The Books You Need to Read

Over the course of my ministry, I’ve found a few crucial books that have deeply helped the way I conduct my work as a priest. When I find such a book, I usually write notes of the key points. Now I know busy clergy don’t have time to read books, but they might want to read a quick summary. So I make these available on the internet… in the hope that the summary will entice the reader to eventually buy the book. Here’s my current library (and this page may get updated from time to time.)


Forming Intentional Disciples – based on case studies of 150 converts who went from no faith to a fervent Catholic life, Sherry Weddell indicates how we can nudge souls in the right direction one step at a time. (I’ve also made a video about this!)

Parish Management

Rebuilt is the story of an American parish priest and his lay associate, who
successfully grew their parish from 1500 to 4000 regular worshippers by a relentless focus on reaching the lost. They offer principles which are readily transferable to other parishes.

Divine Renovation tells how a Candian parish has promoted high levels of engagement by practicing Catholics. Volunteering and financial giving has doubled, participation in courses has tripled, and more than 40% of parishioners are actively engaged with the life of the parish. Raising engagement may be more managable for a parish too small to start a working group to transform a parish the Rebuilt way.

Other Pastoral Texts

The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic is not a book I find myself referring to as often as the ones above, perhaps becuase the “four signs” are part of the engagement included in Divine Renovation. But you may be interested in the Christmas Book Programme!

The General Directory for Catechesis sets out the Church’s vision of how we should catechise.

Love and Responsibility gives Catholic sexual teaching from the perspective of Karol Wojtyła (later St John Paul II).

Unbound deals with the ministry of deliverance, and is useful both for pastors, and allows a simple prayerful approach to self-deliverance for those who cannot find a pastor willing to assist. I have also summarised the Catholic Church’s official documents on exorcism and deliverance.


OK, these aren’t books but I want to highly recommend some sites doing video resources too:

Running a Toddler Mass

For three months now, I’ve been celebrating a “Toddler Mass” on Saturday afternoons. In September, about 60 people came. In October, 107. In November, 112 (that’s adults plus tots). It’s been a delight to see, among the worshippers. a number of parents who became Catholics through RCIA in past years and then dropped out of circulation. We also have a number of regular parishioners who seem to be borrowing grandchildren for the occasion! The picture above shows our first Toddler Mass (any parents who didn’t want their family in the photo were given the opportunity to stand aside before it was taken).

Why a toddler Mass? In recent years I asked many parents what was stopping them coming to Mass, and was told that they worried their small children would create too much of a distraction for other worshippers. At the moment we don’t have the right mix of volunteers to run a Children’s Liturgy of the Word in parallel with Mass, and parents who came to a focus group didn’t like the idea of being corralled in the separate Small Hall and following Mass on a video relay. So if there’s no workable solution to have the toddlers outside the church the logical conclusion is… have them inside the church!

How do I celebrate a Toddler Mass? By using all the concessions allowed by the rubrics for a Mass with children. I celebrate a weekday Mass at 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon, currently just on the Second Saturday of the month. This is late enough to fulfil one’s Sunday Obligation without needing to the follow the rubrics for a Sunday Mass. Unless the Saturday is itself a Feast or Solemnity, in Ordinary Time I have the discretion to choose an appropriate votive Mass suitable to the season (e.g. Our Lady of the Rosary in October, Holy Souls in November, Christian Unity in January, the Blessed Sacrament in June). The Mass follows this pattern, and takes about 35 minutes:

  • Action song as the opening song.
  • Make a clear announcement at the start that this is a Mass where all children, however disruptive, are welcome and adults who don’t like the noise can participate via audio-relay behind glass in the Narthex.
  • Short penitential rite – “Lord Have Mercy” with short tropes.
  • No Gloria.
  • Shortest possible First Reading from the lectionary for votive and occasional Masses.
  • Combine the psalm with an alleluia-response to use the psalm as the Gospel Acclamation.
  • Shortest possible Gospel, as above.
  • A one-minute homily message aimed at the parents, not the children.
  • No creed or bidding prayers – or perhaps bidding prayers in the form of quickly asking participants for topics for prayer which I then frame as an ad lib bidding prayer.
  • Short song while a collection is taken – no procession of other gifts though.
  • Eucharistic Prayer for Children with a sung Gloria response.
  • Antiphon for communion.
  • Parish notices suitable to the audience.
  • Action song to close.

The Mass is noisy, and I now recognise the well-founded concerns that parents have that, if present at regular Mass, the toddlers would be disruptive to others. Nevertheless, the parents who do come seem to enjoy it and have returned in subsequent months! (Canon Law doesn’t oblige baptised children under the age of reason to attend Mass, but parents may have no other childcare options.)

How do we publicise the Toddler Mass? Our parish primary schools can mention it in their newsletters, but over the last two years we have used ChurchSuite to build up an extensive parish database, from surveys and sacramental applications, and it’s easy to send a targeted email or SMS text to all parents with a child under 7!