Wherein Fr. Z muses about his inner Gollum

Here is some food for thought from the The Catholic Gift Shop via the blog Acts of the Apostasy:

I have to admit, there have been times when I have realized that my phone (aka The Precious) was not nearby and my inner Gollum got pretty nervous.  There was the nightmare of losing my phone in an airport a few years ago on my way to Wyoming Catholic College.  It all ended well, but… that wasn’t good.

I use my phone a lot, even to manage this blog when I’m out and about, or when I travel and don’t have a good internet connection for the laptop.

Aware of my attachment, I will now occasionally leave The Precious switched off for while and even leave it at home when I make an errand dash.

As far as carrying around the Bible is concerned, I and other clerics recite the Roman Breviary or the Liturgy of the Hours.

Of course, I usually use my phone for that now… but I digress.

Can you imagine what sort of dysfunction young people will go through when TEOTWAWKI takes place, probably from a massive EMP?

Their whole lives are lived on screens, large and small.  Those of us of a certain age didn’t grow up with all screens, and even we feel a bit uncomfortable without The Precious nearby.  But young people?  I’ll bet they truly struggle to adjust.

Just to track back to Wyoming Catholic College for a moment, the students there cannot have mobile phones and internet connections for their laptops.   I loved the phrase on a shirt I saw on their display at a conference I attended:

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Global Killer Asteroid Questions, TEOTWAWKI and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. This is terribly ironic, considering I just misplaced My Precious three days ago. My cell phone is attached to my pocket, my hands, or my face whenever I leave the house and to leave it without the aforementioned attachment is torturous. I suppose this proves you right regarding young people hahahaha.

    Now, regarding the Holy Bible, I do have a suggestion for all your readers. If anyone is interested in picking up the indulgences associated with the reading of Sacred Scripture, namely, fifteen minutes of reading for a partial indulgence, and thirty minutes for a plenary indulgence. Scepter Publishers prints a lovely pocket-size New Testament in sacral English that was translated under the authority of Pius XII from the Latin Vulgate; this is a portion of the famed ‘Confraternity Bible’ that was being produced prior to the Second Vatican Council and which was abandoned in favor of the RSVCE and other new translations. I rarely leave the house without it, and I recommend it to everyone. Here’s the link:


  2. contrarian says:

    What if we began to treat our Bibles the way we treated our cell phones?
    What if we…

    …swore at our bible?
    …talked to everyone about how much our bible sucked?
    …constantly dropped our bible?
    …constantly upgraded our bible?
    …beat the he&* out of our bible?
    …compared our bible to other people’s bibles?

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist. :)

    I totally agree with the thesis of this post, though. If I was separated from my Mac, I’d start to shake.

  3. Liam says:

    I have three different Bible apps on my cell phone for five different translations.

    What does this mean?!

  4. scarda says:

    If you are indeed so dependent, isn’t it time to assert yourself and ditch the gadget? Didn’t Saint Paul say that when he became a man he put away childish things? Time to do it again, it seems. Carry a book which will never get blottoed by a solar flare.

  5. PCali says:

    Many’s the time that I’ve wished I could do away with the blasted things, but the annoying part is that there are *people*. And people generally do this thing where they want to talk to you during the day. It’s gol darn annoying. I swear my problems would all be over if there were no people.

  6. majuscule says:

    I have to walk up the hill in our field for cell connectivity. So it’s mostly off unless I’m on the road.

    However, since purchasing an iPad and installing a wifi network in my house I realize my heretofore unnamed iPad has always answered to My Precious.


    I pray for my über connected grandkids. I wish they had some old fashioned no-connectivity-required hobbies.

  7. ghp95134 says:

    I hate technology and have an “old” flip-phone that just sends and receives phone calls. No internet, no twitter…. none of that junk. I use it about once per week and generally turn it on only when I’m driving. And my GPS? It folds up and fits in the glove compartment.

    Technology? Pah!

    Guy the luddite.

  8. ghp95134 says:

    Besides …. how can people talk for hours on a phone? And why can a group of “friends” be sitting at the same table, each absorbed in his own iPhone? I just don’t get it.


  9. Matt R says:

    Which app/website do you use to pray the traditional office on your phone?
    The other day I spent an entire 24 hours without using my cell phone or the computer while hanging out with my friends. It was pretty wonderful.

