosted, and each novel I read allowed me to share an adventure in another world where I wasn’t bullied. I ended up reading a book a day—and if anything good came out of this, it helped prepare me for when I myself would be the novelist creating other worlds.

A.J. Avila has a brand new novel.  Take a look below.

My third Christian novel, Amaranth, is now available in paperback.
Here’s the story:
Would you take an elixir that made you perpetually young and physically immortal?
What if the price for it was your eternal soul?
Billionaire Desmond Sceller acquires such a wonder drug. But when eighty-year-old Marie Long is rejuvenated by it against her will, she quickly discovers unending beauty and youth is not the paradise it seems. Sceller, however, intends on using the elixir to entice all mankind into submitting to his tyrannical control. When Marie and her grandson Peter unearth this evil scheme, they soon discover that only an extraordinary sacrifice on their part can free humanity from Sceller’s nefarious plan.

Click here to purchase Amaranth on Amazon
Also, right now the Kindle version is on sale for just 99¢.


BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC – How the Mass Could Save Your Life by Timothy P. O’Malley – reflections by Deacon Marty McIndoe

               You probably noticed that in the topic I called this a reflection, not a book review.  My purpose is to share with you how this book touched me.  I will leave a real book review to those more skilled in the process, like Pete Socks from Catholic Stand.  To begin with, you must know that I absolutely love the mass.  I am a daily communicant and I believe that the mass is the “source and summit” of my faith.  When I saw this book I immediately pre-ordered it.  I highly respect Timothy P. O’Malley as an author and he was writing about a topic that was dear to my heart.  I did worry about the first part of the title, BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC.   I saw it as a cute spin on “born again” but I never considered the mass boring.  The second part of the title was more to my liking, HOW THE MASS COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.  I know this statement to be true.

               From the very beginning I saw what Timothy P. O’Malley was getting at in looking at the “boredom” of the mass.  He shows how there is good boredom and bad boredom.  The good boredom is the space where you can allow God to work.  In it we can ponder on the wonders of God at work in the mass.  The bad boredom is really a time where we allow ourselves unhealthy distractions from what God is doing.  The author gives great examples of good boredom and bad boredom.  He really makes you think about how the mind and its thought processes can lift you up spiritually.  There is no doubt that the author has a great love for the mass and for liturgy in general.  I see a lot of myself in him.

               The book takes just about every part of the mass and applies personal stories, as well as scripture and quotes from theologians, Saints, Popes etc. and creates a space for your own personal reflections.  It even includes questions at the end of each chapter to help you reflect on what was just given to you.  Some of the questions even challenge you to actions that will help you in better understanding the gift of the mass and liturgy.  I cannot think of any adult or teen that wouldn’t learn and grow by reading this book.  Whether you are a seasoned Catholic, or a new Catholic, this book is for you.  I can also see that it could be used to help non-Catholics better understand the mass (and hopefully decide that they too need the mass).

               As I said earlier, I am a daily communicant who really loves the mass.  This book gave me some new insights in to the mass and liturgy, even though I have been doing this since I became Catholic in 1973.  It gave me a better appreciation for the signs used in the mass.  His discussion of how when his mind might wander and then get caught up in the smoke rising from the incense in to the light of the sun made me better appreciate the use of incense (which we really do not use enough).  I loved the author’s suggestion of how we really should enshrine THE BOOK in our homes.  For many years we always kept a large bible open in a prominent area of our living room.  Somehow we got away from this.  I now plan on starting doing this again.

               I really loved the chapter dealing with the homily.  As a person who often does both weekday and Sunday homilies, I was moved by what Dr. O’Malley said.  He recalled how one day he took his toddler to the back of the Church because the toddler was fussy.  He admitted that he himself was fussy because the homily was not on target and was too long.  He recalled that the homily was not on target because it did not connect to the Gospel.  It was filled with too many personal stories.  Now, I have no problem with some personal stories, but I realize that everything that I say during a homily must connect to God’s word.  I recalled what was said to me by the Bishop who was ordaining me.   He handed me a book of the Gospels and said, “Believe what you read, Teach what you believe, and Practice what you teach”.  I actually keep a small plaque on my desk saying this so that I always remember what being a deacon is all about.  We too often hear that the Catholic Church suffers from poor homilies.  Actually, I have been lucky that the bishops and priests and deacons that I have been exposed to usually give great homilies.  This book inspired me to be better in my preaching.  It also reinforced my love of liturgy and the mass.  I know that I could tell you more, but I really believe that the best thing that I can tell you is to go out and get the book and read it.  Actually, don’t just read it, ponder it.  God is so good.  Thank you Dr. Timothy P. O’Malley for this gem.


