WDTPRS POLL: About the iPad app for the Roman Missal… again

I have written before about the iPad app for the Roman Missal (which costs $4.99 through iTunes), iMissal.

Not much reason to write about it again, except for a few details.  For example, I wondered what would happen with a new translation.  Updating such wasn’t the strong point for the iBreviary app.  I grant that the Roman Missal is less complicated, but I wasn’t filled with confidence.

Fellow Minnesota John Thavis of Catholic News Service has an article about this iPad app.

With my emphases and comments:

New iPad application won’t replace liturgical books, creator says

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Are Catholics soon going to see their parish priest celebrating Mass with an iPad instead of traditional liturgical books? [In short… No.]

That’s the impression left by recent reports about Italian Father Paolo Padrini’s planned launch of an iPad application that features the Roman Missal on its 10-inch screen. [Not from here or most other of the blog accounts I read suggested.] But Father Padrini and church officials say no one should throw the printed books out yet.

“Liturgical books on the altar will never be replaced by the iPad. This is an additional instrument, not an attempt to get rid of paper books,” Father Padrini said in late June. [Getting a little heat?]

“If I went on vacation, I’d take along my iPad and celebrate Mass that way. Obviously in my parish, where I have the books, I’m not going to deliberately use an iPad,” he said.

The application should be ready by the end of July and will feature the Roman Missal in various languages, including English, French, Italian, Latin and Spanish. It loads the missal and breviary, or book of prayers, for a particular day, with the option of pre-loading up to 10 days worth of texts[That sounds useful.  Could the iBreviary have that?]

Father Padrini said that for the English version, he plans to use the missal text as currently approved for use in the United States. But he apparently has not yet nailed down the necessary permissions.

[But wait, there’s more!]

Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, executive director of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, said June 25 that Father Padrini currently had not received authorization to publish English liturgical texts as digital “applications.

“We are trying to find a way forward in this situation and are currently in consultation with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding the matter. I imagine that it will take some time to reach a solution which is equally satisfactory to all the parties concerned,” Msgr. Wadsworth said in a statement to Catholic News Service.

Father Padrini did not run his idea past the Vatican’s liturgical experts, presuming that there should not be a problem.

“As far as I can see, there is no liturgical rule saying a printed instrument must be used. The rules do say the liturgy should be dignified and fitting and should not be disturbed,” he said.

In Father Padrini’s opinion, the small iPad would not detract from the liturgical decorum, and would be less noticeable than other objects placed on the altar these days[Okay.. there are two facets to that.  First, it is not to be immediately conceded that the iPad would not detrat from liturgical decorum.  Second, many inappropriate things are placed on altars.  Should that justify an iPad?]

But Vatican officials were not so certain that an iPad belongs on the altar.

Marist Father Anthony Ward, an undersecretary at the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, said liturgical rules generally refer to “the book,” and there’s been an effort in recent years “to promote the book, and the embellishment of the book.” The idea of having a substitute for the book at public Masses seems to go against that consensus, he said.

Father Ward said the congregation wasn’t specifically considering the suitability of the iPad application, and that there didn’t appear to be explicit rules against such devices. But he added that in this case, one should not assume that if it is not forbidden, it is allowed.

The final judgment on the iPad-as-missal may come with experience. Father Padrini said he thinks the shock effect will disappear as more people carry such devices around with them.

“The liturgy should be beautiful. But personally, I’d rather celebrate Mass with an iPad, which is small and doesn’t disturb the faithful, than with an old, worn-out missal with yellow pages and small type,” he said.

Let’s got back to a point I raised and have a poll.

You remember that last poll.

About the use of the iPad or similar device in the place of a book for Mass….

Total Votes: 2116 Started: 18 June 2010

In your opinion, in a regular parish setting, not a camping trip, would an iPad "detract from liturgical decorum"?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in POLLS, SESSIUNCULA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I could see the lay faithful using the iPad from the pews, but I don’t see it being used by the priest, unless, perhaps, it was some sort of extraordinary case, but in those circumstances…

    Perhaps an iPad case could be created to look like an open Sacramentary. Then, the mock-Sacramentary could be placed on the Sacramentary holder.

    …if they did that, however, it would probably be best and easiest to simply use an actual book.

  2. brassplayer says:

    And what happens when the battery goes dead in the middle of a Service?

