The stack of books I'm trying to read is much larger than what my calendar allows for. When I do actually finish a book though, I want to use the blog to tell you what I thought about it. I'm happy to lend this or any other book in my library if you live near me and don't look like a hooligan.
The Hidden Treasure: Holy Mass is St. Leonard of Port Maurice's attempt to spur both laity and clergy on to greater piety around the Sacrifice of the Mass. St. Leonard was an Italian Franciscan priest living at the turn of the 18th century. He spent much of his ministry traveling and preaching missions.
The chapters of The Hidden Treasure function almost like a parish mission themselves, with the first chapter being about the Three Excellencies of Holy Mass, the second chapter being about how to hear mass devoutly, and so on.
St. Leonard was dealing with various impieties of his time such as disregard for Mass, disdain for Masses that were too long, and the like. Impieties like this are what happen when a religion is inculturated in an unhealthy way: the religion is the very air you breathe but you don't realize it. All you see are the obligations of the religion, so you dispense with the obligations but in doing so you lose the very structure of your life. I am told this is still a problem in Italy today, where it's not uncommon to only go to Mass when life isn't going well or when you need something from God.
But St. Leonard saw the infinite value of the Mass, that it is the sacrifice of Jesus for the redemption of the world made present to us regularly, and he wanted to spread this truth to whoever would listen.
The book can be a bit challenging because St. Leonard uses enthusiastic language that can sound over the top to modern ears (O blessed Mass! O mine of all our good!), but even that is an insight into the piety of the time, and the impiety it was combating.
We have lots of modern books that seek to explain and heighten our reverence for the Mass, but we're not the first generation to under-appreciate this sublime gift, and we're not the first generation seeking to appreciate its full depth. St. Leonard provides a valuable window into the same struggle three hundred years ago.