iPad replacing altar Missal? WDTPRS POLL

Some years ago I wrote in my weekly column in The Wanderer:

An excerpt:

I hesitate to add this, for surely a few people will freak out… but once upon a time in a WDTPRS column I joked about having a liturgical laptop Missal: Sacramentarium Cyberense Romanum, ….  [It could be] covered with the color of the day and solemnly carried and incensed, etc.  [From a digital Antiphonale] monks in choir stalls in a dark church would sing their office over glowing screens.

And because you just can’t make some things up fast enough… I must also confess that I once wound up saying Mass privately from a laptop.  My missal had grown legs and I was stuck for a couple days somewhere without any book.  It was use the laptop or not say Mass at all.  I chose the laptop.  I had no printer where I was.  I had digitally photographed the whole 1962 Missale Romanum and had it on my hard drive.  I just copied the necessary pages to a folder, numbered them in order so all I had to do with the Picture Manager was click to "turn" the "page".  It worked fairly well.  I am not saying that that is a long term solution, but it could help you at least during the learning process.

 Now I read this.

iPad coming to church altars with daily missal app

(AP) – 50 minutes ago

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.

This might be useful for people in the pews.

Can you envision?  Pews full of people following Mass on iPads?  Would they also perhaps by watch YouTube videos?

Let’s have a little WDTPRS POLL.

Chose the best answer (even if the answer isn’t perfect) and give your reasons in the combox.



I think you would have to have 4 iPads for the traditional Mass.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I’m sorry; I’m a horrid “bookophile”…have to have a good, leather-bound missal in my hands (when I’m not celebrating or con-celebrating Holy Mass)…there is something substantial and comforting about holding an actual BOOK! (Consign me to the Middle Ages…I belong there anyway!).

  2. Mike says:

    Up until the mid-to-late 1400s, books were kind of…well, odd, rare…stranger than the codex…so in that sense, books are technology…I don’t think replacing a book w. an Ipad the same as replacing real candles with electric lights, for example…

  3. While I don’t much see the point when one is at home I could see this as a great thing when traveling. As it is now I say the office off of an app on my mobile phone when I’m traveling. This seems like it could have a good use.

  4. As an avid teckie, I use my iPad and iPhone to pray the Divine Office (when it is fully available online) since it is easier to have with you at all times and thus you can pray the Breviary almost anywhere. I would still need to use a Missal Stand due to my vision and my only fear is what happens when the battery poops out or the device stalls. Hence, you still have to have a printed book as backup. I would NOT want to see an iPad used in procession in place of the Book of Gospels nor would I want the machine incensed at the pulpit either. The convenience of technology must be balanced by reverence, good taste and rubrics. Therefore, my final thought is that I would most likely only use an iPad Missal for a travelling Mass kit (like used in a nursing home) and not regularly used in the parish Church.

  5. kab63 says:

    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.

  6. chadmyers says:

    While I like books to hold in-hand, I get frustrated by the distraction of having to flip back and forth in the Missal (especially during TLM) to find where we are. I’d like the entire Mass with all the propers in-line right in front of me. Books just can’t do that unless I buy a new huge missal every year or something.

    I thought about cutting out a hole in the pages of my missal so that I can put hide my Android phone in it so no one would know I was using an electronic device to avoid scandal and distractions.

    I’m of the digital generation, I’m not afraid of or distracted by technology. It enhances not detracts from my ability to focus and concentrate during worship.

  7. Jack Hughes says:

    In Extremely limited circumstances, IF and only IF I had too, if I was stuck with out any missel however I would probebly omit the Liturgy of the World and skip straight to the Mass of the Faithfull

  8. tzard says:

    I can see many advantages: Priests with poor eyesight can have the text magnified – or simplified fonts to aid in reading.

    The text can be customized for the moment – including the names of those being prayed for, downloaded beforehand, and the name of the local bishop (using GPS of course ;) ).

    My general problem with it is: It’s a general purpose device. It can play a game or check one’s mail just as easily as providing a liturgical text. I wonder the wisdom, considering we’re weak humans, – if it will be too distracting. If it will beep when an Email comes in in the background, or if one will be tempted to check the cricket scores.

    It also comes to mind that the liturgical books are put aside and blessed for sacred purposes. Yet an Ipod, Ipad, or computer screen is not so set aside (usually).

    That’s why I said “in limited situations”. It may be perfect for use by a choir or for the Liturgy of the Hours. Possibly for the Congregation. But at the Altar… I might be convinced otherwise if the unit was set aside and programmed ONLY for the altar. Then the only issue I’d have is the ease in which changes (intentional or not) could be made to the text. That’s a bigger subject in the problem with E-texts vs. books.

