ASK FATHER: Send electronic donations to parish by texting during Mass?

From a reader…


I’m not a registered user of your blog but I do “lurk” on a daily basis. I would appreciate it if you could comment on the following which was written up in our Sunday (Nov. 8th) Bulletin.

“Next Weekend is “Text to Give” Weekend- Don’t leave your cell phone at home or in the car. Bring it with you to Mass. Next Sunday is “Text to Give” Weekend throughout the Diocese. Parishioners who haven’t made a pledge or a gift, or who wish to increase their gift, will be able to do so by texting on their cell phones to support the ministries made possible by the Annual Appeal. Open your heart. Share your gifts. Text “GIVE” to the Annual Appeal.”

I went to the Diocesan website to see whether this was just a local parish thing or for the whole diocese. Apparently there are follow-up bulletin inserts for next Sunday (Nov. 15) for all parishes in which they say “TEXT the word “Give” to 64600″ I was taken aback when I read the insert and can’t believe that they actually want people to “Bring it with you to Mass.” I don’t know if we are going to be asked to do this during Mass or not (I already sent my contribution by snailmail several weeks ago) but, I’m just struck by the fact that nothing is sacred anymore. I can only pray. Please comment.

I’m on the fence.  I guess so.

How the Church adapts to modern technology has been controversial. There were probably protests over the first uses of electric lights in churches.  “If candles and whale oil lamps were good enough for our parents, they’re good enough for us!” “Codex?  No! The scroll forever!”

Some uses of modern technology don’t fit with Mass.  I have in  mind the dreadful use of a projector to project the words of the hymns on blank walls… although how different that is from the medieval Exsultet roll, I’m not sure.  Congregations were not expected to sing the Exsultet, for one thing.

People are not used to seeing new-fangled things in church.  Someone following the texts or chants of Mass are thought by others (of a certain age) to be “playing with their phones”.

Fewer and fewer people carry cash these days.  They pay for their coffee in the morning, their lunch, their theater tickets, their hotel rooms, with smart phones.  Once upon a time, instead of bringing bottles of olive oil and live chickens for the offertory, they started giving small round pieces of metal stamped with images.  Pretty edgy.

Why not make it possible for people to make donations using smart phones?   As a matter of fact, you can give me donations using your smart phone.  And you should!  And, if you meet me in person, using my phone I can take credit cards.  We have to move with the times.  The technology is neutral.

On the other hand, the immediately more human is the preference in our sacred worship.  For example, the unamplified human voice is preferable to the electronically amplified.  Music produced by people, rather than recorded music, must be used.   Wax candles, not electric.  Pipe organ rather than electronic.  Et cetera.

It would be at least cheesy were there to be a “ceremony” involved with taking electronic donations… “When the deacon raiseth on high the bronze serpent, press ye then the “send” upon the iPhones.”  A collection basket icon appears on your screen, you put in the amount you want to give and… swoosh!

I don’t see anything sacrilegious about it.  Just keep it short and clean.

While we are at it…

And remember… it takes 4 iPads for the Traditional Latin Mass.  Think beyond the Missal to the altar cards:

Here’s a Passiontide set up.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    “How the Church adapts to modern technology has been controversial. There were probably protests over the first uses of electric lights in churches. ”

    This reminds me of a favorite passage from A Canticle For Leibowitz, set in a post-apocalyptic monastery, in which electric light is being rediscovered for the first time in centuries:

    “Amazing. Where does the light come from?”
    “Here.” The monk pointed to the gap between the carbons.
    “It must be a very tiny flame,” said the abbot.
    “Oh, but bright! Brighter, I expect, than a hundred candles.”
    “You find that impressive?”
    “I find it preposterous-” noticing Brother Kornhoer’s sudden hurt expression, the abbot hastily added: “-to think how we’ve been limping along on beeswax and mutton fat.”
    “I have been wondering,” the monk shyly confided, “if the ancients used them on their altars instead of candles.”
    “No,” said the abbot. “Definitely, no. I can tell you that. Please dismiss that idea as quickly as possible, and don’t even think of it again.”