  10. I frequently consult the Bible in the Vulgate Latin and the Douay-Rheims and Ignatius RSVCE2e English tranlations. It would be burdensome to carry bound hard copies of all three wherever I go, but my handy Kindle has all 3 stored, together with the OF Roman missal (both the Latin typical edition and the 2011 revised English translation) and the Liturgy of the Hours (Universalis version), for which I use the Kindle only as a crutch for the Latin Liturgia Horarum, the hard copy of which I do take with me when I’m going to be away a full day or more. Hmm . . . I wonder . . . A personal device is fine in the pew, but how about for a priest on the altar?)

    The only thing really necessary for survival that my Kindle does not have is the 1962 Roman missal. Any suggestions? (Though admittedly I prefer to use a “real” hand missal at Mass, both OF and EF.)

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    They, apparently, don’t do much science at Wyoming Catholic College. Many journals are going electronic.

    As for the 1962 missal, here you go:


    I’ll be the first one to applaud turning off the cell phone (I almost never use mine, but then, I have no friends to call). On the other hand, I have 23 different print translations of the Bible on my bookshelf and I love getting lost in a good library. Haven’t done that in years, sniff.

    The Chicken

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    — It would be small and cheap, and I wouldn’t understand how to write words on it.
    — I would keep leaving it turned off by mistake.
    — It would play songs.

    OTOH, it’s a lot easier to do Bible study in the computer age, or to find out about religious references in books.

  13. benedetta says:

    I have been thinking a lot lately of switching out my iPhone for a tracphone, and, I am coming up with a lot of good options for the money I would save by doing so. I am pretty dependent though so I’m not ready to do it just yet…

  14. Lori Pieper says:

    Ha! This really hits me where I live. My roommate makes crazy eyes at me because I even take the Precious with me to the bathroom!

    Yes, I love my Precious Android Galaxy (which will be one year old September 7). Not so much for the calls I can make from the bathroom — though if the door gets stuck shut again, I may have to.

    It’s just that I love, love, love, the Kindle app! I used to carry around this huge bag with me on the train or to the cafe or wherever I was going, carrying my reading material. Even a single book is heavy if you have to carry it a long way. Now I carry a whole library in something roughly the size of a deck of cards. No more stooped shoulders!

    And then when internet access goes down I can at least look at my favorite blogs, even if I can’t do much work.

    On Sunday, if there aren’t any missalettes in the pews (and there usually aren’t), I can follow the readings at Mass on the iBreviary — which also has the Daily Office, St. Francis’ Office of the Passion and the Franciscan Crown Rosary, among a multitude of other things.

    And with Dropbox, I can read any file on my laptop – even from miles away!

    Yes, it’s my preciooous . . . sigh. A very good sign I should give it up for Lent.

  15. Thanks, Masked Chicken. Though the straight scan of the two-column-Latin format there does not, upon directly saving the PDF to the Kindle, seem ideal for reading without a magnifying glass.

    But I actually was wondering about a specially Kindle-formatted version of a 1962 hand missal with Latin and English in parallel columns. Even if one had a missal like the Baronius or Angleus in standard PDF format to save directly to the Kindle, the typically small font size of the parallel-columned propers might not be conveniently readable on the Kindle. Though it might be more usable with an iPad.

  16. Darren says:

    Precisely the reason I never got a smartphone. I keep getting a flip phone which is as useful as a phone and not much more. Texting is a pain with it, which is good for me as I text maybe 20 times a year? I like a phone I can stuff in a pocket and ignore until it vibrates (and half the time I don’t even feel it vibrate). I left it home once and felt totally free!!!!

  17. Elodie says:

    If TEOTWAWKI comes and I lose my iPhone, how will I keep track of where I’m supposed to be in the Liturgy of the Hours? I could never do it without those little paper guides, back when praying LotH the old-fashioned way.

  18. francisp says:

    This is timely for me, as this week I am downgrading from my smartphone to a “dumb” phone with no data plan. I came to the realization that for all the benefits I receive from my smartphone (and it is wonderfully helpful in so many ways), I was way too attached to it. The final straw for me was when my one-year-old daughter (my 6th child) came up to me wanting to tell me something of great importance to her, but I was too glued to my phone to pay attention (I was checking Facebook, of course). My attachment to my smartphone led me to no longer be fully present to those around me that I love.