    For the premium price that is required for Apple products, I’m sure any cash-strapped Parish could put that money to better use.

  3. TMA says:

    Such technology would be grossly out of place on an altar dressed in pure linen, with beeswax candles, brass candlesticks, gold and silver sacred vessels, fresh flowers, etc.
    For me, the iPad rates right up there with the hymns being sung from a large projection screen.

  4. frjosh says:

    Padrini updated the iBreviary app about a month ago, and it’s now under the auspice of iBreviary Pro. You can currently load up to ten days worth of texts onto your iPhone/iPad/iPod. Extremely helpful for guys and gals who rely upon WiFi. He updated the way the text is displayed, and the color/italics now match the English breviary I use.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve used the Mass readings out of iBreviary multiple times, during private Masses.

    The problem with using an electronic app on the iPhone/iPod/iPad to say the Eucharistic Prayer is that it requires scrolling, and the content fitting on a screen does not equal what you can fit onto a traditional codex. I did this once (also privately), but became frustrated by the fact that I had to break orans too frequently, at awkward times. At least the pages in a traditional codex maintain some logical order in this regard.

  5. Philangelus says:

    I think having a logo on the altar is disrespectful. There shouldn’t be any symbols on the altar that are not sacred symbols, and the glowing apple (with a bite taken out of it) is not actually going to be serving as a reminder of Adam and Eve and our original sin.

    If there are tablet readers or laptops in any form at the altar, I think the logos need to be covered over somehow.

  6. colospgs says:

    Yes, Phil, if it is to be used, it should have some sort of appropriate cover or case on it. It could be made to look beautiful and dignified, by someone more creative than me. I suspect the same arguments were made when the electric light and microphone and speakers were invented.

  7. Andrew says:

    How many Masses are said on any given day worldwide? I would surmise that it could be predicted with a fair amount of accuracy that a given percentage of those would experience an electronic missal mulfunction. Should the predictability of a mulfunctioning battery operated missal be accepted? Can it be ignored?

  8. Magpie says:

    I feel very strongly about this. No ipads at Mass. Just as there shouldn’t be MS Powerpoint displays during Mass. In exceptional circumstances, an ipad could be used (like in space, or on a battlefield, or when no book is available in unforeseen circumstances), but not for everyday use. These are useful tools, but not for Mass!To me this is just more novelty and innovation and we have had enough of that.

  9. Geometricus says:

    Here’s a good point made by Alan Hommerding over at PrayTell http://www.praytellblog.com/index.php/2010/06/30/new-ipad-application-wont-replace-liturgical-books-creator-says/
    “Exactly. This is why there was an ecclesial ban on machine-printed missals and hymnals, since they were unworthy for the liturgy, and why those machine-printed books never replaced hand-lettered and illuminated ones. Oh, wait …”

    Others have already brought up electric lights and microphones, and I’m sure like Magpie, others said “These are useful tools, but not for Mass!” at the time that microphones were first available for use.

    Could it be that any of you have already attended masses where priests have been using an iPad or a laptop, hidden inside a hollowed-out book, but you don’t know it because the priest is facing the people?

    Another good reason for ad orientem!

  10. kat says:

    I guess I’m a bit confused; perhaps there are many changes or variations at the N.O. Missae; but for those of us who exclusively attend E.F. Masses, what would be the point of an Ipad on the altar? I see two types of missals all year: a small thin one, used at Requiem Masses, and the regular thick one, with all other Masses therein.

    I say to heck with the Ipads; and let’s go back to two main Missals without a bunch of variations! Oh wait, that would mean let’s go back to the E.F. exclusively too. Oh what a problem…

  11. Warren says:

    I’m no luddite, but the production and use of a book provides a little old fashioned inertia that slows the hectic pace of our technology driven, seven-second-attention-span world.

    With an iPad we can download revisions instantly, which could be useful for the instant inclusion of new saints in an electronic missal. My concern with ease of revision, similar to magpie’s thought, would be that every Tom, Dick and Liberal would, despite prohibitions, modify the content giving rise to a “Liber Linux 1.0, then 2.0, then… “.

    Keep the light bulb; keep the book.

  12. YadaYada says:

    Actually, this might be ideal during the Easter Fire liturgy outside the Church, at night. An illuminated page (literally and artistically) would be more appropriate than a flash light or non-Easter fire candles.