  2. pelerin says:

    How the Church adapts to modern technology is indeed controversial. I find it very odd that this parish is asked to bring in their mobiles to Mass even if it is for a good cause. If everyone has their mobiles switched on ready for the donation text then the chances are there will be several rings during that time.

    On a couple of occasions I have sat next to someone during Mass who has brought out their phone and scrutinised their e-mails during a ‘quiet time’ when presumably they were getting bored. And last month I actually sat behind a young man who had his ear pieces in and was watching one of the international Rugby matches on his smart phone before Mass began. He did put it away when the clergy entered! For the younger generation waiting for Mass seems to be akin to waiting for a play to begin in the theatre.

    Before mobiles were commonplace I remember the craze for people to have watches which beeped on the hour. When Mass started on the hour, for a minute or two there was always beeping throughout the congregation as everybody’s watch was always slightly different. Thankfully you don’t hear those now!

  3. Kent Wendler says:

    It does seem less than optimally reverent to me to “text money” during the Mass. I guess it seems too much like mixing the mundane with the transcendent. (I don’t even have a smart phone, just a basic cell phone which I turn on only when needed.) On the other hand I don’t put cash or checks into the collection basket either – I go to my ebank web site (not during Mass) and my bank snail mails paper checks for my parish and diocesan contributions. So I guess that makes me a sort of fence straddler.

  4. moon1234 says:

    What happens when a batter goes dead or Monsignor activates the “find my ipad” app before realizing it is on the altar?

    I am really on the fence about technology being used in this way. Maybe in the pews it would work. Might even be helpful for those visiting the EF for the first time. Assuming it could move along with the Mass. Too many people fumble around in the missal their first month or two and don’t know where they are in the Mass.

  5. Spade says:

    My parish allows for automatic electronic deductions. We do ours monthly.

    Then, of course, people felt bad about not putting anything in the basket so the website now sends you little cards that basically say, “I paid online but this card makes sure nobody thinks I don’t donate.”

    I also have the Laudate app (which now has the daily Latin Mass!) . People may think I’m playing with my phone, but until somebody manages to shrink the Catechism, Liturgy of the Hours, Daily Mass Readings (EF and OF), a prayer book, a confession guide, and all that into a book that fits into my pocket then so it goes.

  6. I guess it pays to remind oneself that not everyone who has an electronic device out in church or at adoration is playing with it. I know how to navigate my way around a breviary but I use my phone to say my Office — even in church or adoration — because it’s easier than carrying around a clunky breviary, it doesn’t matter how dim the lighting is, and I’m already carrying around enough stuff.

    As a side note, I think one should still learn how to use an actual breviary or missal before allowing oneself the luxury of taking the easy way on an electronic device, in case the electronic device fails.

  7. frjim4321 says:

    Hmph … seems like in this case it’s being promoted by the diocese and they’ve contracted with an established firm that does this kind of thing regularly, mainly for protestant megachurches. In our diocese we are not encouraged to engage in electronic giving unless we contact with one of two or three organizations. These organizations should be certified as being complaint with (1) financial accountability, (2) electronic security, (3) date confidentiality. Here, parishes are not permitted to collect credit card numbers and/or bank account and routing numbers. Parishes are not certified and insured for that purpose.

    Reading the website of the “Text-To-Give” vendor it seemed to me that the costs might be a little bit less than with “Faith Direct,” “ACS,” or the other one we have looked into. Nothing seemed quite as expensive as “ACS.”

  8. MikeM says:

    I’m a no vote on this text-to-give stuff, but I know that at least one parish in my area, has found (whether correctly or incorrectly, I do not know) that a not insignificant chunk of their decline in collections is tied to people no longer carrying cash or checks. I can believe that, since I know that I’ve gotten to Mass and realized at collection time that I do not have cash.

    It might be sensible for them to test their options for adapting to an increasingly cashless society. I’d prefer that they either find something better or find a way to make cash/checks work, but there has to be some room for trying things… And, I don’t make the rules, so I might not get my way in the long run, anyway.