    And, I will save $600/year as well, so there’s that.

  19. APX says:

    I don’t really use my phone as a phone. When it rings, I rarely answer it. I hate phones, but I love the convenience of being able to get the answer from Google to anything at anytime when I am (almost) anywhere. Pretty much the main thigh I use it for is my massive music collection. I don’t miss trying to do the CD finding and changing thing in my car, nor do I have to worry about hiding my CD’s or them melting in my car. It is nice to have the iPieta app to keep everything in order as well. Now if only Baronius Press would put their 1962 daily Missal in app format.

  20. Choirmaster says:

    It’s more what you do on the smartphone that is troublesome and addictive.

    I understand that some people may be glued to the device, but what are they really doing? Facebook? If that’s a problem, do less Facebook, or none at all, but let’s not blame the device itself, which is only a tool or a conduit.

    Several comments have mentioned the Kindle app and their ability to read books without carrying the weight around. I think there is nothing wrong or addictive about that, especially since it allows one to spend less money and get more reading material, and you can put a Bible on your Kindle app totally debunking the graphic above. Would we look down upon someone who hated to leave his house without a book to read? Would we call that an addiction?

    You can read Fr. Z’s blog on a smartphone!

    And why should anyone want to purposefully leave their home without their phone? That is dangerous, always was, even before phones. They are an important safety net and emergency communication device. If you’re “addicted” to texting and talking and calling and answering, just turn it off or set it on silent.

    I believe there are far too many licit benefits of carrying a phone, especially for parents, to go about without one. What you do with it, however, may need to be adjusted to keep yourself sane, morally grounded, and well prepared for TEOTWAWKI.

  21. Jeannie_C says:

    My cel phone is a dinosaur, just like me. It’s about 8 years old and the only reason I got it was that I renewed my plan and the salesman thought I should have something newer. I have no texting capabilities, no call display, no call forward features. I must use a grand total of 10 minutes per year. I figure if someone needs me in an emergency and I’m not available they can call 911. I do have a small zip-up bible from Ignatius Press, 5″ X 6 1/2″ which goes into my bag when I have to be anywhere involving a waiting room, and read scripture daily from my larger bible. If the other driver had not been using his mobile while driving, he wouldn’t have crashed into us last December, destroying our car and causing my husband and I physical injury. Too many people are driving and paying attention to their phones. For that matter, too many people are staring at their devices while crossing intersections, and generally endangering themselves. This need to know everything, all the time, constant connectedness is an obsession and an addiction. Turn the damn thing off and enjoy life.

  22. Lori Pieper says:

    Choirmaster, good points. Rationally, I think that I am using the Precious for good purposes and proportionately. But emotionally I still feel too attached to it.

  23. acardnal says:

    We have all have to be mindful about becoming attached to persons, places and things because this is an obstacle to growth in the spiritual life. Many, many saints have written on this subject.
    Here is something from St. Jose Maria Escriva’s Friends of God about attachment vs detachment:

    We have to make demands on ourselves in our daily lives. In this way we will not go about inventing false problems and ingenious needs which, in the last analysis, are prompted by conceit, capriciousness and a comfort-loving and lazy approach to life. We ought to be striding towards God at a fast pace, carrying no dead-weights or impedimenta which might hinder our progress. Since poverty of the spirit does not consist in not having things but rather in being truly detached from what we have, we need to be vigilant so as not to be deceived by our imagination into thinking we can’t survive unless we have certain things. As St Augustine puts it: ‘Seek what suffices, seek what is enough, and don’t desire more. Whatever goes beyond that, produces anxiety not relief: it will weigh you down, instead of lifting you up.’

    In giving you this advice I am not thinking of exceptional or complicated situations. I know a person who used some slips of paper as book marks on which he wrote out some ejaculatory prayers to help him keep in the presence of God. One day he found himself wanting to keep those treasures and he suddenly realised that he was getting attached to the silly bits of paper. Now you see what a model of virtue we have here! I wouldn’t mind telling you about every one of my weaknesses, if it were of any use to you. I have merely drawn the cloak aside a little because something similar might be happening to you: your books, your clothes, your desk, your… tin can idols?