  9. Random Friar says:

    In general use, no. In limited use, i.e., the book’s gone or ruined, sure. I agree overall with tzard about how an iPad/Kindle is seen. That’s like my pet peeve with using cheap binders for Mass or readings. Books like missals still have a certain dignity about them.

  10. Christina says:

    In some situations, sure. It’s convenient. I can visualize a traveling priest with limited backpack space cramming his iPad with such documents and being thus prepared for everything.

    However, even though iPads have a definite aesthetic appeal considering their general function, there’s something about an iPad that just doesn’t speak “beautiful liturgy” to me. It hardly seems to elevate me from this world.

  11. keithp says:

    I am a bit appalled. But, I think that is more due to my preference for a book rather than an electronic device.

    The good thing about books is that they don’t need batteries or break when you drop them or no longer function due to old un-supported SW.

    I am trying not to sound too crazy on my first post here… But, books can be hidden. They’ll still work even if the power grid doesn’t or the internet becomes regulated or cut off.


  12. JohnE says:

    I’m somewhat indifferent, but as you alluded to with the YouTube videos, books have the advantage of being dedicated to a single purpose. Everyone knows what your focus is (at least externally) when you have a book, but who knows what a person’s focus might be with an iPad. The temptation to toggle over might be difficult for some as well.

  13. asophist says:

    I am surprised that any one would think this is a legitimate development in liturgical practise. Just one example should be enough: the text that appears on the screen has no permanent existence there. The same screen can – and probably has been or will be – used to display profane images and/or text, or (God forbid) worse. It is a tabula rasa, in potentia, at all times. How could anybody in good conscience incense such a thing, let alone allow it to come in contact with the altar and other things strictly reserved for sacred use? I ain’t for it.

  14. pelerin says:

    There is no ‘What’s an iPad’ which I would have voted for!

    I am always saddened when I see the most magnificent Missals and Altar Cards in Museums. They should be used.

  15. Rouxfus says:

    I’ve already used my iPad in Mass to follow along in the Magnificat app, and for prayers of devotion before during and after mass using the amazing iPieta app. I felt a bit self conscious using it, so I sat in back of the church, and used the iCase cover flap open like it was a book.

    The Magnificat app is free for now because it has a few bugs, but it is awesome to have. At some point it started refusing to launch, but an easy fix is to delete the app and re-install it from the App store.

    iPieta app is an amazing resource of the faith. Prayers in Latin and English, the entire Douay-Rheims in English with Vulgate latin paired alongside. Lots of important Papal and Council documents, Catechisms of Trent & Baltimore. A very deep file indeed. De profundis…

    I wish for a version of the Baronius 1962 Missal which I use in N.O. masses for the devotions before and after communion, as well as the devotions for confession.

    Speaking of confession, the iConfess app is pretty handy too.

    The iBookstore is a treasure trove of free out-of-copyright works from Project Gutenberg by Doctors of the Church and other saints. I’ve already downloaded over 150 books – all free. Some authors worth rediscovering: Belloc, Chesterton, Fr. Robert Hugh Benson, and many many more. Drop a line to rouxfus at gmail if you’d like a list of the great free books of the faith I’ve found in there.

  16. A. J. D. S. says:

    The missal is one of those externals of the Mass that helps lead the people (and the priest) to deeper contemplation of the mysteries, by merit of its appearance (size, decoration, etc. imply solemnity and importance).

    Until the technology loses the stigma, I vote no. When I see an iPad, I don’t think solemn, I think “ephemeral” and “distracted.” And in any case, the thing is branded. It would be like having a cope with an Adidas logo on it.

  17. Leonius says:

    I spend most of my life staring at computers, I do not go to mass just to stare at more computers. Also from my experience reading from a computer screen is different from reading from a book don’t ask me why it just feels different, maybe somethign to do with the fact that the screen is constantly refreshing which the sub concious mind registers.

    Also there is nothing sacred about a computer the same computer can be used for both sacred and profane uses while a missal is always a missal and thus is always a sacred book.

    All in all I think it is a appalling idea.

  18. Toronto_Sacristan says:

    While an interesting idea…it simply can’t replace a good and reliabe old fashion book.

    Liturgical, the iPad (or any other techie device)is not appropriate to incorparote into our whorship taking the place of scared texts like the lectionary, Book of the Gospels or the Roman Missal. Liturgical books are set aside and blessed, treated as a sacred text and not to be employed profane purposes…

    I can however see someone using an iPad as a last resort in very limited situations…but I would not encourage it!