From now through December 30, my good friend, author A.J. Avila, is giving away her novel Nearer the Dawn.  It  is absolutely free on Amazon Kindle.  Don’t miss out on this chance to read a Catholic novel for free.
If you got a Kindle for Christmas or know someone who did, here’s a chance to put a book on it free. For ages thirteen and up.
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Time for Some Catholic Fiction: Author A.J. Avila interviews Author Amy M. Bennett


Many of us study great theology and spirituality books, but sometimes you just need to take a break and read some good fiction.   How about Catholic fiction?  My good friend, author A.J. Avila interviewed author Amy M. Bennett.   Check out this interview.

I managed to score an interview with Catholic author Amy M. Bennett, who specializes in mystery novels. In a day and age where our media is often full of profanity, sex, and condemnation of the Catholic Church, Ms. Bennett’s books are a refreshing ray of sunshine.

What are your books about?

I write what are known as “cozy mysteries”–mystery novels set in familiar, home-style settings, like small towns. Because I’ve always been a fan of mysteries, I chose to write mysteries (yes, murder mysteries) set in a small, New Mexico town where most of the characters have lived all their lives and have a strong Catholic culture. Any resemblance to my own life is strictly coincidental!

Where do you get the ideas for your books? 

I joke that, working in retail, it’s easy to find villains and victims for murder stories, but the truth is that I’m a shameless eavesdropper (thanks to the advent of cell phones, no conversation is private anymore… remember that the next time you’re carrying on a “private” conversation in a public place!) and I pick up ideas from news stories. Radio news gives great teasers–”A long-buried secret surfaces just before the mayoral election.” “Feuding families come together for a child’s last wish.” I don’t even want to hear what the real story is… I’m busy coming up with my own!

What inspired you to write your first book?  
I have always enjoyed creative writing (yeah, I was THAT kid in your English class!) since I was old enough to write complete sentences. I would read a lot and read at a level far above my age and grade. I was reading Agatha Christie mysteries in sixth grade and coming up with my own characters and storylines. I didn’t really start writing a novel until I was in my twenties, married, with a baby. I started reading Writer’s Digest and The Writer magazines and wrote a couple of novels which I squirreled away from anyone’s eyes. Only my husband read them—I doubt that even the editors and agents I submitted them to ever really read them before sending me a form rejection letter. When I heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2008, which is a nation-wide writing challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, I decided to take the challenge. In 2009, I got down about 30,000 words of what would become “End of the Road”, my first mystery novel. I broke my own rule about not letting anyone see my unfinished work. Both my husband and his sister read it and said, “You have to finish this.” I have to give them the credit for launching my series!

How do you incorporate your Catholic faith into your writing?

It’s about the same as I incorporate my work habits, eating habits, and the like. It’s a part of me, so it’s a part of my characters. I don’t write novels that try to teach or preach; I just write about every day people who happen to be Catholic and live the Faith. They go to Mass, they pray, they attend the parish fiesta, they try to avoid sin and the near occasion of. One of my main characters, Sheriff Rick Sutton, is divorced and, while he is very much in love with another main character, Corrie Black, he knows (and so does she) that a relationship is out of the question. It makes the “love triangle” so much more realistic.

How did you come up with the main characters for your series?

I got tired of certain stock characters I kept finding in so many other books. I got tired of emotional issues being resolved in graphic detail with “no-strings” sex. I got tired of characters who were not like anyone I knew or could relate to. I wanted strong, but sensitive and vulnerable characters who had real reasons for their actions. I wanted to write characters that I would want for friends. I think I succeeded!

Do your characters seem to “take over” when you write?

