QUAERITUR: An iPad in place of a Missal (the book itself) for Mass

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From a reader:

Dear Father Z., accorging to you, would it be possible for a priest to use an electronic form of the Missal? Like, for example, we were on a pilgrimage to Israel recently (with prayers also for you and your blog, obviously), and the priest had to carry quite heavy missal with him. Would it be possible then to have, say, an iPad with the Mass, instead of the book? Thank you.

I have written about this before. HERE.

We bless our liturgical books for sacred use and we do not do so with our mobile devices.

I’ve thought about this for a while now.  Yes, I think you could do that, in a pinch.  But I would have to protest, strongly, the use of an iPad when there was a book available.

When travelling?  Yes, I think so.  I use my iPhone for my breviary when on the road.  I like using the book better, but the iPhone presents the identical texts and saying the TEXTS is what matters.

Perhaps some priests could offer their views.

For my “liturgical iPads”.

(I’m kidding.)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. jbas says:

    I’m just glad we don’t have to carry around an altar stone anymore!
    If only someone would publish a travel altar missal, one for each form of the Roman Mass.

  2. Rouxfus says:

    After noon Mass today I asked the priest, who uses an iPad for his homilies as well as the prayers of the faithful, to bless my iPad. I use the device to follow in Mass with the Universalis app, alternating with devotional prayers from iPieta. He blessed it, and handed it back to me saying “Now, this is holy, so treat it with due respect.” I use the device about 50% of the time for prayers, liturgies and spiritual reading, and so the blessing, I hope, would serve as some protection from evil influences and distractions which the device might make available to me, as well as serving as a reminder to me not to put myself in temptation or the near occasion of sin while using the device.

    Also, I have a blessed set of Rosary beads. If, however, I’m doing the Divine Mercy chaplet using the Divine Mercy app, which has an onscreen bead counter, wouldn’t it make sense to have the device blessed as well and for the same reasons as having the Rosary beads blessed?

    On a visit to Clear Creek Monastery, when you purchase sacramentals in their Gatehouse gift shop, the monk tending the register can bless the items for you. When he does so he pulls out a laminated card, puts the cowl of his habit over his head and does the blessing, sprinkling holy water. The rite of blessing he uses includes first a minor exorcism – to expunge any evil spirits or curses which the items may have already. Once the exorcism is performed, then he blesses the items. I asked why he put the cowl over his head, and he told me the habit serves as protection from the evil one.

  3. Velle Mere says:

    Have you considered putting an iPad on your Amazon wishlist? :) [I had the iPad 2 on the wishlist for a while, but I removed it. Perhaps I’ll put it back.]

  4. John UK says:

    And if the battery fails or the machine malfunctions . . . during the Canon … ?????
    Now I know the old De Defectibus etc. covered the events which followed the unfortunate event of the celebrant taken seriously ill or dying during Mass, but just how reliable and immune from the blue screen of death are these new-fangled machines?
    An old dinosaur is just asking….

    Kind regards,

    John U.K.

  5. ContraMundum says:

    Maybe we could sew some LEDs into your vestments, so that you could press a switch to choose the correct liturgical color. :-)

  6. Geoffrey says:

    About 2 years I had gone to Confession and my 80-year-old Confessor, knowing I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, takes out his iPhone and says “you know I have the whole breviary on here?” He explained that he doesn’t usually use it but that he was today because he had forgotten that it was that point in Ordinary Time when you switch volumes. Sadly, he passed away last year. Requiam aeternam…

  7. tominrichmond says:

    This past Sunday a priest of the FSSP visiting our parish used, I believe, an iPad to deliver his sermon. Ha, so much for being stuffy, hide-bound ossified manualists!

  8. AnnAsher says:

    As a common pew sitter I agree with you Fr. Z. But I gotta say as a cult-of-Mac member I really like the look of that altar scenario! Sancta iPad.