    I dread the day they process towards the altar with an iPad…phylogicaly we do not view such devices as holy or scared and I hope it continues that way…

  19. Rouxfus says:

    What gives me pause about using the iPad in church is not a problem with me being able to be reverent with it, or recollected in prayer using it. Text is text is text, whether on a screen or on a printed page. A book or an iPad are just different forms of book – they are tools. My biggest concern when I think about using it is that it might distract others in that setting, so my use of it in Mass is sparing and I try to be as discrete and unobtrusive as possible.

    Just today I was in a noon mass today with my iPad, a Magnificat book, my ’62 missal, and Fr. Bartunek’s “The Better Part” for prayer after Mass. All three books were used in due course, but the iPad remained powered down.

  20. RCPR says:

    IMO it’s no worse that using a binder. Of course, I’d say in limited situations and have the same fear of power outages/battery failures.

  21. Mike says:

    Interesting comments. I don’t like the idea of incensing ipads either, or processing in with them.

    So, under special circumstances only, sure.

    On a slightly different note, a youngish priest I know once showed me how he organized his pda…impressive, with tons of texts (Vulgate, etc.) plus an index to add things for his preaching. Very good…

  22. TrueLiturgy says:

    First, it will make the Priests go blind even faster. Second, I know that many people in the pews already read the bulletin during Mass, imagine them being able to use something with internet access during Mass with the Priest thinking that they are following along!

    I don’t approve of the Vatican endorsing the iPhone or iPad. We all here have already seen the blasphemy of some of its products. Also, I don’t think the vast majority of Church-goers would ever download this for personal use. Most people that I know don’t care that much what is happening during Mass, and I’m one of those “young people.”


  23. Jim of Bowie says:

    I selected the first option. I would hate to see an iPad on the altar, especially in the TLM. It would detract from the solemnity of the mass. It would be OK in an emergency in private masses as described by Father above. It’s OK in the pews though. I have replaced my daily missal for the TLM with my iTouch for ordinary and propers, and use it for the readings at the OF. I prefer it.

  24. DarkKnight says:

    One thing that I DO like about this idea, when the Vatican approves a translation it is simply pushed to the iMissals – completely bypassing the bishops. Offensive passages simply disappear.

    Then when the Counter-Revolution happens the EF simply appears at altars all over the world within seconds. No time to organize the opposition.

  25. susanna says:

    abomination of modernization


  26. Well, this is probably better than saying Mass from a Misselette, something I have seen many times. And at least you don’t throw the iPod away after use like the Misselette (Disposable Word of God?)

  27. jkarpilo says:

    A very interesting topic, I see it as being no worse than the photocopied pages that are in far too widespread use right now. Also, it would make me feel less self-conscious about using the Magnificat on my iPhone (I generally only use it during the readings, never the gospel).

    I think the real quandary is whether or not the fact that they are not strictly liturgical objects should preclude their use in the liturgy. I.e. the missal, the sacramentary, the lectionary, etc. have a single purpose: they were created to be used to support the celebration of the liturgy; the iPhone, iPad, Kindle, etc. were not. I am slightly uncomfortable with the fact that a priest could go from using his iPad to celebrate Mass to checking his email to checking the score of the game to watching videos, etc.

  28. Andrew says:

    Anything electric can and at some point will mulfunction. A book cannot malfunction. A book is a physical entity: the electronic text is not. To me, using electronic reading tools is akin to a telephone confession with a video connection. Why not? Because of the physical nature of man. However, what the laity uses in the pews is a different matter. They can attend Mass without a text or with or with a PC if they wish: makes no difference.

  29. Tradster says:

    Sorry, but I consider this a “brick by brick” in the wrong direction. Being at a traditional Mass with everyone – priest and laity – staring at electronic screens is just so wrong. Can’t we expect to escape the outside world so even one hour a week? What comes next, putting outlets in the pews for AC adapters? Or perhaps a large plasma screen television over the altar so everyone can see the words.

    Then there’s the probability of so many of the laity, their faces aglow with their LCDs, will neglect to turn off the incoming calls function. Don’t we have enough trouble now with the occasional forgetful fools?

    Besides, I always made the assumption that the altar Missal was blessed. A blessed ipad just seems ridiculous.

    OK, so I’m an old-fashioned traditionalist. I don’t even agree with electric votive candles. Say the black, do the red – from books.

  30. Tradster: electric votive candles


  31. oratefratres says:

    My only objection is that we get overly dependent on them. We all know that gadgets like these experience technical problems. I don’t see why we can’t use them, however I cannot see us depending on them or how they can replace books in the future. Imagine saying mass and your ipad experiences glitches or runs out of power. What about during times of persecution where you have to say mass in secret. There are ways of tracking technology like apple products especially when they have wifi or service registration. The problematic scenarios are endless. It is better to have a missal lying around somewhere always just in case.