  9. Wiktor says:

    Ah, the projectors. or LED screens. I have to endure them on every Mass, TLMs included. Or a pair of those, hanging above the sanctuary. The message is: look left or right, just don’t focus your eyes on the altar…

  10. Uxixu says:

    Speaking of lighting, was reading the great classic: Churches, their Plan and Furnishing by Peter Anson and was fascinated to note that electric lighting was specifically forbidden for use around the altar by the Sacred Congregation of Rites (S.R.C. 3859, 4097, 4275)

    Then there’s the general idea that most modern churches created since the use of first oil lamps and then electricity are generally over illuminated. Lighting should emphasize the altar. Generally hidden lighting is ideal. “Extraordinary” Lighting is laudable for special occasions of greater solemnity.

    An extremely interesting historical note that most of us are so used to artificial lighting everywhere, few realize that it is only since the invention of gas that churches have been so lit. In the Middle Ages, a few lanterns would have been hung about on the choir stalls for the use of the clergy or monks who had to take part in the Divine Office, The candles on or round the altar helped the priest to read the missal. Most of the laity would have stood (pews are mostly protestant innovations from the no earlier than the 17th century), in darkness except on the greater festivals when candles were lit everywhere.

  11. My home parish has online giving so I have a donation set to occur every Sunday. It helps me focus more in prayer during the Offertory. It also helps me know that at least I am giving to a Church when I am at another parish and yet I have no cash on hand.

  12. arcanum_divinae says:

    I am cashless, so I unfortunately look like a tight-fisted miser when the collection baskets come around. I’m actually on a tight student-sized budget, but I do give to the church, either in money or service.

    I’m not sure if wanting to look better at collection time is really a permissible impulse, though.

  13. Mike says:

    At one time I attended a parish that used Faith Direct. The automatic tax summaries were welcome. Having parishioners be able to donate and never miss a week — as when traveling, a more frequent occurrence for me than for most — almost surely compensated the parish for the expense of the service.

    Some time ago, though, I switched gears. Currently I write a check each Sunday to whatever parish I attend, be it my home parish or at whatever distant town I’m in. I use duplicate-style checks, a recently discovered bonus to which is that on the back of the receipt for the collection check I can jot notes from that day’s sermon so I can recall them later.

    As for guilt from not dropping something into the basket, my current parish contains a number of students and others in straitened circumstances (not always, perhaps, obvious to the casual observer) who make donations of time, talent, and treasure in various ways. It strikes me as nobody else’s business who does or doesn’t drop a donation into the basket or why.

  14. Kathleen10 says:

    The Holy Mass is one of the very few areas left in life where dratted technology has not invaded. This would scandalize and depress the older folks, not to mention me. I hope it is at least explained often, so they know why devices are being used. To me, it’s a terrible idea, and even one errant beep is too many. For heaven’s sake, can’t we have one place in the world where technology is barred? This is a very bad idea to allow into a sacred space.

  15. Imrahil says:

    In fact, I am opposed to the use of electric imitation candles in Church.

    Want a candle? you had better get a real one.

    I am also opposed to the use of safety-electric-light-sticks for St. Martin lanterns. And virtually whenever the issue of St. Martin processions comes up, I mention with some gratitude that back when I was in kindergarten, we still had real candles.

  16. iamlucky13 says:

    Distraction and concerns for reverence aside…

    Given how attrociously bad security of electronic financial data has been proven over and over again to be (banks, insurance companies, and even the CIA, hacked), how many phishing scams there are, etc. and simply considering the general necessity when there are so many legitimate ways to conduct transactions of still being able to keep track of what money you have sent where…

    …I can’t believe anybody would send a significant amount of money (at least, for a cause like the annual appeal, I at least hope the contributions are not so insignificant that a person wouldn’t care if they lost track of the transaction) by simply sending a text.

    Checks, ACH withdrawal, debit, and even credit cards all have fairly well established protections, and very well established tracking.

    Separately, keep in mind if you pay by credit card, the card service company will keep quite a bit more – usually 2-6 times as much as ACH transcations – of your donation for themselves. Instead of 0.25%, it could as much 1.5%. In my archdiocese, that could be as much as $175,000 sent to Visa, Mastercard, etc. instead of to the care of the archbishop.

    “I also have the Laudate app (which now has the daily Latin Mass!) . People may think I’m playing with my phone”

    It seems like something along these lines could fit the situation:

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