Saturday, June 19, 2010

Electronic Altar Missals?

Our friend James, over at the Opinionated Catholic, has commented about a new initiative to provide the text of altar missals on the new iPad tablet computer. He comments here and gives references back to another blog here and then back to a news article here. To be clear, the Church isn't going to an electronic missal on the altar any time soon. But there is new software that demonstrates that it is functionally possible.

The person behind the initiative is Father Paolo Padrini, the same person who developed the iBreviary app for the iPhone and iPad, iBreviary Pro, and the Pope's social networking site: The iBreviary Pro app is a wonderful app that I use on my iPhone. It contains the full Liturgy of the Hours, all of the readings for the day's mass, the full missal text including the full order of the mass, and many prayers. It is all available in multiple languages including English and Latin.

For years, I carried my own missal to mass. In the case of weekday masses, I have two small missals depending on what part of the year it is. And I have another missal for Sunday mass. But, once I could access them via my iPhone, I stopped carrying them. I have full access, nice and back lit, right on my iPhone. I can adjust the size of the print for easier reading. And it's _always_ with me. I also make notes to myself on the iPhone during the homily, especially when the homilist references the Catechism and the Compendium. I have copies of each of them on my iPhone as well that I can refer to easily.

I prefer to pray the Liturgy of the Hours using one of the four leather bound volumes that applies to the current day. On occasion, though, I'm later than I planned on business or something comes up that I don't have the leather book with me. Being able to pray that particular hour of the day by using the iPhone in my pocket makes life easy. When you consider that the cost of a set of books to pray the Liturgy of the Hours can be around $150, the free price of iBreviary Pro is very attractive. Also, many laymen learning to pray the Hours are intimidated by having to move the ribbon place markers around within the Liturgy of the Hours in the books to figure out what needs to be prayed. The iBreviary Pro puts everything in order so all you have to do is pray. It's a great way for a layman to get his feet wet and decide to acquire the books ... and it can help teach you how to use the books.

Now, being a layman in the pews utilizing an iPhone or iPad isn't the same as using one on the altar. But there are positives there as well. Being able to adjust the print size can be helpful. It can be on the correct page always without having to flip through the book. Lectionaries and altar missals are large and expensive. Electronic versions can be a lot less expensive. In the case of the new translations of the mass that is coming out in the next year or so, we're waiting on the long ramp up time for publishers. With an electronic reader, the changes could be sent out instantly to electronic missals.

All that being said, one thing James compares this to is the use of wax candles for the liturgy. And there, I think he's touched on an important point. There is something organic about the mass --- in its history and development. Wax candles add to that authenticity and symbolism. Proper chalices and vessels add to that. And I think the richness of a heavy, paper book adds to that as well.

The use of an iPad as a missal reader may have applications. In a "travelling kit", where a priest has small vessels in a case, it might be very functional to use an iPad as the missal. Overall, though, within the context of an established church, I don't see it being the preferred form for a missal.


James H said...

Thanks for the Link and your thoughts. Yeah in many ways I do like this for the Layman and I am not that upset about it being in Church.

However imagine when the the the Gopsel via IPAD are processed down the aisle at the start of Mass. Or the Priest lifts up the Ipad that has the Gopsels in it during certain parts of Mass. Or incese the Ipad

It just seems strange but maybe it is strange because it is of new. It is sort of ole fashioned of me but I think this should be taken slowly. Though I think in many situations as you mentioned it is good