RISD grad's book on the Mass a product of his 30-year journey of discovery


PROVIDENCE — Anyone who said writing a book is simple has never written a book. For Dan Gonzalez, writing his book became a 30-year journey that began in the Diocese of Providence. A native of Miami, Florida, Gonzalez moved to Providence after high school to study graphic design at Rhode Island School of Design. It was there that he had to decide whether to embrace the faith he was raised in or to leave it. His reversion to Catholicism eventually led him to write “Mass Explained,” a work he is currently publishing through a Kickstarter campaign.
Born and raised in a Hispanic family in Miami, Gonzalez remembers his mother attending daily Mass, but he described his practice of the faith more “a cultural obligation than a religious conviction.”
When he chose to spend four years at a New England college, his mother made him promise to attend Mass there. Across the street from RISD sat Brown University, which had a chapel that offered Sunday Masses, and he attended weekly merely “to check a box.”
But when he discovered a Bible study held on his own campus, he started attending, mostly to make friends more closely aligned with his conservative upbringing. There, he met another student who became as close as a brother to him. His friend shared his extensive knowledge of the Bible and even invited Gonzalez to his church. After attending the nondenominational church for six months, Gonzalez came to realize that something was missing. He told his friend he had decided to go back to the Catholic Church.
“He never spoke ill of me … he said, ‘If you go back to Mass, you’re anathema,’ which means you’re going to hell,” Gonzalez recalled.
After that painful conversation, involving numerous admonishments and misconceptions about the Catholic Church, Gonzalez said he “had a spiritual crisis. … I went home to try to figure out what this whole Mass thing was about, what do I believe.”
Only in hindsight could he see that what was missing from the Protestant service was the Eucharist. With that realization, he knew he needed to learn more about the Mass – what it meant, what it taught, how it connected Catholics to heaven – everything. Voraciously, he dove into his own personal quest, reading anything from the Bible to Aquinas to Scott Hahn. Additionally, he enrolled in a Catholic scripture program at St. Thomas University in Miami.
While he grew in knowledge of the Church, he continued to enrich his technical and artistic skills as well and his experience in design, photography and writing collided with his faith findings.
He began writing in 1993 and in 2013, he created an iPad app called “Mass Explained.” This encompassed the Liturgy of the Word and received an imprimatur from Archbishop Thomas Wenski of the Diocese of Miami.
Then he began working on the Liturgy of the Eucharist. After years of reading numerous books on the Mass – roughly 100 of which he owns – Gonzalez finished his work and re-presented it to his archbishop in 2022. Archbishop Wenski again gave Gonzalez’s work the imprimatur and nihil obstat. “Mass Explained” also received approval from the USCCB.
“The whole book is taking the Mass from beginning to end – from the introductory rites to the concluding rites – and just analyzing each prayer, each word that the people say, each word that the priest says, understanding the history behind it, what does it mean, the theology behind it … but in a way that is palatable to today’s reader,” Gonzalex said..
To reach younger people accustomed to the image-drenched Instagram and Tik Tok world, Gonzalez knew the book had to be filled with visuals that would grab the reader and bring the Mass to life for them, things that “will attract a person’s attention, and they’ll be engaged with the content,” he said.

That is why he chose to publish “Mass Explained” on his own, to retain artistic rights and create the most beautiful, high-quality work possible.
“You can’t start with just truth … you have to start with beauty, which is a universal language … after you digest the beauty, then you can start on the truth,” he explained.
As an author, Gonzalez didn’t intend to write an apologetics book, but rather a guide for Catholics who want to better understand the Mass. He sees a deficit of catechesis in the Church beyond First Communion and confirmation.
“When you start becoming an adult and have adult issues and problems, that childish understanding isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “So, if you’re not involving your faith and your understanding of the Mass, it’s going to fall flat when you start hitting these adult problems.”
He hopes that his work will bridge that gap.
Making money has never been Gonzalez’s goal. If his 30-year journey only benefited him, he considers that worthwhile.
“I look at this as a sacrifice. … God gave me my talent, He gave me the time to do it, now I’m returning the time and talent He gave to me back to Him. It’s the best I can do.”
The book can be purchased through Kickstarter and can be bought individually or in bundles for group study: http://tinyurl.com/mrxxwh9n. He also maintains the website www.massexplained.com.