  32. ipadre says:

    I can’t wait! That will be great on vacation – no need to carry all these books around. When I was on vacation last week, I used iBreviary exclusively.

    It will be much easier to turn the pages with canonical fingers!

    I’m working on The Roman Ritual, 1946 edition for the iPad. It will be in the form of an ePub book.

  33. pseudomodo says:

    We once had a visiting priest who was 100% blind giving a retreat.

    He had a brail lectionary to give the gospel reading but when he said mass he had a dispensation to say the same mass so he could memorize it completely.

    I thought that he would make and excellent confessor but his assisant took me aside and explained that the priest could not hear confessions due to the fact that he was blind!


    Beeswax candles, linen altar cloths, vellum (real vellum) liturgical books, full tonsure, no central heating etc, etc,…

  34. geerlingguy says:

    Some thoughts I posted over on Open Source Catholic: http://www.opensourcecatholic.com/blog/geerlingguy/celebrating-holy-mass

    I’m not really against it (for now) in certain cases, especially for traveling priests praying private Masses. I think two things need to happen to allow the iPad (or similar devices) to be used for public Masses:

    1. Screens need to be reflective, and not bright and shiny. E-ink will get there someday…
    2. Beautiful, liturgically-appropriate cases need to be made for the devices. Red leather with a nice design…

    Things like notifications and battery issues can be mitigated pretty easily. Sound can be muted, WiFi can be turned off, etc. What’s to stop a priest from carrying a smartphone around doing the same things? I’ve heard it happen before :-/

  35. raitchi2 says:

    I could see it being useful for poorer parishes or missions. Since not everyone can afford a $300 dollar set of the breviary, $500 missale Romanum, altar cards, etc. But for the standard parish that can afford it I’d like to see the books.

  36. Jack Hughes says:

    @ pseudomodo

    he couldn’t hear confessions because he is blind? I know a very Holy Priest in Fatima who continues to say Mass (the propers are tape recorded befoere hand) and hear confessions despite having been blind for 30yrs !!

  37. Perhaps there is a bookbinder/cobbler/leathersmith out there who could whip up a liturgically appropriate iPad cover.

    I would help with the marketing.

  38. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    On my iPod I have a subscription for the daily readings and the Hours, I have two versions of the rosary, including all 4 Mysteries, as well as Divine Mercy prayers. I have downloaded a file with the ordinary of the Mass. And a copy of an email a friend sent of TLM with both English and Latin text and prayers. As well as having a computation of prayers of the Church.

    My uncle gave me “a piece of his mind” when I was sitting at my aunt’s deathbed in April, (ot his wife, a sibling of his wife and my mother), about having to do “myface” and “not able to go a minute without checking [my] email,” when I turned it around and showed him the rosary I was praying.

    This are nifty little gadgets, but I am an old school Luddite in some matters and while allowing for the new technology, you still need to sometimes have a tangible item, like a book made of paper and ink, and commit some things (like prayers) to memory.

    This is from an IT professional with an advanced degree, “Never become so reliant on technology, that when it fails (and it will) you don’t have a “manual” back up.”

    In other words Father, keep a good copy of the Altar Cards handy.

  39. M. K. says:

    I wouldn’t want to see an iPad replace an altar missal at a public celebration of the Mass, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be done privately – in fact, I know a priest who put all the essential prayers and readings on his Blackberry and uses it when he celebrates Mass privately while traveling.

  40. Andy Milam says:

    Two words: TERRIBLE IDEA.

    That is all

  41. sejoga says:

    I imagine that a few hundred years ago people thought “Printed missals! Why, what disrespect! Missals should be written out by hand by a team of the holiest of monks dedicated to the task! Printing the sacred missal takes out all of the devotion that should be dedicated to its creation!”

    A few hundred years before that they were probably even saying, “Writing out a missal! Preposterous! Who ever heard of such a thing! For academic purposes, maybe, but for use during the mass? Never! Passing on knowledge of the liturgy person to person, and memorizing the rites by heart, is a sacred tradition that must not be forsaken!”

    I think there are legitimate reasons to limit new technologies. I think there can also be legitimate ways of incorporating them. I would hardly suggest that any priest just rush out and get and iPad and download a missal to it and start using it at mass to get “ahead of the curve” and to “innovate” or anything like that, but if some priests try it out here and there and find it can serve to enhance the experience of the mass, I don’t see why we need to be complete knee-jerk reactionaries about this sort of thing. I don’t think it’s at all helpful to dismiss this sort of thing out of hand.

  42. Magpie says:

    I thinks books are a tradition and I wouldn’t want to see widespread use of such modern technology. Maybe in space or in very limited circumstances, but this is not something I’d wish to see, even though Father Z’s simulated pictures are pretty cool!