Oh, all the time! Except Rick. If you look in the dictionary under “taciturn”, his picture would be there! I write my story from Corrie’s point of view and also from J.D. Wilder’s point of view (since Rick refuses to let me in on his thoughts) and several times, they have strayed from the “script”, so to speak, and come up with situations and plot twists that evolved naturally from their characters. I like to give them free rein as much as possible, even if it means having to do a lot of heavy editing later on!

If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? Why would you choose that person?

I think many women would expect me to say Rick or J.D.–and why not?–but I would love to spend time with Corrie, who is the type of best friend anyone would like to have. But I also have a special place in my heart for RaeLynn, Corrie’s friend whose life has been anything but easy, who is timid and shy, but has a fierce desire to better herself and rise above her situation. She would be my hero.

Which of your books is your favorite? Why?

I can say my son is my favorite child because he’s the only one I have, but my books? Each one is so different from the others and I’d like to think that each one is a step in my writing journey. But if I had to pick one, I think my favorite would be “No Lifeguard on Duty”, the second book in the series. I think it’s where I got comfortable with my characters, knew them well enough to really invest a lot of feeling and emotion with them. The subsequent books open up a lot of information about them, but “No Lifeguard” is the book where my characters went from being acquaintances to being friends.

Amy M. Bennett is the author of the award-winning Black Horse Campground mystery series, published by Oak Tree Press. She works full time as a cake decorator at Walmart in Alamogordo, New Mexico and part time as a “vino slinger” for Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso, New Mexico. She lives in Bent, New Mexico with her husband and son. The fifth book in the series is currently awaiting publication while she works on her sixth book.

Links to purchase books online:

Oak Tree Press:

Barnes and Noble:



A Lesson at the Library by A.J. Avila


One of the more exciting things about having children is introducing them to the wonders of the world. Watching them make discoveries for the very first time often shows us what we’ve lost growing up.

For example, I wanted some more reading material, so my husband and I stopped by our local public library with our firstborn, who was all of two years old. Sure that watching Mommy browse the shelves in the adult section was far too tedious for a toddler, I suggested my husband take our daughter into the children’s room. Our library boasts three large aquariums there, vibrant with colorful tropical fish. Certainly she would find that more entertaining.

I figured I had hit it on the nose when about fifteen minutes later, she came back into the main section of the library, bobbing with excitement. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” she squealed, grabbing my hand. “Come see!”

Her tiny hand cradled in mine, I allowed her to usher me into the children’s room, but to my surprise, she dragged me past the fish tanks and to the shelves of Easy Readers. “Look!” she cried, pointing. “They have books here!”

Books? At the library? Who would have thought?

Smiling at her enthusiasm, I suggested we examine them. What a wonderful idea! As we pulled title after title off the shelf, I sat back on my heels, enjoying her delight at opening them and exploring the wonders inside.

Then I came up with an even better idea. “Let’s take some of these home with us!”

Immediately her grin transformed into horror. Definitely not the reaction I was expecting. Puzzled, I racked my brain for the reason. Slowly it dawned on me that she thought taking the books would be stealing. Even worse, she thought her own mother would be complicit in such a terrible crime.

I explained that we wouldn’t be keeping the books. We would take them for a while, then bring them back.

That, apparently, was even worse somehow. Her lower lip trembled, and I could see she was on the verge of tears.

My pleas that this is what a public library is all about fell on deaf ears. I even offered to ask the librarians at the desk if it was okay to borrow some of the books.

“No, Mommy,” she choked. “Don’t!”

Well, I certainly didn’t want her very first trip to a library to be such a negative experience. “Okay,” I said softly. “Let’s put the books back.”

Only doing that placated her suffering.

In Romans 2:15 St. Paul declares that the law is written on our hearts. Apparently, it’s written so well even a two-year-old can see it.

Yet . . . how many of us are so horrified at sin as my toddler was that day? Do we become so inured to evil, so callous, that we don’t see the heinousness of it as we once did? It’s there every day, in our newspapers and on our television screens, yet don’t we just go on sipping our coffee as if nothing has happened?

Maybe Jesus hit it on the nose more than we realize when He told us we need to be born again and become like little children.

Maybe one of the reasons is so we can recapture seeing the world, and the evil in it, the way we once did.


Find A.J. Avila at Reflections on My Catholic Journey –

A.J. Avila lives in San Bernardino with her husband. She is the author of three Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Nearer the Dawn, and Amaranth, which are available on Amazon Kindle with all net profits going to charity. (You can learn a bit about those by reading the synopses on Amazon.)