    In such cases, my recommendation is that you consult your spiritual director. Don’t be childish or scrupulous about it. At times the best remedy will be the small mortification of doing without something for a short space of time. Or, to take a different example, it would probably do you no harm to give up your normal means of transport occasionally and to give to charity the money you thereby save, no matter how small the amount may be. In any case, if you really have a true spirit of detachment from things, you will not fail to find all kinds of effective and unobtrusive ways of putting it into practice.

    Having opened my heart to you I must also confess to one attachment which I have no intention of ever giving up; it is my deep love for each and every one of you. I have learned it from the best Teacher there is, and I would like to follow his example most faithfully, by loving all men with all my heart, starting with those about me. Are you not moved when you think of Jesus’ ardent charity — his tenderness! — which lead the Evangelist to describe one of his disciples as the one quem diligebat Iesus, the one whom Jesus loved?

  24. francisp says:


    It’s more what you do on the smartphone that is troublesome and addictive.

    I understand that some people may be glued to the device, but what are they really doing? Facebook? If that’s a problem, do less Facebook, or none at all, but let’s not blame the device itself, which is only a tool or a conduit.

    I don’t think real life is that simple. I don’t know how often people say, “I only have TV for EWTN [or insert other ‘good’ channel’ here],” yet you find that they really watch way more TV than just that channel. Likewise, a smartphone has decent uses, but the technology itself lends itself to attachment and addictive behavior – behavior which is often difficult to control. Technologies are not always neutral in their impact on our interior life.

    An analogy can be made to an addictive substance like caffeine. I would love to only drink a Coke every once in a while (and there would be nothing wrong if I did), but I find that if I drink it at all, I quickly become addicted and must drink it everyday. Many modern-day technologies, like TV and smartphones, can be just as addictive as caffeine (and maybe worse). If we are honest with ourselves, we will probably find that most of our activities on our smartphones aren’t as edifying as we like to tell ourselves, and we are way more attached to them than we should be.

    Of course, each person is different and becomes attached more or less easily to such technologies, but I know that I’ve encountered many, many people (including myself) who have less control of their use of technology than they usually think they do.

  25. Vecchio di Londra says:

    I don’t have one of these smartphones (yet) and my current mobile phone is so antique, it could be auctioned at Sothebys.
    But let’s imagine – it’s possible to attend Mass, use the internet functions to quietly read the Liturgy (Propers+Ordinary) and leave all the phone/email/ding-dong functions firmly switched off? (Is that feasible?)
    That would make Satan squirm.

  26. Bea says:

    Great thread
    Great musings


    “Luke 12:34 RHE
    For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

    Reminds me: I’ve got to clean out my clothes closet.
    My problem isn’t “precious” it’s clothes (laptop is a close second).
    A certain priest in conversation mentioned to us how ironic that it is all about “I”

    Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay Canta y no llores

    Will we be crying or singing when Our Lord asks us “Did you love me more than one of these?”

    Thanks Fr. Z for leading me into meditation.

  27. acardnal says:

    I have a long quote from St. Jose Maria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, hung in moderation but here is a short excerpt, a quote from him about attachment vs detachment.

    Attachment is an obstacle to spiritual growth.

    “Since poverty of the spirit does not consist in not having things but rather in being truly detached from what we have, we need to be vigilant so as not to be deceived by our imagination into thinking we can’t survive unless we have certain things. As St Augustine puts it: ‘Seek what suffices, seek what is enough, and don’t desire more. Whatever goes beyond that, produces anxiety not relief: it will weigh you down, instead of lifting you up.’”

  28. StWinefride says:

    About the “I”

    One day Padre Pio asked a spiritual daughter:
    Do you know what evil is called?”
    It’s called Satan”, she replied.
    No it isn’t“, answered the Saint.
    The Devil“, added the spiritual daughter.
    No“, once more said the Saint.
    No” asserted for the third time Padre Pio.
    Well, then please tell me what it is called“.

    Padre Pio: “It is called “I” and we must stab it each time it appears, because it never dies”.

    (The “Padre” Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, His Mission to save souls. Fr Marcellino IasenzaNiro p.191)

  29. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: “Would we look down upon someone who hated to leave his house without a book to read? Would we call that an addiction?”

