A "Gotta Have It" App: Mass Explained


  • App: Mass Explained
  • Developer: Dan Gonzalez
  • Cost: $24.99 (and worth it!)
  • Platform: iOS 6 or higher and ONLY for iPad2 or newer
  • Size: 299 MB


If you have an iPad and you’re Catholic (or merely curious), you need this app.

Mass Explained is not just another app to walk you through the Liturgy. It’s a course in the Theology of the Liturgy, and it’s very well-done. I have my hands in the liturgy all the time and I am pretty familiar with the ins and outs, but even I learned new things from Mass Explained.

What it’s not:

It’s not a Missal. This was unexpected. I was expecting something that walked you through Mass texts with little notes to tell you where to respond and what the priest is saying, where to bow and make the sign of the cross, and what not. That’s not what Mass Explained is for.

What it is:

Mass Explained is an interactive textbook that looks like a really beautiful coffee table book.  It’s a study aid that uses video, sound, music, panoramic views, and stunning visual art to enrich your understanding of the Mass.  Using this app is like taking a Theology class, but it’s not dry and boring. There is so much to look at and so much to take in you’ll want to go back to it over and over.

Author Dan Gonzalez_2

Dan Gonzalez, a graphic design artist and revert to the Catholic Faith, takes you step by step through every aspect of the Mass: from what the altar boys are carrying to what the priest is wearing, and from the origins of the prayers to the origins of the liturgical form. This app is the result of 25 years of research and is very obviously a labor of love.

Gonzalez uses historical information and art to describe and explain the development of the ceremonials in use during the Catholic Mass. He even uses literary criticism in order to deepen your knowledge of the prayers we recite at every Mass.  Information is drawn from a variety of sources such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM), and various literary and historical works.

Designed with a wide audience in mind, the language is accessible and clearly written, but not dumbed down. There is no wasted verbiage or space on the page. Every picture is captioned (sometimes in several frames) and every page has sidebar notes to make finding biblical, catechetical and historical references a breeze. Every person I have showed this app to has been very enthusiastic about the look and the content.

I can see this being used in a classroom situation for middle school Theology classes all the way to RCIA classes. It could also be used as a continuing education series or small group study for Catholics who want to learn more about the Mass. It carries a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur, and has been reviewed by the USCCB and ICEL so you can be certain that everything in the app is in line with Church teaching.

Because there is so much content and so many things to look at, this app only works on the iPad2. You really, truly cannot use it on an iPhone. I think even iPad Mini users might be hard-pressed to get the full effect.  Android and iPad1 users: I’m so sorry. It’s only available for iOS 6.0 and up and you will need 299 MB of free space to download it.


This app is the first of a two-volume set. Volume One covers the Introductory Rites and the Liturgy of the Word. Volume Two will cover the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the Concluding Rites. If Volume One is any indication, Volume Two should just completely knock me off my feet.

The price tag has been a complaint that I’ve heard in other places on the web. I will say this: In this app you easily have a $25 book and as a bonus, you have sound and interactive visual aids. This app is easily worth every cent of the $24.99 price tag.

Whether you are new to the Church or a life-long Catholic and just want to know more about what the Mass is all about, Mass Explained is an investment in your education. Not only will you walk away with a good idea of what to expect when attending a Catholic Mass, you will understand better what’s going on while you’re there.

Mass Explained will show you where the culture of Catholicism comes from and why the Mass is the summit and source of our common life as Catholics. And you’ll enjoy the journey, too.

For those wishing to use Mass Explained in a classroom or study group situation, the Apple Volume Purchase Price (VPP) is available and qualifies your group of 20 or more to purchase this app at a 50% discount. Click here to go to the Apple VPP site for more details.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2014 Katie O’Keefe


About Author

Katie O’Keefe, mother of two and Oma of two, is a great fan of nifty new tools and dusty old books. After working for 25 years as a musician, Katie decided to go back to school and graduated with the BA in Philosophy from Ohio Dominican University in 2015. You can find more of her writing at The Backs of People’s Heads and Baby Faces.


  1. I am reviewing this app as well, and I completely agree: it’s worth every penny. Every time I open it up and explore, I’m blown away.

    • It’s so easy to use, too. My daughter plays around with it all the time. It’s fascinating and there’s always something new. I can’t wait to read your impressions.

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    • I’ll be writing a review of this app in the coming weeks, and I’m still exploring it, but I will say right now that this app is worth every penny. The amount of work that went into this is clearly astounding, and it shows.

    • Thanks for considering to purchase the app and for taking the time to write. I sincerely appreciate that! My name is Dan Gonzalez, the creator of MassExplained. I would like to tell you why the app is $24.99, but really this is just so you’ll know, it is not intended to persuade you in any way. At the end of the day, it is $24.99 that are leaving your pocket regardless of its destination!

      I realize that $24.99 is not the average price for a mobile app. Many people are used to apps being free, 99¢ or perhaps $1.99. This app could have been created to fit that price point. However, I do not feel it would be my best.

      In order to create an app to the best of my ability, I needed to source content that I pay for every time the app is downloaded. This includes:

      • Royalties to music houses for use of their chants and other liturgical music throughout the app.

      • Payments to panoramic photographers, still photographers and videographers for their contributions.

      • Licensing fees to ICEL (The International Commission on English in the Liturgy) for the inclusion of excerpts from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and several other liturgical texts.

      • Also, despite creating a revenue stream, I chose not to include banner or pop-up ads which would, in my opinion, comprise the learning experience.

      • In addition, I chose to enroll in Apple’s VPP program where educational institutions receive a 50% discount.

      • Whether it is a discounted download or not, Apple keeps 30% of all app revenues, which has contributed to the app’s final price.

      This app is not the result of a publisher’s board meeting or an in-depth market analysis, it is purely one person’s act of gratitude. It was personally funded without help from a parish, archdiocese, corporation or institution. I purposefully turned a blind eye to the budget. I pulled out all the stops to create a beautiful app that would hopefully help people fall in love with the Mass, the One who instituted it, and the Church He founded. I returned my talents to Him. It is the best I could offer, my first-fruits.

      I know that $24.99 is more than what some are used to paying, especially in these tough economic times. Unfortunately there is nothing I can do to remedy this. I just hope you agree that the price of the app is not a product of avarice or arrogance, but of arithmetics.

      But, like I said, at the end of the day, it is $24.99 that are leaving your pocket regardless of destination. I completely understand and I wish there was something that could be done.

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