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spiral bound missal

iPad @ Mass?

spiral bound missal

Half a year ago I blogged about the possibility of using an iPad at Mass, and I recommend, if this interests you, to go back to that post, rather than my repeating myself here.

Whatever the merits of placing an iPad flat and unobtrusive on an altar, and even dedicating an iPad to be used for nothing other than this sacred task, the New Zealand Roman Catholic bishops forbid it: “Only the official printed copy of the Roman Missal may be used at Mass and at the Church’s other liturgies.”


In the image above you can see quite clearly a spiral-bound annual “compact mini-Sacramentary” sold in New Zealand. And presumably used in New Zealand? Might I respectfully suggest that an iPad is more dignified, and certainly more precious. If the spiral-bound temporary mini-sacramentary is being used on the altar (“alter”[sic]?), may the iPad decision be worth a revisit?

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17 thoughts on “iPad @ Mass?”

  1. Father Robert Lyons

    Interesting… I have used an iPad on the Altar in mission situations, though not for the words. I have used it so that I can have the music loaded in a convenient manner so that I can play it without having to walk somewhere else during the Eucharistic Prayer.

    I have actually used my cellphone for the same purpose, which is much more discrete, but which cannot produce the initial volume level of an iPad on unpowered speakers.


    1. Excellent idea, Fr Rob. I have seen a discreet plug-in facility that turns pretty much any object into quality speakers. If I find a link I will come back and add that here. Christ is risen!

  2. Michael Godfrey

    Just make sure it’s plugged in. Or well-charged. That aside I would have no objection – though there is still the aesthetic question of “book as signifier” in more solemn and/or ceremonial contexts

    1. Thanks, Michael. The iPad is famous for how long the charge lasts. Yes, I don’t think we are yet at the place of holding the iPad aloft during the procession. As for books in solemn contexts – I just heard the story of a cathedral’s Easter service, when they went to read from the lectern, the book had been forgotten. Easter Season Blessings.

  3. I have some sympathy with arguments against using an iPad in favor of an official copy of the missal, and I say that even as someone who now preaches almost exclusively from an iPad. There is of course something wonderfully elegant in using an iPad in that it isn’t another object on the table distracting from the presentation of the elements as the focus of the celebration of the Eucharist. I wonder, however, if using an iPad doesn’t sacrifice something the reinforces the universal nature of the Eucharist. When I see the presider reading from the missal, prayer book, etc., I’m reminded of all of the communities globally and historically praying those words in common. I wouldn’t argue that this aspect is destroyed through the use of an iPad, but there is something beautiful represented by those common books that seems more difficult to achieve with electronic media. As a parishioner, I can just as easily imagine that the iPad toting presider is reading his personal prayers as offering the prayers of the whole church.

    1. A very good and interesting point, Charlotte. I regularly, however, see people using a grand old book as “exterior” in church services with what/the version they are really reading printed out/photocopied and paper-clipped to opened pages. Easter Season Blessings.

      1. Oh, for sure! And I’d never want to downplay the important contributions that convenience can offer to a well-led service! Also, since I admit that this is mostly a visual issue for me, perhaps some officially sanctioned iPad covers might do the trick! (That’s my tongue in my cheek, by the way.)

  4. Rector commented to me after the Easter Vigil that he saw me using my iPad whilst singing the Exultet, and thought it was a “brilliant idea”. It was inconspicuously placed behind my folder and really served its purpose well. That way, I didn’t have to fiddle with a lit candle to read the text while flipping pages. In the darkened cathedral, I turned the screen brightness down, so it wasn’t glowing like a distracting digital beacon.

    I’ve also started using the iPad for evensong, which has helped tremendously. With the anthem being in a certain book, the motet in another, the psalm another, plus a hymnal and other assorted sheet music pages, it often is a cumbersome load to deal with in musically-rich services, such as evensong or matins. I use the app ForScore to organize and flip between pieces, and it has annotation tools, so I can put in notes, and I can create “set lists” for the different services, with quick access.

    Our cathedral choir is going on tour this summer, to be choir-in-residence in Exeter, and I’ve been encouraging other choristers with iPads to look into “going digital” for the tour.

    1. Brilliant, Dallas! I often see the Exultet chanted with helpers around with electric torches – your solution is far more elegant, maintaining the atmosphere of that point in the service. Christ is risen!

  5. Morena Bosco, my new parish has a great fondness for candlelight services and as my eyes decided 45 was the right retirement age I now use an iPad exclusively for those services. It’s perfect, and when I realised I has forgotten to prepare a particular prayer for the Advent service 1 minute before it was due I could quickly jump online and pull up the words I wanted from the prayer book:) two things I have learned are (a) Turn off the screen lock! – nothing worse than the screen suddenly closing in the middle if something (b) best to remove the Iron Man iPad case my son gave me prior to the procession! Blessings on your synod today. I’ll be there for Evensong and dinner so hope to see you. Brian

  6. Well, I’m neither from New Zealand, nor an Anglican, so I’m obviously flawed when it comes to commenting on this (likely flawed in any case). Whatever, I found this rather amusing. Our younger clergy all use iPads during worship to keep track of their prayers, sermons, etc. Our minister of music actually Skyped Christmas Eve service with his spouse, who was out of town at the time.

    I agree with Bosco that the iPad would clearly be a better choice than that ugly spiral-bound book, especially because the book is using a sans serif font, which is, in itself, a desecration in print media.

    1. Larry I’m fully behind you with the comment about the san serif font in this publication.

      Sans serif fonts in print publications, meant for reading, are ‘modern day sin’.

      It’s therefore a no brainer to use the iPad…. Surely it’s only appropriate to avoid occasions of sin, isn’t it?

  7. Before it was banned, I also wrote about using the iPad at Mass, and find it interesting that having been told the only version to use is the large cumbersome Roman Missal, priests who continue to chastise me for using an iPad use an ugly spiral bound book.

    To be fair, I think the bishops were ‘on the money’ when they banned using the iPad at Mass. In doing so they highlighted for me the important concepts of permanence, sacredness, the missal as a single purpose media object.

    However, the problem remains, namely the poor layout of the NZ Roman Missal and the way the dual-language publication has accommodated both the English and Māori text.

    I wonder if this might be why priests are using the very non-liturgical, impermanent and non sacred looking spiral bound book.

    Having regularly used the iPad in our chapel at home, there’s no doubt to my mind that functionally it’s a superior option with one proviso, that the priest using it is ok with the iPad technology. Some aren’t, and when they’re not it can be a major distraction.

  8. I visited St Thomas Episcopal in Dallas today and 4 different folks came up to me and asked if I was following the liturgy with the BCP on my iPad. They all made me promise to bring the link as to where to download it next week.

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