Celebrating the Holy Mass from an iPad

iPad with Roman MissalAs seen on WDTPRS earlier today (and quoted from the AP—Fr. Z's comments in bold):

ROME — An Italian priest has developed an iPad application that will let priests celebrate Mass with an iPad on the altar instead of the regular Roman missal.

The Rev. Paolo Padrini, a consultant with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said Friday that the free application will be launched in July in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Latin. [In this case, I hope it will be complete. I found iBreviary to be… sub-optimal.]

Two years ago, Padrini developed the iBreviary, an application that brought the book of daily prayers used by priests onto iPhones. He said the iPad application is similar but also contains the complete missal — containing all that is said and sung during Mass throughout the liturgical year. [Since the Missal is less complicated, perhaps it will be complete. However…. will it be only the 2002 Missale Romanum? And what to do, for English, about the translation? Other languages have already updated their translations.]

Pope Benedict XVI has sought to reach out to young people through new media.

Thoughts? On first reading this, I was a little distressed... but thinking more about this, I wonder if this is not an altogether bad idea. At first, for traveling priests, this would be a godsend. Carrying around a Roman Missal is a major chore (I know, because I had to do this for a while in the Seminary). And, as time goes on, and these devices become less of an obtrusive piece of technology, and more ingrained with how we consume and display content, would they be more acceptable in this kind of setting?

I think two things would have to happen before it would be acceptable to use an iPad-like device during a Sacred Liturgy:

  1. An appropriate case would need to be manufactured to (a) mask the logo on the back, and (b) downplay the fact that a bit of electronic technology is being used. Something simple; perhaps a nice red leather case? (Definitely not a gaudy gold 'bling' cover like I see at some parishes, with a happy Jesus on the front).
  2. The screens on the devices will need to be improved, and able to operate without backlighting. Seeing someone in a relatively dim room with an iPad, iPhone or laptop is distracting, due to the blueish glow on their faces. Advancements in e-ink and related technologies could get us there, sometime in the next few years.

What do you think? Should this be (for now) relegated to private Masses? Should it be allowed at all?


Open Source Catholic's picture

Especially interesting on the heels of this story, from the Archdiocese of St. Louis (a family is united with a baby's Godparent—who was in the military in another country—via Skype on a MacBook):


Advancing the faith.

Open Source Catholic's picture

Had to laugh at the following comment on WDTPRS:

So many of the rituals of the DL use an actual book. Will Father Deacon process holding aloft the iPad? Will we line up to kiss/reverence the iPad? Will the iPad, perhaps clad in a golden sleeve, rest on the altar during the consecration? Madness . . . let the liturgical dancing commence.

That is something to consider... maybe the Book of the Gospels would be a special case...

Advancing the faith.

Julie's picture

While my stance on technology is usually, "the faster & sleeker, the better," and have no problem seeing libraries move to primarily digital stacks, I feel the opposite about the world of liturgy. One of the things that I feel we as Catholics have a very good grasp on is the fact that the physical affects the spiritual. I think that an "on-the-go" or personal mass would be an exception (like the time we forgot the lectionary on a retreat and wound up doing the readings from Fr.'s Blackberry), there's just something about the gilded-edged paper and ribbons that can't be replaced.

Plus, it just feels weird that you could place an object on the altar and read the prayers of consecration from the same screen that you could use to watch the latest Lady Gaga video...

Open Source Catholic's picture

Re: The Lady Gaga video — that's true, to a point... books can be printed with anything inside as well. The physical book that is the Missal *does* have its own form and purpose, though, so the argument could be made that the iPad is too general a device.

Maybe I should start a religious e-reader company :-)

Advancing the faith.

Darren Hale's picture

I think we need to stick to the books and paper for spiritual matters. Many of these devices introduce distractions that take away from any spirituality they may enable. Those of us constantly connected to the Internet have a difficult time as it is disconnecting and allowing God into our lives. I think moving our spiritual texts onto digital devices pushes our spiritual lives in the same interruption-driven way that most of our work lives are.

Joshua of Catholic Tech Tips's picture

The app should have the option to auto mute while the app is in use. What kind of example would the Priest be setting if an alarm starts to go off during the Liturgy? Just a thought.

Joel Stein's picture

It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure what I think about it. As an iPod Touch user, I've found it tremendously helpful to have lots of stuff available in my more-or-less glorified PDA, and I could see how the iPad would be like carrying around a glorified notepad. In fact, as a musician and performer, I have long desired to have something like the iPad for displaying my lead sheets and lyrics during performances. The iPad may be just the trick.

For liturgy, if it can be used without any of the negative consequences (the congregation missing the consecration for the shiny metal electronic device on the altar, the priest getting push notifications of new emails or calendar reminders, etc), then it might just work. But, paper works, and there's something very simple about it.

I think the bottom line is easily found when applying St. Ignatius's "appropriate use of created goods"... materials goods are more or less neutral, and we may use them inasmuch as they lead us to Heaven, and avoid them inasmuch as they point us away from Heaven.

Open Source Catholic's picture

Post from Whispers in the Loggia on this app:

Advancing the faith.

Ken Whitesell's picture

My concern would be more mundane.

What do you do if the device fails halfway through mass? (Select from any of the dozen or so failure situations.)

Craig Berry's picture

Agree with @Ken.

Also, important thing to remember about tech...just because we CAN do something, doesn't mean we should.

Prudence, informed through prayer and reflection, should be pursued here.

Christopher's picture

The Holy Mass is a celebration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. God's children need to be present at the mass and focused on what is going on at the alter. Some churches have only one missal at the pulpit and everyone listens to the reader and the priest at the gospel...things work out fine. Whoever developed this program of the Roman Missal could only expect for it to be used as a reference at most. Blessed are the poor for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

DJ Ortley's picture

J.R.R. Tolkien once told his son in a letter that he should memorize the mass so he can always go through it privately to himself wherever he is. I see value in a program like this for the general public.

Regarding public Mass, I don't think using a device that's supposed to be upgraded or thrown out after ~3 years is very reverent.

Just my two cents.

Matt Korger's picture

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Anonymous's picture

I think what bothers me about using technology for the Mass is its greater vulnerability to be interfered with. I like the process of print, you can easily look to a date and some publishing info to give some proof of origin.


Jeff Geerling's picture

Just found this little nugget from churchmarketingsucks.com (sorry about the name...): http://www.churchmarketingsucks.com/2011/06/office-hours-ministry-callin...

It really is the way to go. I’m not sure it’s for everyone, but for me it’s rock-solid. It keeps me from having to take a gang of paper notes up there, reduces clutter, waste, etc. Highly recommended! Give ‘er a go.

I've also heard a few priests are already using (or are planning on using) an iPad instead of paper notes to present their homilies.

Developer from St. Louis, MO. My personal website.

jim r's picture

Maybe not for priests, but as a liturgy minister I really want to find a virtual Missal! I have yet to find one online.

Jeff Geerling's picture

A lot of the online editions of these sacred texts aren't available due to copyright issues :(

Developer from St. Louis, MO. My personal website.

Jeff Geerling's picture

Developer from St. Louis, MO. My personal website.