Write the Holy Mass on the Tablet of Your Heart by Kevin Vost

My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments…
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Prov 3:1 & 3

A thing is said metaphorically to be written in the mind of anyone when it is firmly held in memory.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica

I’d like to start with words of thanks and congratulations to Deacon Marty McIndoe on the launch of his new website! What worthier goal for a site could there be than “to help Catholics grow in holiness and in their relationship to Jesus and His Church”? I also found it most fortuitous (well, providential, to be precise) that the grand opening of Deacon Marty’s site is almost to the day the release of my latest book that shares the same goal through that most intimate relationship Jesus provides us through the gift of His very self in the Eucharist at Holy Mass. As an ordained deacon, Marty has been graced with the capacity to participate in Mass assisting the priest and glorifying God in a very special way. Of course, each and every one of us in the laity as well is called to fully participate in Mass in our own role – in heart, mind, body, and soul!
Here, in this little article, I’ll provide a few excerpts from Memorize the Mass! How to Know and Love the Mass as if Your Life Depended On It (En Route Books and Media, 2016) tailored specifically to you, Deacon Marty’s readers, and I’ll begin by telling you how that book began.
When One’s Life Depends on the Mass

As in all other times of crisis, we relied on our religious backgrounds to give us strength and to help us accept the sacrifice of our monastic existence. I went through the Mass each day in English and Latin, took spiritual communion, and meditated deeply.
Admiral Jeremiah Denton

In early 2015 I was working on a book about the Stoic philosophers. While examining their ongoing modern-day influence, I told the story of James Stockdale, a U.S. Navy fighter pilot who was shot from the skies over North Vietnam on September 9, 1965, and would remain a prisoner of the North Vietnamese Communist army for more than seven years. He attributed his success in holding up mentally to repeated bouts of torture and isolation and in giving solace to his fellow American POWs to his previous immersion in the ancient Stoic wisdom of the philosopher Epictetus. Epictetus taught that to maintain emotional tranquility, grow in virtue, and conform our will to God’s, it is essential to distinguish between what we can and cannot control. Sometimes what we can control is little beyond our own mental judgments, attitudes, and moral purpose. We must focus our efforts on those things we can control and endure with dignity events that are not up to us. Stockdale strove to control his own moral purpose and state of mind, since so little else was left up to him. He survived the ordeal and later became an admiral and the vice presidential running mate with Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential elections.
In the midst of writing that book, I received an email from Major Valpiani, a U.S. Air Force officer and experimental test pilot. He had read one of my books on the memory techniques of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, and he asked me if I could give him suggestions on how to memorize the parts of the Mass. You see, he had found through the Internet that I’d written an article called “Memorize the Mass!” on a now defunct Catholic social media site, and he wondered if I could share it with him. I remembered the article but found that my Word program didn’t!
I was unable to track down the article for him, but I told him that I remembered the basics and could share those with him. What intrigued me about his email, however, was the story behind his question.
Major Valpiani had heard a recording of a talk from a man who had mentally repeated the Mass every day to preserve his sanity and sanctity during nearly eight years of confinement, also as a POW in North Vietnam, like Stockdale. That man, Jeremiah Denton, had been Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron Seventy-Five aboard the USS Independence and was shot down on July 18, 1965, two months before James Stockdale. His ordeal as a POW lasted nearly eight years. He, like Stockdale, later became an admiral, and then he became a U.S. senator from Alabama. I responded to the major that I had not heard of Admiral Denton but had, coincidentally, just written about Admiral Stockdale. In his response he told me that in fact the two were friends! That was news to me. Stockdale had not mentioned Denton in the books I’d read. Admiral Denton’s story was clearly one that I had to investigate.
Sure enough, in his book Hell is in Session, Denton described how he and Stockdale cooperated in keeping the American POWs alive and in preserving their dignity. He described as well, in the quotation that started this preface, that throughout those years, many of which included solitary confinement and a variety of ongoing tortures, he did indeed go through the Mass each day in his head, both in English and in Latin!
Well, not long after this interchange, a Maryknoll missionary priest came to my parish and told the story of Bishop James Walsh, who was imprisoned in Communist China for nearly twelve years (1958-1970). Though he could not actually celebrate the Mass, the Mass and the Rosary gave him strength throughout his years of imprisonment. Indeed, so great was his love for the Mass that in the bishop’s book Zeal for Your House, one photo shows him just after his release, still in a hospital bed, joyfully celebrating the Holy Mass for the first time after so many years, whilst still in his pajamas!
To keep a short article from becoming long, these stories made it quite clear to me that providing a simple means of “memorizing the Mass,” coming to know all of its parts, both backward and forward, would well be worth not just another article, but an entire book. Thankfully, Dr. Sebastian Mahfood and Shaun McAfee at En Route Books and Media agreed.
As much as the lives of Admiral Denton and Bishop Walsh depended on the Mass under such extreme crises, in a way, all our lives depend upon it. After all, the Eucharist is the heart of the Mass, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (1324).
The goal then of the book Memorize the Mass! is to help the reader through a guided tutorial in the implementation of specialized memory methods recommended and employed by Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, to more fully and deeply experience that source and summit by writing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on the tablet of your heart (both in the Novus Ordo or Ordinary Form and in the Extraordinary Form of the Traditional Latin Mass).
The Catholic Art of Memory Meets the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