  43. Andy: Two words: TERRIBLE IDEA. That is all.

    Sooo… we should still be reading from scrolls?

  44. Joshua08 says:

    I think some distinctions need to be made

    1. For someone in the pew to use a phone, or iPad or whatnot to follow along is not an issue to me providing it is not a distraction to others…one can imagine the poor taste of having a brightly lighted screen when the Church is supposed to be dark during the Easter Vigil!

    2. There are cases where Mass is said in less than ideal situations, say in the military in the field. There can I think be legitimate reason then to use a computer device for the texts. Or if somehow there is no Missal to use and Mass must be said (I do know a priest who used an old handmissal once when the altar missal disappeared, same principle I think)

    3. But there is an element to leaving liturgical books as books. An iPad is not a liturgical item and cannot become one simply because you install “iMass” on it. Even if you gilted the ipad and whatnot it would never be liturgical. The reason is that the sacred text is not actually there except in a transitory manner. When you have scrolls or books the text is actually there. There is a dignity then bestowed upon a book from the very text that it bears that cannot exist in an iPad or Android phone. The texts are best there virtually not actually, and as it stands it is worse than that because the devices are not set aside for liturgical use. That same iPad is designed for other things, common (profane) things. It is not something nor can it be something holy (separated), whereas a printed Missal can be

  45. Jacob says:

    The person above who mentioned possible persecution (tracking downloads, etc.) I think has a similar train of thought running parallel to mine, but I am a bit more apocalyptic.

    The more we tie ourselves to electronic technology, the more we leave ourselves vulnerable to all kinds of things that can end life as we know it in the blink of an eye. Black outs, solar flares, an EMP…

    BOOM! Everything in RAM is gone and everything on hard drives is inaccessible because the hardware is fried.

    Doomsday scenario, perhaps, but popular culture didn’t appropriate the word Apocalypse from the Bible just because it sounded pretty.

  46. Leonius says:

    Are you getting commission for this post father?

    I not you should be!


  47. ipadre says:

    @Fr. Z – I’ll go for the nice cover. I just don’t want anyone to rip off my iPad!

  48. Love the picture of the altar with iPads on them :-)

    for all our Luddite friends, here’s a chuckle


  49. JonM says:


    It would seem that a degree of reaching towards the ‘other world’ would be lost if electronic devices replaced elements that represent and symbolize permanence.

    Ultimately, some kind of bound, etched, or otherwise indelibly printed resource reinforces the notion that the Word is unchanging, timeless, and of all ages.

    For example, last year I came across a volume (of a set of four) of the Catechism published in the early 18th century. The idea that this very item was a part of someone’s formation before gas lighting was even thought of is one that reinforces the eternal nature of the Church.

    As one poster pointed out, using electronic (or e-ink) devices brings up tough questions regarding abuse of these devices: it is very, very difficult to even mark a holy book, but it is exceedingly tempting to use an electronic device for evil – or at least worldly, profane reading purposes (I think it would be horrible to use the same machine for morning news on BP for preaching “the way, the truth, and the life.”

    It would be really difficult for me to argue against Altar Angels (girls) and Communion standing up but adovate for electronic Church books; the latter just doesn’t seem to mesh with tradition.

  50. Andy Milam says:

    Fr. Z,

    No, I think that progress is acceptable, however, we must do this in light of tradition. We also should do this in a way that promotes prayer. I don’t think that using an iPad as a Missal is a way that promotes a prayerful action. While I understand your position in doing it once, as a matter of either having it or not, I can understand, but I don’t see you promoting it carte blanche.

    Also, this type of electronic media opens the door to tune out. In light of the liturgical situation that we’re in now, who’s to say that a non-discriminating priest wouldn’t use the iPad to check stocks or ESPN or some such thing during Mass? Before you poo poo it, I wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility. You and I both know from what we’ve seen and been exposed to that anything is possible.

    And then there is the piece that is being ignored. Not only is the Missal a book, but it is a work of art (at least the TLM Missal). To lose the PRINTED artwork, is a loss that could be hard, considering we just got it back. BTW, this thought is incomplete and I would love some feedback on it.

  51. rotaa says:

    I agree that it is acceptable when saying Mass in private or perhaps in public as a last resort. However, there are is a Missal made exclusively for this liturgical purpose and it always ought to be used when possible.

  52. QMJ says:

    Personally, I don’t even like to use a missal during Mass. The thought of pews filled with people reading of ipads and similar devices horrifies me. I have a friend who always reads along using his iphone. It is something that people are beginning to do, though not many thank goodness.