  9. AnnAsher says:

    Oh ps to John UK. Mac’s don’t get the blue screen of death. :)

  10. acardnal says:

    So….one can get the US version of the Liturgy of the Hours for Apple products but NOT for use with the Kindle?

  11. Bea says:

    I’m not that familiar with technology but…….
    It seems to me that the written word in the printed Missal cannot be changed
    Whereas an ipad can be programmed or somehow pick up OTHER writings/postings/whatever that may or may not be the Holy Word of God

    therefore the printed Missal can be blessed because it will not change it’s wordings
    the ipad should not be blessed because in time other (not holy wordings) may appear on the ipad

    Am I wrong about the tech reasoning here?

  12. Maltese says:

    Though a traddie, I am all for it!

    As the oral tradition gave way to cuneiform and other written forms on various medium, from parchment to vellum, and, eventually to paper, I’m sure we can live with an iPad to use during the TLM (and why can’t a Priest bless it, if that’s its only use)?!

    Heck, for centuries Priests didn’t have Missals to use during mass, and faithful didn’t have missalettes!

    Just because we are trads doesn’t mean we’re Luddites! I own every gadget known to man, and, yes, my daughters have convinced me that Karmin is the next big thing, though I much prefer Allegri!

  13. Father Jason Worthley says:

    I agree with you, Fr. Z. iPad only when there is absolutely no book available.

  14. ocds says:

    Check out divineoffice.org. I have their android app, but they also have it for iPad/iPhone.

  15. As useful as new media is, we need a break from such technology every now and then. Liturgy should definitely be a place for such a break. [Yah.. like from, say, microphones and electric lights! Therefore, sung liturgy and daytime hours with candles. Been there. Done that. I was rector of a church in Italy which had last been revamped in 1627 and then was damaged in WWII.]

  16. Maltese says:

    On the other hand, I spent some time on Saturday with a cotton farmer, and that man had deep-set eyes and a peace unknown to me; he smelled of the land, and had a preternatural peace about him.

  17. acardnal says:

    thanks. But I would really like to see it available for Kindle. Right now, I use the physical books for praying the Hours. I need to talk to Sister at my parish because she reads it on an e-reader but it’s not a Kindle.

  18. acardnal says:

    I do LISTEN to the Office using http://www.divineoffice.org sometimes.

  19. Charivari Rob says:

    Like several of the others, I’m more in favor of the bound book except in some practical circumstances like travel.

    I would also suggest circumstances such as the priest having a physical condition (especially something impacting eyesight) that could be compensated for by use of adaptive technology.

  20. Fr. I says:

    I have used my iPhone to offer prayers for the sick, but only in an extreme case when I didn’t have the correct book with me. I’ve also relied on my iPhone while celebrating liturgy to find the correct troparion and kontakion to chant, but of course I was, as an Orthodox Priest, facing ad orientem, so the faithful would not have been able to tell anyway.

  21. cjcanniff says:

    I’m a student at Boston College, and I attend Mass daily in St. Mary’s Chapel (a beautiful gothic-inspired chapel inside the Jesuit residence). Just last week, a Jesuit who teaches at the Gregorian every fall and at BC every spring said the Mass. Much to my surprise, he used an iPad in place of the actual book which was situated on the altar.

    I don’t have much of an opinion on this one way or another; I just wanted to note the observation to show that there are priests who are giving this iPad missal thing a try.

  22. Gaz says:

    I do have a bit of a problem with it. At the end of the Gospel, the Priest kisses the said “librium”. I don’t think an ipad qualified.


  23. chiners says:

    On this side of the Pond I have only once come across an iPad replacing the missal, and this is a priest with a visual impairmnet who would otherwise have great difficuly in reading the texts.

  24. ContaMundum – “Maybe we could sew some LEDs into your vestments, so that you could press a switch to choose the correct liturgical colour” – still laughing, I needed that!