The Sacrifice (of the Mass) is celebrated with many solemn rites and ceremonies, none of which should be deemed useless or superfluous. On the contrary, all of them tend to display the majesty of this august Sacrifice, and to excite the faithful when beholding these saving mysteries, to contemplate the divine things which lie concealed in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
Catechism of the Council of Trent

Nothing that you have seen or heard is useful, however, unless you deposit what you should see and hear in the treasury of your memory.
St. Jerome

The Mass is the heart of Catholic life, and the Eucharist is that heart’s flesh and blood, the flesh and blood, soul and divinity of our Savior Jesus Christ. Christ initiated the Eucharist for us nearly two thousand years ago, and the Church has been greatly blessed by it and by the rites of the Holy Sacrifice that so quickly grew around it to perfect it as the Church’s ultimate act of worship.
Of course, the Church has given us so many great blessings throughout the millennia that it boggles the mind to even begin to catalog them.
One gift of the Church, perhaps little known, is the development and enhancement of ancient Greek and Latin memory improvement techniques by two great Catholic Doctors of the Church, St. Albert the Great (c. 1200-1280), the Universal Doctor and Patron Saint of Scientists, and his most illustrious student, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), the Angelic Doctor and Patron Saint of Scholars. You see, they both considered the powers of memory essential to the exercise of the cardinal virtue of prudence or practical wisdom, for to achieve virtuous goals in the future, we must act in the present, guided by what we have learned in the past and stored in the treasure chests of our memory. They actually described and endorsed an ancient method of memory improvement based on visual images and an imagined system for ordering ideas one wants to remember.
Well, one thing we can apply these memory methods to is the parts and the rites of the Holy Mass itself. Indeed, what is more worth remembering? So here I’ll give just a taste of what the method entails. St. Thomas said that we can better remember even abstract concepts if we represent them in a simple, concrete way, because as human beings, our knowledge and memories start with the information brought in from our senses, particularly what we see and hear, and indeed, things that we see (or even just imagine seeing) are for most people the most readily remembered. Here then is a simple visual example that appears at the book’s location 23 for the Ordinary Form of the Mass.
Images like this one are mentally placed at specific different locations within an imagined house. This one appears at location 23 (which happens to be the head of a dining room table), because the Preface Acclamation that moves into the Eucharistic Prayer is the 23rd of the 32 parts of the Mass as they are numbered in the St. Joseph Sunday Missal that I use.
So now please imagine this: Your eyes zoom in on your own priest’s face as a visual pun reminding you of the “Preface” acclamation (the prayer that starts with “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts…”)
The dove ascending from above reminds us of the part of the Eucharistic Prayer called the “Epiclesis” in which the Holy Spirit is invoked.
The priest raises the host aloft to remind us of the Institution Narrative and Consecration, in which, invoking the words of Christ, the bread and wine become Christ in his real sacramental presence, Body and Blood, soul and divinity, retaining the “accidents” or appearances of bread and wine that remain to our senses, while becoming in substance Christ Himself as perceived through the eyes of faith.
Mother Mary is next to Christ to remind us the after the consecration of and remembrance of all the Church, we pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, to Joseph, to the apostles and all the saints for their intercessions in leading us to eternal life.
Oh, and why the dachshund? He is simply a verbal and visual pun to remind us of the “Concluding Doxology” that ends each Eucharistic prayer, starting with “Though him, and with him, and in him…”