  53. Gwen says:

    I stopped using my iPhone at Mass. I have iPieta, iBreviary, and iMissal (this one has the daily readings). I was getting too many stares–the average member of the daily Mass crowd is not quite the “early adapter” that I am. Plus, the temptation to check email was just not worth it. (amazing thing, I never knew before I had an iPhone that I HAD to check my email so often:)) Now I have a printed Magnificat that I use for Mass, and I mainly use it to read the readings beforehand. I try to pay attention and absorb and think about the readings, especially during the Gospel, rather than following in the book.

    As far as using an iPad for the altar Missal–if it helps the priest say the black and do the red, I’m all for it. If it means he’s going to spend a bunch of time fiddling with the screen and finding his place, I’m not so sure. But perhaps you can cut and paste so that the iPad would let you actually follow and read the entire sequence without flipping back and forth between several pages, as is done now? Might be interesting for the priest to control the flow and pauses, rather than the need to flip pages controlling the flow?

  54. Margaret says:

    I already have the Daily Roman Missal on my ancient Palm Pilot, in iSilo format. I love it love it love it. Plus, it makes it much easier for me to at least read the day’s Scripture passages in the event I cannot make Mass.

  55. Daniel says:

    Books in general are not sacred, only those that are put aside for sacred purposes. Is there some reason that an electronic reader could not be set aside for exclusively sacred purposes? No! I’m sure it would not be much of a problem to design an electronic reader that was loaded only with liturgical texts. It would not beep to say a new email has arrived, as it would not be used for email.

    It would be used only for sacred purposes, and I’m sure that it could be designed with an attractive cover. I can’t say that the Book of the Gospels used by the Dancing Deacon in the closing Mass at the L.A. Religious Ed Congress impressed me as being all that attractive despite having the advantage of being a Sacred Book.

    As for the “permanence” of a book, will just think of all the Missals that will soon be retired. Not only might the new translation be implemented quicker with an electronic Missal, but they would be easy to update with prayers for new saints, etc.

  56. mdsmelser says:

    Against. If it malfunctions somewhere, sometime, or one gets into a situation where some EMP’s affect computers or electronics, you will have to go back to the book, which never malfunctions, so you still need to have the book nearby at all times as a back-up. I have had computers lose pages or text on rare occasions.

    Books never do that.

    Books don’t have alternative apps on them to tempt us to play with during Mass, either.

    Lastly, somehow… in some way… it just doesn’t seem ….. reverent. I know, that doesn’t seem logical, and I admit I am addicted to my Iphone for all kinds of reasons and carry it everywhere. I have all the Catholic apps, but I still keep the books nearby…. and sometimes I simply prefer to see and touch them.

    I really enjoyed the Ipads on the Altar pic, and black.biretta’s you tube video was funny. Am I that bad? I like the idea of a leather Ipad binder, Fr. Z.

    Great topic. thanks!

  57. Lurker 59 says:


    Zech 14:20-21 states that in the last days even the common and profane implements of daily life shall be made holy and repurposed to liturgical worship of God. As we now live in the 8th day of creation, the now but not yet of the eschaton, it is our Catholic duty to repurpose iPods and other electronic devices so that might be put into service of God.

    Just as cloth of vestments, structure of the church (pews! what a novel idea!), style of music, and a host of others things have changed and yet remained the same over the centuries, a shift from a printed book (which can be very elaborate or just simple plain text) to an electronic text (which can also be very elaborate or simple plain text) is a shift in accidentals not substances.

    As for the “permanence” of a book — books can be destroyed, torn, marred. The data on an “iPod Missal” is permanent, not on the screen but on the disk or SSD. The electronic text is just as “real” as text in any type of ink medium, it doesn’t appear by magic and then return to the ether when one turns the iPod off — The text is still there, it is just not on the “page” currently being displayed in the same fashion as when we turn a leaf of a book that the text which is not currently visible to us is still there.

    Technology is not an impediment to having a sacred liturgy. After all, a printed and unified missal is a technological development. Having a church wired with speakers is a technological development. Before that the architecture of the church was developed and designed to amplify and project voice and music. There are a host of things that are technological developments. My favorite is the pew. What is important is using the technology to give glory to God.

  58. MikeM says:

    I prefer the look of a book. Books look more authoritative and more, perhaps, permanent than something digital. I know that, rationally, it shouldn’t make much difference, but readers here, of all places, should recognize that Mass isn’t just about rationally getting through a task. There’s something about the aesthetic of a book that I will continue to prefer regardless of any rational reason why it shouldn’t matter.

    That said, if it came into use, I’d get over it. And, if a priest is traveling, the Mass is being held somewhere besides a regular church, etc., I can certainly see how having the iPad Missal could come in handy and could be beneficial all around. I can imagine certain benefits if priests always had easy access to the missal even without lugging a big book around.

