iPad or Sacramentary?

iPad or Sacramentary?

I faced something of a dilemma this week. I offered mass at Dunkeld on Sunday morning, which is a half hour drive from Hamilton.

At a quarter to nine, while I was busying myself in the sacristy, I congratulated myself for having arrived early enough to prepare for Mass at a relaxed pace. That bubble quickly burst, though, when I realised that I had left the missal in Hamilton!

When the new missals were published last year, the Hamilton parish bought one large altar edition and two smaller chapel editions. The smaller country churches celebrate mass on a fortnightly basis, so it was deemed better to buy two missals which are used weekly, than six missals which are used infrequently.

Luckily for me, the Universalis app on my iPad contained the Order of the Mass, complete with Propers of the Day. So I was able to proceed with my iPad sitting snugly on the missal stand. Far from ideal, and certainly not intentional, but an adequate substitute!

I wonder what I would have done if I was in New Zealand. The NZ Bishops Conference has explicitly banned use of the iPad as a substitute for the missal:

The Missal is reserved for use during the Church’s liturgy. iPads and other electronic devices have a variety of uses, e.g. for the playing of games, using the internet, watching videos and checking mail. This alone makes their use in the liturgy inappropriate.

There was an alternative available to me on Sunday. The Dunkeld sacristy is still furnished with the old sacramentary, which I suppose is licit to use at a pinch. I have never used the sacramentary as a priest. Although I was ordained six weeks before the new missal was introduced Bishop Peter dispensed me from using the old translation. He didn’t see much point in me learning to say a mass I would have to unlearn in a matter of months.

Perhaps the moral of the story is to keep a missal in my car at all times. I do have a study edition I could keep on hand. But faced with the same dilemma again, even under New Zealand type restrictions, I think I’d still choose the iPad over the sacramentary.

What would you do?

(I bet there’s a host of seminarians who have an answer to this one. Especially since its study week, and writing lengthy blog comments is much more satisfying than swotting for exams!)

  • Joel

    I think there’s an App for people who use tablets and smart phones in a Church. It’s called iRreverence.

    I love the statement of the NZ Bishops. Compiling a list as to the various uses of an iPad and what’s the first thing that springs to mind? Playing games.

    • MuMu of St Kilda

      Very good comments, Joel!

      A couple of years ago I was kneeling in the confessional when I spied a “live” iphone on the priest’s lap. “Thanks very much!” I thought to myself. “Don’t let me bore the cassock of you with my woeful sins, Padre!”
      I said nothing but was deeply disconcerted, until Father made an announcement a few weeks later from the pulpit that he simply read the divine office on his i-whatsit and was not checking his emails.
      Why can’t the priest carry around the people’s missals in his car? Don’t they have all the necessary?

      • I did buy a people’s missal, thinking it would be perfect for travel. The lectionary and the order of the mass, all in one. Except it turns out it doesn’t have all the necessary rubrics and prayers one needs to say mass.

        Having said that, neither does the Universalis app on the iPad!

        But the lesson is learned. I’ve got the study edition of the missal (same size as the people’s edition) permanently stored in the boot!

    • iRreverence.

      Good one Joel.

      I see what you did there

  • Not sure if I agree with the NZ Bishops Conference. We continue to move further into a digital age. The eMissal (eBook) for the iPad that Fr Richard Healey has prepared privately is an excellent resource.

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  • Joaco

    Father, with all due respect, and apologies if this sound stupid but, when you say:

    “But faced with the same dilemma again, even under New Zealand type restrictions, I think I’d still choose the iPad over the sacramentary.”

    Does that mean you’d disobey the bishops?

    • What Fr Bob said!

      I’d never wilfully disobey my bishop.

  • Fr Bob

    I know we have discussed this before on this blog, and my reflections are the same as those which underpin the NZ bishops’ statement: that an iPad is not exclusively set aside for worship and so should not be habitually used in the liturgy.

    Having said that, I use mine for Mass on occasion as Fr John has because circumstances would have made offering mass difficult or impossible if I had not. For example, it proved most useful during World Youth Day and made daily mass with the pilgrims much easier. This is an extraordinary circumstance rather than habitual use. I would never dream of using an iPad when there is a perfectly good Roman Missal at hand.

    With regard to the NZ bishops’ directive, I would think that like all liturgical regulations they need to be received with obedience but also applied with due interpretation. What I mean is that our interpretation of any Church regulation should bear in mind what would could reasonably be considered the intention of the law-giver. In other words, they should not be interpreted so strictly as to create a clearly ridiculous situation.

    To give an example, the regulations concerning liturgical vestments for mass are clear, but the Church does not foresee a priest in prison or some other remarkable situation with-holding sacramental grace from the faithful simply because he lacks the proper vestments. This is a very different situation to a priest deliberately and without any extraordinary circumstances simply deciding he does not need to wear vestments!

    In the same way, I would suggest that the intention of the bishops’ directive is to prevent avoidable and habitual use of the iPad for the celebration of the liturgy. But I imagine the same bishops would be horrified if their words were interpreted so strictly as to deprive the faithful of the sacrament simply because a priest forgot a missal!

  • Perhaps Fr Corrigan you should check out some of these apps


    and consider setting a reminder or two

    ‘Did you pack your missal?’
    ‘Don’t forget your missal’
    ‘Don’t forget what the NZ Bishops said’
    ‘Celebrating Mass, mustn’t forget my Missal’

    Technology can be very helpful in our Pastoral Ministry

  • on a more serious note I would suggest an subscription to ‘Magnificat’


    In response to Fr Bob, I found this helpful at WYD and when travelling.

    Funny enough, you can also get this on your iPad (but not for Mass)

  • Florence

    Fr John, I do agree with Fr Nicholas Pearce and with the New Zealand Bishops that no matter where a priest is, if he decides to celebrate Mass, it should be celebrated with Reverence. It should become a habit to carry your missal with you. Celebrating Mass using an iPad is definitely an iReverence. It is simply unthinkable. When Mass is celebrated, Heaven comes down! We are mere human beings and God is much bigger than the whole of creation. He is magnificient! A priest should also be appropriately dressed if he wants to celebrate Mass. We human beings take God very lightly because we are blind and we cannot see His Glory. I think every individual should learn to open the eyes of our hearts and when we do, God will amaze us with His Glory.

    I have seen pastors carrying their bible with them all the time and I think every priest should learn to carry his missal with him all the time. I think it is time that you priests set a good example for other priests.

    Fr John, you such a honest person and I like you very much for your honesty. I like the way you pick your topics and get us to give our views.

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