    I wouldn’t see this as being the first step on a slipperly slope.

    Maybe someone could make an app for this for all Forms of the Easter Fire liturgy. But no more.

  13. Patikins says:

    I do not like the idea of an iPad or other electronic device used at the altar during mass. It would be okay at a private mass with no congregation, I suppose but not for public masses.

    However, I can imagine someone creating an interactive training application for the extraordinary form of the mass that uses an iPad or laptop. The priest could take it with him to the altar (when no one is around!) to practice.

  14. asophist says:

    Should we do away with candles, since we now have electric lights?
    With the invention of trousers, should the priest no longer wear robes?
    With the invention of plastics, should we dispense with the altar cloth?
    The list could go on. Where is it to stop, once started?
    Candles, robes, altar cloths, and altar missals are all important parts of the semiotics of the Mass. It only makes sense that substitutions ought to be forbidden. Even in a priest’s private Mass, how would such substitutions effect his personal disposition to the Holy Sacrifice? That there is even a possible question of this, is an argument, in itself, that these substitutions should be forbidden.

  15. ipadre says:

    I’m actually surprised that the USCCB watchdogs haven’t gone after Fr. Padrini about the Liturgy of the Hours. When a friend began a podcast with the daily Mass readings about five years ago, he got a cease and desist. Yet, low and behold, they came out with their own podcast. Here is another instance of the Word of God / Missal, etc… being chained to a copyright. I understand “we” want to protect the Word of God / Missal, etc… from being used in an improper manner, but it often comes across as a money thing. “You don’t pay for rites, you don’t use it”. I think this is the greatest problem with the new translation of the Roman Missal. Only the “big” publishing houses, “big” music corporations will get something out of this and the small, but faithful and good, will be left in the dust. I kind of got off topic, but I feel it all ties together.

  16. ipadre says:

    PS: That being said. If will find the iMissal useful on vacation, but of course we should use the beautiful books in our normal parish, diocesan and other public Liturgies.

  17. not for normal Liturgies, that’s for sure!

  18. Andy Milam says:

    As I stated in the other thread about this, I think that the iPad doesn’t promote proper decor. The use of the Missal has it’s place and the opening and closing of the book would have to be adapted. Should not at the end of the prayers, the book be closed facing the tabernacle? Also, is it to be used with a stand? If it is, what kind of stand, a missal stand or an iPad stand? As well as, such, how is one to have the lithographs of the Crucifixion shown during the first page of the Canon? Is it not a prayerful reminder to have the lithograph there? While these things may seem small and inconsequential, an analogy seems to come to mind….if a small wound is allowed to fester can it not become a large and potentially life threatening disease? Obviously there is a chance that it cannot, but there is also a chance that it can. When we have certainty in our grasp, should we not gravitate toward that which is certain. We are certain that the books which have been used for near-ye 2000 years will not cause such small and inconsequential “wounds,” but we cannot be certain of the same with the iPad.

    Perhaps that is an extreme and clumsy analogy, but I think that there is some small kernel of truth.

  19. Flambeaux says:

    Until someone starts republishing “travel Missals” for the 1962 MR, this seems an excellent alternative. It it’s much easier to tote around the Liber Usualis on the iPad than it is in print.

    Not saying the electronic should replace the printed. But I don’t find that it offends the dignity of the liturgy any more than the usual binder-fest I see at many parishes.

  20. Jayna says:

    I think it would detract from it. Then again, there are some churches in which it would look positively sacred comparatively speaking.

  21. Computers have gold and other precious metals in them, which makes them more appropriate for containing sacred words than mere wood pulp, papyrus reed, or rag paper. Heck, who knows what those rags were used for?

    It’s pretty easy to have pictures of the Crucifixion on ebook pages. You could have much more elaborate illustrations that way than the average parish could ever afford in a printed book.

  22. The denigration of paper was a joke, btw.

  23. cl00bie says:

    I’m going to start on the design of a “dignified book ‘shell'” for your iPad. It looks like a book, on a stand with rich Corinthian leather cover with page marking ribbons that activate the iPad’s “next” navigation feature.

    You slip your iPad into the book shell and tug on the ribbon to navigate through the Mass. None (but the celebrant) will be the wiser. I’m assuming, of course, that priests who are concerned with decorum at Mass will not have a bunch of lay “ministers” gathered around the altar.

Comments are closed.