  25. danivdp says:

    All you people getting your Ipads blessed, remember me when you upgrade. You can’t sell stuff that’s blessed, you know ;) And my priest BIL has used a normal hand missal to say mass when travelling, is that not a common replacement for an altar missal?

  26. danivdp says:

    @acardnal I use divineoffice.org on my kindle fire to read the office. It works pretty well, but you have to have wifi to pull up the page. I’d love to hear if you find a downloadable kindle book for the older form of the divine office.

  27. acardnal says:

    Regarding using a missal on an electronic device such as an iPad or e-reader for Mass: I think it is worth remembering that the missal is a sacred and blessed item in book form when used in the Mass. If one uses his iPad, is it going to be solely used for the Mass? What other applications are on the iPad? Are they blessed too? Are the other apps secular distractions to the holy use of the iPad resting on the altar? What happens in the middle of Mass if the battery dies? Perhaps the iPad, if used for celebrating Mass, should be dedicated solely for that use and nothing else. I could go on with all sorts of problematic issues that I foresee. I don’t like it; I prefer the book.

  28. iPadre says:

    My thought is the same as Fr. Z’s. I was using my iPad to pray the office for quite a while, but just tired of it. I prefer to hold a book in my hands, turn the pages – the look and feel, the texture all add something to the prayer. I am grateful for all of the great apps for the Office, Mass and other things, But, we all need a break from the technology that is invading every aspect of our lives!

  29. Bea says:

    Right on, acardnal, That’s what I was trying to say in my above post.
    You said it so much better.

  30. Precentrix says:


    Where does one find black LEDs?


  31. wmeyer says:

    Precentrix: In the closet, at midnight.


  32. AnAmericanMother says:

    I am a big fan of the iPad (when I can pry it away from my husband anyhow) and I take advantage of any new technology that comes down the pike and seems useful.

    But I firmly believe in entropy, decay, chaos and battery failures. Murphy is not only a regular guest here but practically a family member.

    At least if the power goes out, you can read a missal by candlelight. That has happened more than once at our parish – and you could have heard a pin drop as the congregation strained to hear the suddenly un-amplified priest on the altar. We could hear him just fine in the choir loft, just the same. And of course we are always ready to sing a cappella – the choirmaster just gives us the pitch and off we go . . . .

  33. jflare says:

    I have a somewhat mixed reaction to this, I suppose.
    I think I’d prefer to see a normal book for a missal for regular use at Mass.

    HOWEVER..I would not object to a priest using a Kindle, iPad, or other device for Mass or other needs when traveling. During our Archdiocese youth pilgrimage to the 2012 March for Life, space for almost anything was at a VERY big premium. You can only jam so much stuff into a coach bus; we needed to have all we needed for 5 days.

    I recall thinking that a Kindle or other device would make a great deal of sense in that situation!

    (As I recall, I heard Fr commenting at the end of the trip about leaving his guitar behind next year. He didn’t have time to use it at all and it took up some space beside him on the bus.)

  34. Centristian says:

    Father Jason Worthley! Wow. Everyone reads this blog. I love Father Jason Worthley.

    At any rate, I’m electronically challenged…well, I shouldn’t say that…more like electronically unenthralled, so I’m always content with paper and ink. It wouldn’t phase me at all, however, to see a priest using an electronic Missal at the altar. I’d be fine with electronic lectionaries, too, for that matter.

    I think I would draw the line, however, at a deacon holding an ipad aloft and incensing it at the solemn proclamation of the Gospel.

  35. canon1753 says:

    I’ve used the ibreviary app for mass a few times (nursing home once- used the readings out of a hand missal- then reverted back to the hand missal) and for private mass a few times. Its still kind of clunky to use for mass. I’ve used it mainly for the ordinary parts of the mass, but, really, turning pages actually is easier. I still kill trees for my sermons- otherwise you have to lug the ipad around with you all the time or lock and unlock it.

    For the Divine Office, however, I iPray the office all the time. Also, I think ibreviary can be used on a kindle without much difficulty.

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