Perhaps few Catholics, even those who’ve attended hundreds or thousands of Masses realize the amazingly rich and deep wealth of Scripture and Tradition that underlie and gave rise to every single rite, every word, indeed to every gesture of the Holy Mass. So, besides memorizing the names and the order of the parts of the Mass, we are called to dig deeply into their spiritual meanings. Behold just a sample, for a ceremony as seemingly simple as the Greeting, the second part of the New Order Mass, right after the Entrance Chant. (At this point in the book the guided memory tour has already been provided and sections like the one below begin to flesh out the meanings of each rite one by one.)
2. Greeting
A doormat (location 2) is a pretty straightforward reminder for a greeting, and this particular greeting from the presiding priest in the sanctuary at the front of the church begins with a sign of the cross. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” he says, and we, of course, answer, “Amen.” The priest’s sign of the cross proclaims the Trinity and reminds us of the cross of Christ’s Passion and the great commission he gave his disciples to go and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19).
Our “Amen” harks back to the worship of the ancient Hebrews, for it is the Hebrew word for “truth” or “certainty” and has been used by Christians for millennia in Mass as a powerful affirmation, meaning “truly,” “verily,” or “so be it!” We should say it not as two mindless syllables we’ve utter countless times, but mindfully, joyfully, and with gusto and conviction. This is the first of many “Amens” we will utter in Mass, and for centuries it has been among the most notable hallmarks of Christian worship. Indeed, in one of the ancient lives of St. Patrick, apostle to the Irish, a fifth century Druid priest forewarns the pagan King Laeghaire Mac Neill of a prophetic vision he’s had of a new faith that would arrive and live forever in Erin (i.e., Ireland), describing it like this:
A Tailecend (i.e., Patrick) shall come across the stormy sea.
His garment head-pierced, his staff head-bent,
His mias (i.e., altar) in the east of his house;
His people all shall answer, Amen, amen.
When we utter our own “Amens,” perhaps we can reflect from time to time that we are joining the chorus of the countless “Amens” across time and across nations, recited in every accent imaginable to affirm that great new faith in the Holy Trinity that St. Patrick and multitudes of great saints like him have gone to such great costs to spread unto the ends of the earth—indeed, all the way to our very own parish!
The priest then welcomes us to Mass using one of these three forms of greeting: (a) “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all,” (b) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” or simply (c) “The Lord be with you” (or “Peace be with you,” if the celebrant is a bishop). And we answer, “And with your spirit.”
So then, we have all gathered together; sung a hymn of praise to God; honored the Trinity; remembered Christ’s cross and our call to evangelize; been welcomed by the priest; and prayed that God’s grace, love, and peace be with the spirits of the priest and all those gathered for Mass. That’s quite a bit in just the first couple of minutes, but we need to move along to see what may (or may not) happen next…
Out From the Mass and Into the World
“Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

Well, that does it for a brief introduction to my attempt to apply the Catholic Art of Memory to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I pray that whether you come to try to memorize its parts or not, you will continue to grow in your own love and knowledge of the Holy Mass and of all things Christ-centered and Catholic. I hope as well that as you go out from the Mass and into the world, you will remember that Christ is truly then within you, indeed, “cleaving” to your “innermost parts,” in the translated words of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, inspiring you to share Him most lovingly with others.
Further, when you move from the Mass to the virtual world of the Internet, I’ll hope and pray that as you seek trusted guides to the truth, beauty, and goodness of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, you will not forget the wonderful new resource of this very website. Thank you again, Deacon Marty!
Finally I’ll conclude, echoing St. Patrick and billions of Catholics across all lands and ages by loudly proclaiming – “Amen!”

Kevin Vost, Psy.D., his wife and two sons live in Springfield, Illinois an attend St. Agnes Parish. He is author of more than a dozen books from The One-Minute Aquinas to Memorize the Mass!