    Yes, lots of people have called it that, my entire life. One of the benefits of the nerdification of America is that only my parents get mad at me, or call me addicted, for having a book or Kindle in my bag. Ironically, I think I’m one of the few Americans who read less these days than I used to, because I don’t have as many slack times at home as I used to have.

  30. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Thanks, Masked Chicken. Though the straight scan of the two-column-Latin format there does not, upon directly saving the PDF to the Kindle, seem ideal for reading without a magnifying glass.”

    Isn’t there a font size changer on Kindle?

    I will look into making a two column copy, although I don’t have a working Kindle, so I won’t know how it will look.

    The Chicken

  31. Imrahil says:

    Maybe we could reserve the term “addiction” for medicinical issues (though that opens a barrel of questions, and fulfilling some criteria set up by associations does not per se constitute an addiction) and perhaps also “attachment” to clearly morally negative things – which where no sins are concerned, or the sin lies in the attachment itself and the acts are not sinful taken alone, is a difficult question and almost never apt for public discussion -, and otherwise just settle for “habit”.

    That said, it cannot be denied that there is a tendency to draw moral suspicion on new things. In fact here, decent non-religious people (above a certain age) tend to do much more moralizing than religious people (to be silent of preachers), and the other fact that there tends to be a huge fade-out of the criticism once the next thing approaches (just compare TV-criticism today with that ten years ago), are somewhat signs that there is something wrong with the criticism.

    Every time you hear anyone who is not in a spiritual-director position towards you pose the question “there may be nothing really wrong with it, but do you really need…” as a means of reproachment, there should be alarm-bells ringing (imho). As Chesterton said (The Sin of Prohibition), “begin with a[n error] […] in morals, whether it be a negative or a permission, and it will end in the worst and wildest licence that could follow on the loosest permission.”

    (Fwiw, dear @St. Winifrede, compare to this the apparently rather benevolent attitude of St. Paul in Phil 2,4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”)

  32. StWinefride says:

    Dear Imrahil, yes St Paul is a bit more gentle in his wording – but that’s why I love Padre Pio so much! He didn’t mince his words, he was very direct, a typical Southern Italian who spoke in the local dialect – he meant to shake people up!

    San Pio, prega per noi!

  33. inexcels says:

    Speaking as a young (by this website’s standards, I’ll wager) computer science doctoral student… I relish excuses to get away from my screens for a while. I wish I had the opportunity more often.

    I am, however, painfully aware that I am very much the exception in this regard.

  34. Imrahil says:

    Dear @St. Winifrede, thanks for your answer!

    The thing is not that I mind unminced words (I delight in them) but two other things. First, I do not deny that I have a certain problem with the Saint’s position. Self-love is a virtue and the thing we repent of and shun as egoism is merely such self-love as is incompatible with the love of God and neighbor, and hence (since it commits sins and fails to achieve merits) not even true self-love at all.

    Second, even from the Saint’s position that the self is to be limitlessly mortified – a position which has too many good subscribers* to be called untenable – it must be said that the way he expresses it is still a downright error, though excusable as a manner of speaking. He presents what he says as an equation “the self = the evil”, and this equation is wrong.

    * C. S. Lewis among them, who says in Mere Christianity that Christ came not to torment the Christian insofar he is a person on his own, but to kill him – f.w.i.w. one of the occasions that make me thing his “mere Christianity” is still rather Protestant. In my very very humble opinion, Christianity is better expressed in the gentleness of a St. Paul, who certainly did not mince words either when it came to it. (Note also that the famous expression “no more do I live, but Christ liveth within me” is preceded by the words “I live, but” in the Bible.)

    As for shaking up, my attitude is this:
    The voice of the special rebels and prophets, recommending discontent, should, as I have said, sound now and then suddenly, like a trumpet. But the voices of the saints and sages, recommending contentment, should sound unceasingly, like the sea. G. K. Chesterton
    I do be grateful that St. Padre Pio played his instrument, the trumpet, exceedingly well.

    (St. Padre Pio, forgive what I said and pray for me.)

  35. LarryD says:

    Thank you for the link, Fr!

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy 6

    (couldn’t resist adding that “sent from” line)

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