    So, I guess I’m glad the app exists and can be used, but when it’s not a problem to use a book, I wouldn’t favor change to the iPad just for the sake of change.

  59. Sixupman says:

    There is a Link on http://www.livemass.net [FSSP] to a Missal changed daily according to the Lectionary applicable.

  60. Tom in NY says:

    The learned reverends haven’t memorized the ordinary of the OF in their native tongue or the ordinary of the TLM? The propers can be run off beforehand and added to a binder.

    The traveler’s environment could represent one case. I agree a public mass in a parish should require the faithful to break the device’s psychological chain to concentrate on the Deity’s sacrifice and presence, as well as their community with each other. Rev. Moderator can discuss the effect ad orientem has on priestly psychology. The same, to my thoughts, works for the faithful in the pews.

    Salutations omnibus.

  61. chcrix says:

    One very important technical point:

    It would be an outrage to use an iPad as long as Jobs maintains his proprietary formats and gated community concept. No reasonable person would allow Apple to control either the content of the missal or the terms of its distribution. I know that Fr. Z doesn’t like people lecturing him about linux, but this case absolutely screams for open solutions under some sort of GPL umbrella.

    Don’t believe me? Remember what a large part ‘proprietary’ solutions have to do with the degredation of church music.

  62. medievalist says:

    As a total e-book convert (does anyone know where I can download a decent epub of the Missale Romanum) I can’t help but notice that many arguments used against Father’s idea were the same arguments used against printed matter replacing manuscript. Technological change happens. Were the iPad or other ereader to be suitably decorated, say with a sleeve, and devoted exclusively to liturgical use (i.e. latest New York Times bestseller not on it), what’s the problem?

  63. medievalist says:

    Jacob @ 8:52

    I do think that oratefratres raises a valid point concerning the effects of an electronic trace during periods of persecution. Of course, books and their purchase, probably through electronic means such as credit cards are also traceable and no system is foolproof. However, presumably local churches under persecution would sensibly avoid an “e-missal”.

    I’m less moved by arguments concerning disaster because fire, flood, and mice have always been a threat. Presumably, until more secure means are found, the thousands of existing missals would serve as a hard-copy backup. I don’t advocate forcing everyone into electronic books, merely that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong using them.

    Other people have commented, as I did, that any electronic liturgical aid would have to be exclusive devoted to that use. Anyway, I don’t think the whole question is a pressing issue at the moment since these books are by no means mainstream. It is, however, a interesting trend that requires debate on all the pros and cons.

  64. irishgirl says:

    I like the feel-and the look-of a book.

    I’m a ‘newbie’ when it comes to technology, I’m afraid….so I said NOT!

    BTW, Father Z-is that last picture in your chapel the work of Vincenzo, the ‘official photoshopper’? If it is, that’s pretty clever!

  65. JonM says:


    Data written to a hard drive, such as we find in our PCs, is magnetically stored on platters. Of course electronic devices use binary so ultimately all of the data (words, graphics, pictures, etc.) are just 0s and 1s.

    Though this non-volitile data and remains even when electricity is disconnected, these magnetic effects are frequently overwritten and therefore not permenant, like ink on linen,

    Working with computers and other electronics is my profession so I am not a Luddite. Indeed don’t consider adopting these objects as part of any liturgy as a step towards generating a foretaste of the Kingdom. It would be in the same category as Haas and platoons of lay readers.

  66. asperges says:

    Small screen on the back of pews (airline seat style), Latin and English translations (selectable) displayed; the correct hymn shown automatically; no more rustling missalettes and sundry pieces of junk, torn and lost hymn books. Music can be seen too.

    And best of all, when Holy Mass is restored to “ad orientem,” as it must, images of what is happening at the altar on the screens too for the curious – not that they see clearly now. Full participation in the modern age whilst the priest is no longer distracted and the Roman rite is restored.

    Can’t think why no-one has come up with it before.

  67. Lori Pieper says:

    Our parish church isn’t blessed with an overabundance of missalettes. In fact, they’re pretty scarce, so I’ve gotten into the habit of following the readings at Mass on the UCCB web site on my cell phone/pda (I really need to save up for an IPad).

    I think it’s really great, except for the fact that I need to a) remember to keep the darn thing charged and b) remember to bring the darn thing with me and c) remember to keep the darn phone part turned off during Mass!!

    As you can see, I’m not a techno-geek by any means.

    Still, I probably would prefer a nice bound missal to either the missalette or cell phone.

    So which should I save up for – missal or IPad?

  68. Jayna says:

    Fr. Roderick posted this on his FB and like I said there, I’m not totally sure what I think about it. What if it dies or experiences some kind of technical glitch in the middle of Mass? I know we’re getting into the whole new media thing here, but do we really need to go high tech in the liturgy? It just seems wrong to me. Then again, I’m also one of those people who rebels against things like Kindle because I like having the real, physical book in front of me when I’m reading. My overflowing book case is a testament to that.

  69. Dr. Eric says:

    Couldn’t there be a touch screen iPad on a gilded easel with only the proper parts of the Mass at the Altar? This would keep only the proper texts on the screen. And the “pages” could be turned like on Kindle or the “books” on my iPad.

    I’m not advocating processing in with an iPad, I think the Gospel Book should be processed in.

  70. I saw this brought up in another forum and I daresay that when books replaced scrolls at the Mass, there was a similar bit of a dust up. Knowing Rome as a careful and responsible protector of all things sacred, the Vatican will come out with usage guidelines for such. After all, the Magisterium possesses the fullness of teaching authority.

  71. Dr. Eric says:

    Also, as far as using the iPad for profane uses, Steve Jobs has been quoted numerous times that the iPad will not support pornography.

  72. helgothjb says:

    It would be a good idea – wonderful artwork could accompany the text, it would be harder to get lost, older priests could make the text larger, etc. However, the machine would need a proper covering and need to be blessed and set aside to be used only for liturgical use. Other than that, it is just a step up from a book. If it is only used for liturgy, why not incense it?

  73. Dunangus says:

    Occasionally permissible but not to become the norm.

    @Jacob: EMP etc…

    Brilliant point, that should be taken. It takes the whole Book Burning article’s discussion of presence of data and writing to a whole new level due to the ease at which is destroyed.

    and go go Linux :)

  74. q7swallows says:

    As someone who very surreptitiously whips out my iPhone occasionally to find Biblical quotes for Lectio Divina while sitting in church (to avoid giving a bad example), I still must agree with black.biretta’s perspective and Jacob’s concerns about an EMP. Maybe this my tech-ignorance is showing or my imagination runneth over but pernicious hacking also comes to mind as a potential iPad problem that does not afflict books. Hard copy back-ups will always be necessary so why start the excuse to eliminate them? No matter what the scenario, I would not want the Mass stopped because of the remote or proximate interference/desecration(?) of an iPad missale. But the iPad IS an intriguing possibility for the traveling priest . . . .

  75. And, when a computer malfunction happens in the middle of Mass when this thing is on the Altar?

  76. Introibo2009 says:

    I could see it used in extremely limited circumstances for the NO (e.g. traveling with absolutely no other option). iBreviary Pro has a pretty good missal included, but the navigation from one part of the Mass to another is lacking for an electonic application (if they’re going to digitize it, at least put the entire liturgy in proper order to avoid excessive back-tapping). But I would NEVER use an iPad for the EF.

  77. jgq says:

    This discussion reminds me of an old you tube video. The world is created new every day. Sometimes it even includes new technology.

    There was a time when the book was the new technology. As long as we have a good and faithful translation, that should be fine.

    Introducing the Book

  78. Paulo says:

    100% pro-book, the one technology that has required only one peripheral for the access of its contents since its inception!

    Of course, the natural extension to all this would be the “Wii Pray”, with the Balance Board telling us, in a soothing voice, whether we are kneeling properly or not…

    Jokes apart, I do think we’re blessed to have unprecedented access to liturgical and canonical texts as we have today, thanks to technology. But I find that there is still an element of ephemerality to current technology, which does not fit properly with the timeless Word of God, and not deserving of any reverence.

    By the way, in addition to small screens on the back of the pews, what about 60″ plasmas all around, displaying the Saint of the day?

  79. JMJ2in1 says:

    I still have my Maryknoll Vatican II Novus Ordo Missal with the Latin on the left and the English on the right. There is something sacred and reverent about it’s worn, gilded-edged pages and rubbed leather cover even though I know it is the Word inside the pages that makes it sacred. I was “appalled” when they began to put the “disposable” paperback seasonal missals in the pews. There just seems to be something wrong with throwing the Word of God in the trash bin. Will it be less hurtful to me to see the Word in a “delete-copy-paste format? Will there be less chance of abuse? I think not. For the Priest taking a youth group on a hike, have the kids take turns carrying the Book like they would a wooden cross; with honor, reverence, dignity and priviledge. For the Priest deployed to Iran, take both.

  80. JMJ2in1: There is something sacred and reverent about it’s worn, gilded-edged pages and rubbed leather cover

    You make a powerful point.

    It is hard to tuck those memorial cards and prayer cards into your iPad.

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